Dear Parent Of A Colicky Baby,
I know your pain.
I know how it feels to walk the floors for hours and hours every day, and night. I know how it feels when you read the definition of colic – crying for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week – and think, “there are babies out there who cry THAT LITTLE?”
I know how it feels to look jealously at couples in restaurants who are casually eating their dinner while their tiny baby slumbers peacefully in a car seat next to their table.
Meanwhile, YOU left your baby with a selfless friend or relative and you are trying to have a brief meal together to salvage your relationship even though you know that at this moment that your friend/relative is walking back and forth while your baby screams and screams.
Maybe you have said to each other “never again”.
Maybe you have already decided that your first born must be an only child because there is no way you can survive this a second time.
I know how that feels, too.
Let me tell you about a different kind of baby.
She just turned a month old, and almost all of my photos of her feature her doing something very strange…
I know it sounds impossible, but this baby falls asleep and sometimes stays that way for SEVERAL HOURS AT A TIME.
If she falls asleep while I am walking her around the room, I can then SIT DOWN and she won’t wake up.
In the evenings, I sit around watching The Mindy Project on Netflix while she sleeps peacefully on my nursing pillow.
And get this – when she wakes up, she doesn’t cry right away. She just, like OPENS HER EYES AND LOOKS AROUND.
Eventually, if her needs aren’t attended to, she begins to give little coos which we call “parps” because that’s sort of what the noises sound like.
If a couple of parps don’t get appropriate attention she escalates it to a complaining “eeeeeeeeh” noise. None of these could be considered actual CRYING. That only happens when she is thoroughly fed up.
But here’s the craziest thing: sometimes, after giving a parp or two, she just gets bored of the whole thing and just closes her eyes and goes back to sleep.
At night, she wakes up every two to three hours, NOT every hour and a half, nurses for maybe five minutes, and then drops off back to sleep.
We are completely baffled by this behaviour. It is in no way representative of our previous experience with babies.
Get this – even when she is feeling fussy, which tends to happen at around seven or eight at night, her crying rarely escalates to full-on screaming, and the fussing is almost always over before nine pm.
Last night was a really bad night. She has a cold, and she began to be fussy at around 7:30. By eight thirty she was rigid, inconsolable, crying her sheep-like bleat which means that she is REALLY pissed. By nine she was restless but quiet while I walked and sang to her. By nine thirty she was asleep in my arms.
And I know, you’re reading this, probably while your baby screams loudly in your ear, and you’re thinking, “F*&% you, Carol, and your little fritter, too.”
But I’ve been there.
I know what it’s like. I am completely unfazed by whatever this baby can throw at me, because even an hour long screaming fit bounces off of me like a foam nerf gun bullet compared to my year in the trenches with my first born.
So I am here to tell you – IT CAN BE DIFFERENT. And the best thing about having a colicky baby first is that you APPRECIATE your normal baby so much more than most people do.
Whenever I meet someone with a new baby I ask if their baby is colicky. When they shrug and frown as if it had never occurred to them and say “not really, I don’t think” (which means NO. If you don’t answer with OH GOD YES PLEASE KILL ME AND END MY MISERY, then your baby is not colicky. YOU WOULD KNOW THE DIFFERENCE) then I feel like smacking them upside the head and telling them that they don’t know how lucky they are.
I think about all the things I COULD complain about if Fritter were my first born and I didn’t know how lucky I had it.
First of all, she nurses constantly.
Even though she had a perfect latch from birth (which I had affirmed after a one hour consultation with a public health lactation consultant), my nipples were excruciatingly sore by the time she was 5 days old because she NEVER LET GO.
“I think they’re traumatised from over use,” said the lactation consultant, “because I think you’re right – she’s latching fine.”
Keep in mind that I nursed my first born exclusively for 6 months and did extended breastfeeding for two years so you’d think my nipples would be inured against overuse but NO. Fritter broke that barrier.
The photographer who did her baby photos called her “the hungriest newborn I have ever met”. She cried within moments of being detached from the breast, no matter how long you let her camp there.
Some people might consider this a problem, but I didn’t because of ALL OF THE ABOVE.
She isn’t a fan of being put down in general, especially in the first couple of weeks when she cried the moment she left someone’s arms.
Again, I did not consider this a problem because as long as she was in my arms, preferably near a nipple, she was quiet and she slept.
Even if she were my first born and by some chance I knew enough to be fully aware of how lucky I was, I would have felt terribly guilty. Once you know how lucky you are to have a normal baby, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed with humble gratitude.
But you know what? I feel grateful, but not humble. Damnit, we earned this. We deserve this.
And we NEEDED this.
With PH’s mental health being what is is lately, I don’t know how we would have survived another colicky baby. I dreaded it. I stuffed myself with Vitamin B12 throughout the pregnancy because of this study which linked low B12 in the first trimester to colic.
I bought and consumed Choline because it’s associated with lower cortisol levels in infants and I thought maybe a relaxed baby would be a less colicky baby. I worried that none of it would help. I used to have visions of my daughter saying to me “Mommy, why is my Daddy dead? Was it because of me?” and me saying “Yes, honey, a little bit.”
(Not that I would actually say that, that would be awful).
So, parents of colicky babies, just remember this:
Your next one can be different.
You can have the baby stage that you expected when you were first expecting. You know, the floppy little cutey who slumbers peacefully in her grandparents’ arms. The little cuddle bug who lies quietly looking into your face while you rest on the couch in the evening.
…On the other hand, my colicky baby turned into a super-easy to handle toddler. We figured that he got all of the screaming out of his system in his infancy.
So what awaits us this time? Time will tell…