COLIC - my submission for this week's SOS

This was written for memory's sake, as much as I may not want to remember. If you've had a baby with colic, you will hear this post and feel the sisterhood behind it. If you have not, and plan to have a baby any time in the future, you may want to skip this one. I wouldn't want you to worry that it could happen to you. Chances are, you will not live with colic. But, why worry?
If you have not experienced a serious case of colic, this post will seem pretty dramatic. If you have, it probably won't be dramatic enough...

baby colic
: a form of pain in the abdomen which starts and stops abruptly.
The crying. It doesn't stop. You will stand helpless. You will stand weary and exhausted beyond anything you can imagine. You will try everything: the rocking, the swaying, the drives in the car, the shushing and pacing, the swaddling and the over-the-shoulder hold. But the incessant cries, the writhing in pain, they will not stop. You will start to think it's all your fault.

You will second guess each decision and you will feel you have failed.

"Do you think he's still hungry?"

Screaming. Every day. Every hour. It feel like every minute. Every moment is a loss at what to do, how to help, and who to turn to. No one has answers. Only guesses. There is no fix. Only time.


Time with screaming and sleeplessness. Time with spit-up, oh so much spit-up, baby massages and bicycle legs. All to no avail. Just more screaming. More arching of the back. More scrunching of the face. Hour after hour. Day after day.

Your colicky baby is like a locked safe that needs a careful hand, turning a touchy dial one way to an exact point, then back again, slowly aiming to hit the number just exactly right. You wait. You stop. You pray that when you try the lever, the door will fly open and the crying will stop.

Feed and burp. Turn the dial. Swaddle and rock. Turn the dial. Hold your breath. Turn the dial.
You pull the lever down hard, but the door will not budge. You cringe and wilt as the cries start again. You so rarely get the numbers exactly right! You begin to think that you never will, even once. Sometimes you even forget what the numbers are, you're so sleep deprived. So you spin and spin and spin that dial as the wails grow louder. You panic and cry, fumbling and resting your head on the safe, wondering why this is happening.

"Have you tried swaddling?"

You ask around for someone to point to the right numbers, but no one knows the combination. They shrug and say it's normal. They're sorry, but this will just take time.


They cannot give you the combination for a peaceful, rested and contented baby. You are alone with the screaming. Alone with the cries that are suddenly your only friend. Your husband becomes a shadow in the night, desperate to help, but as confused and alone as you are. He is now a shape taking up space and floundering by your side. Three's a crowd.

You love that baby so much, but right now that does not help him. And it doesn't help you, because you can't really feel it anymore. It is buried under the guilt, the shame, and the longing for sleep.

"Maybe it's gas? Try the gas drops again!? Have you tried that?"

And then at some point each day it will cease. You will sit, slowly and carefully, the rarely peaceful being in your arms. Then you'll lean back slowly, trying not to disturb your quiet bundle as your head hits the pillow. You lie awake for awhile, trying to remember how to sleep. How to stop thinking about what could be wrong. You think about who you could call for advice. You come up short again.

And the very moment you drift into dreams, it returns like a slap.


"Maybe he's allergic to your milk."

The gasp and the clenching, the return to screams. So you stand again and sway back and forth in front of the light of the TV. You become something like a zombie, thinking you can shut out the piercing cries. But they are taking a toll. Your back hurts nearly as much as your heart, and you fight tears and try not to admit that you're losing your mind.

You need sleep. You need just one moment. A shower. A break. A meal. A conversation. But it will not be. Because you can't. You just can't break away. People offer to stay with your baby while you take a break. But you can't. Not without more guilt.

You are Mom. You should fix it.

"Do you think it was something you ate?"

So you stay. And you try. But there is no fix, only helplessness. You feel alone. You feel guilty and inept. You feel punished. And you're scared.

"Maybe you should just feed him again?"

How will it ever end? What did you do wrong while growing this baby to make this happen? Are you too anxious now, is that what this is about? Is the baby sensing your strain and crying your pain? Oh, the guilt.

The guilt that makes you feel so alone. More alone than you've ever been. In a place you're sure no one has traveled, a dry and dusty place. Rarely leaving your home, rarely stepping outside into a light that has somehow become blinding. And the world appears to have continued turning, and that just makes no sense.

Colic. One word. One simple definition-a form of pain in the abdomen which starts and stops abruptly. But so much more.

While it visits, it leaves you helpless and alone, at your weakest and most vulnerable state. It makes you ugly and scared. It makes you doubt your goodness.

But after it has left, you realize it couldn't win. It leaves you stronger and full of more love than you ever thought possible. It reveals the fight you have in your spirit, reminding you of what you can endure if you just keep trying.


Asher, I love you. We have traveled a difficult road. And you know what? I would not trade one moment. The bond we have was created despite our painful beginnings. In fact, our unique bond was created largely because of our painful beginnings.
If you would like to submit something for Soap Opera Sunday the theme is "Three's Company, or...Three's a Crowd." To read more about the theme and to see other stories head on over to my previous post. The rules for SOS can be found with Twas Brillig, the creator of SOS. The "rules" are not tricky, so play along! Don't forget to add you link to Mr. Linky. Thanks!

24 clicked right here to comment:

radioactive girl said...

I have on baby that was particularly difficult. I think because of that we have a special bond. While I wouldn't wish for the difficulties he had, I feel like we are stronger together because of them. I totally agree with you.

Melanie J said...

My baby had colic type symptoms for one week. Just one. And it was one of the hardest weeks I ever had. I feel respect and awe for those of you who have to do this for weeks and weeks on end, but at the same time, it makes me really nervous to think about having another child. I have a hard time believing I have what it takes to get through that.

LazyCrazyMama said...

