It’s 4:45 am.
My daughter, my first child, is 6 weeks old and screaming for everything she is worth. Her screams reach down into the depths of my soul and pluck out my worst fears, bringing each one into the light for all to see. Am I ready to be a mother? What if I am no good at it? What if I don’t know what to do?
My husband is sleeping down the hall in the guest room. We have divided the night up into shifts, in the hope of actually getting a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I’m alone in my bedroom with my baby. With nothing but the soft glow of the bathroom light illuminating the room, my own tears start to flow as freely as my daughters.
I feel as if I have failed.
I have bounced. I have walked. I have swayed. I have shushed. I have swaddled. I have done everything short of standing on my head, and yet, she continues her relentless screaming.
I spent nine months preparing for this child. I read the books; I spent hours designing and decorating her nursery; I followed doctors orders; I ate healthy; and I daydreamed about how wonderful life would be.
But this… I was not prepared for this.
No one told me how to handle this. None of the books explained how to navigate these rough waters. None of my friends with infants spoke of their own babies acting like this. Nobody really spoke of it at all.
I wondered why it was happening to me, and more so, I wondered how I was going to survive it.
If you are experiencing anything like what I described above, know that you are not alone, though it will feel like you are. When the whole world is hushed and dark, and you are wandering around your house, or driving circles around your neighborhood, with your baby who just won’t. stop. crying, you will feel like you are the only parent out there who can’t manage to comfort your child. The only person who ended up with a “difficult” baby. The only one among all your friends who can’t seem to get it together as a mother.
So, let me say it again. You are not alone.
It’s likely that your baby has colic.
There are specific time spans and symptoms and statistics that are medically associated with colic. All you really need to know though, is that it is your baby crying for hours on end, for many days, weeks, or even months, in a row.
If you are reading this and have no personal experience with colic, you may be thinking, “What is so difficult about crying? All babies cry.” But those who have been there, know. This crying is different.
Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that it sends you on a mission to find the solution.
You think, maybe it’s gas. I’ll get some gas drops or gripe water.
Maybe it’s acid reflux. I’ll get a prescription.
Maybe he is hot/cold. I’ll change his clothes.
Maybe she needs a new diaper. Maybe she wants to be held a different way. Maybe he’s hungry. Maybe he wants to be in the swing. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe.
And yet, nothing works.
Your baby continues to scream, and you begin to believe that you have failed because you can’t fix the problem. As a parent, our job is to fix things, to comfort, to console. Yet this is a problem that no matter what you do, you can’t seem to fix.
The only problem with a colicky baby is the crying, which is typically more of a problem for you, the parent, than it is the child. There is something absolutely heart-wrenching, brain-rattling, and soul-shaking about hearing your newborn baby scream. The sound literally penetrates every fiber of your being, and rattles you to the core.
It breaks you down into tiny, little fragments of yourself. It stirs up an anger that you never knew even existed within you. It layers the guilt so thick across your skin that you think you will never be free of it.
There were days that I found myself putting my daughter down (somewhere safe, of course) and walking out of the room for a few minutes. It went against every fiber of my being to walk away from her. It felt horrible to do. But I knew if I didn’t walk away in that moment, I may do something worse.
Even worse than the feeling of failure, is the worry that this is how it’s always going to be. I spent hours, literally hours, reading about how to raise a difficult child. My daughter was only six weeks old, yet I truly felt that this was how the rest of my life was going to be.
So, let me say this loud and clear. This is NOT how your life will always be.
If you find yourself in a similar situation with your brand new baby, know that this will pass. This is NOT how your life will always be. You have not failed as a parent. Your child does not hate you. Your feelings and fears, every hideous one of them, are NORMAL. And the colic will pass.
Let me repeat some of that.
You have not failed. Your child does not hate you. And this. will. pass.
The relentless screaming will turn to babble and giggles, and you will slowly move past the feelings of absolute despair to profound joy. The clouds will part, and the sun will shine again. You will begin to forget how truly emotionally draining this time in your life was.
If you are struggling with this, seek out support. If your baby is colicky and you are feeling despondent, find help. I’m not sure I would have made it through without my husband and my doctor helping me. Use whatever tools you can to simply put one foot in front of the other during this incredibly difficult time.
And keep reminding yourself – This too shall pass.