My first baby, little man, had colic. OMG. I know someone who's first child had colic, she swore she would never have another.
Colic with the little man did not end at that 3mos marker. It continued until about 7mos or longer. Lets just say it was completely overwhelming. And you hit it all right on the money. Beautiful post.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Heather - Oh, my goodness. Take away the word colic and supplant extreme sensory issues (impacting feeding, skin-to-skin contact, diaper changes, bath, etc) and this was our experience. The cause may be different, but the results and emotions were the same.

Kristina P. said...

I have to admit, I just read the first and last paragraphs. I have enough baby fears as it is!

I love people who are very real and open about the struggles of parenthood, but at the same time, it freaks me out! It's a catch 22 for my crazy mind.

Emily said...

My friend Melanie sent me the link to this post. My baby is 10 weeks old now with a serious case of colic. I am loosing my mind. I feel guilt, frustration, and anger. I have been to the doctor several times. They have no idea what's wrong. I can't imagine two more months of crying . . . but I'm afraid I'm in for a lot a more.

My baby is currently crying. Surprise.

I have a blog at www.emilysmusings.com where I have documented some of my feelings about this.

Thanks for sharing.

Leslie said...

Both of our twins had colic. BIG TIME. It was horrible! Reading your post brought back those memories. Oh, I'm SO glad we're past it!!

Becky said...

I don't know that Riley actually had colic, but he was a little high maintenance the first few months. I very much agree - mommy guilt is a crazy thing. I hated to have anyone else take over what I assumed was MY responsibility, but I almost went crazy without any breaks or time for myself. It's a tricky thing, being a parent.

Abra said...

Piper slept all day, and slept all night- she also had colic for the first six months. It was horrible. Everyday like clockwork between four and seven... she would scream and scream and scream. All I could do was swaddle her, and hold her tight. It seemed to help somewhat - however I think it was more me thinking that I was doing something that helped. Then one day... she just stopped.
It was fantastic!

Kai screamed all the time, until he was almost a year old - wait, scratch that, he still screams and he's five and a half...

For the first four months, I was taking him to the doctor almost every week. We'd wind up in emergency, because Kai wouldn't stop screaming.
"It's colic." the nurses told me until I finally snapped.
"It's NOT COLIC!" I almost screamed. Colicky babies do NOT stop screaming when they're eating, or being held. Colicky babies spit up but they DO NOT puke bucketfuls of throw-up hourly. SOMETHING IS WRONG!"
It finally took a urinary tract infection for the doctors at the children's hospital to realize that he had a skull fracture.
My poor baby for four months had been living with a brain hemorrhage (Which we knew about) and a skull fracture (Which we knew nothing about... and I'm now cursing the doctors for sticking needles in his skull when he was in the neo-natal unit...)

Sometimes, it's colic
Sometimes, it's not.
Thankfully, we either adapt, or they outgrow it.
And that's why GOD made babies so adorably cute and cuddly because it's a lot harder to be angry at a little sweet baby.

MoziEsmé said...

Oh this brings back memories! Esme was gassy and hated to be set down for any reason. I had tried all kinds of things. She didn't like pacifiers, I thought. Until one day in desparation I tried one more brand, and it did the trick. I remember the amazing realization that life could be "normal" again and that all that crying wasn't necessarily a part of my life forever.

Rachel said...

Wow...every word rang true for me. Great analogy...thank you for nailing it on the head! It's refreshing to hear that the thoughts I had back then were so similar to yours.

charrette said...

Ohhh...our youngest was colicky. Very tough first few months. For awhile there I was afraid I wasn't going to like him. He soaked more diapers with spit-up than pee. And that arched back, the pained expressions...all the crying...I remember it well. We used to thump on his back -- the rhythm of it seemed to help some -- and sometimes I fear it approached POUNDING without our realizing it, just from sheer frustration! But somehow we all lived through it. And now we have a unique bond.

happygeek said...

I lived through colic twice.
I just chuckle when people ask if we are going to have a third.
I LOVED your comparision to the combination.
I also love how you scattered the ever so "helpful" suggestions through-out the post.
My favorites "if you just relax a bit" "Feed him cereal" (him being 3 months) "If you didn't pick him up when he cried then he'd stop - he just has you wrapped around his finger"

charrette said...

Okay, I just posted the 3rd episode of my SOS saga.... COMPLETELY different tone from your post. (Haha!)

2 hearts said...

Was it something you ate?
YES! My loving mother-in-law brought me bran muffins when my son was 10 days old. I did not know bran could cause gas in babies. I ate them for a week and when we finally figured out why he was screaming then he had "learned" to scream and didn't stop for months!

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through this. It sounds awful, but the resulting bond with your child sounds priceless. My kids were not colicky so I never really experienced what you did. But the excellent way you wrote about it makes the experience almost real for me. I love the analogy and I love that there's almost a beat and a rhythm to this piece, like every sentence is measured to perfection. You're a very good writer!

Lisa said...

Man, my stomach was in knots reading this. We've only dealt with colic for short amounts of time. I believe Someone knows that we wouldn't be able to handle it, and He only gives us what He knows we can handle. It sounds like you handled it beautifully.

Daisy said...

We went through night terrors, which aren't as longlasting as colic, but just as destructive on parental sleep. How I ever survived my internship that semester I'll never know.

Kateastrophe said...

I'm a'playing this week!!

Heidi Ashworth said...

This was a brilliant analogy. I have never had a baby with colic but my oldest has been super challenging. I agree that it creates a deeper bond. I remember my father worrying that my love would not outlast all the tantrums and yelling and acting out (my oldest is bipolar) but I assured him that the more we serve someone, the more we love that someone and with all the service I have rendered on behalf of that kid, my love would last forever! It's all just part of a perfect plan.

Muthering Heights said...

Oh my goodness, that sounds terrible! You must have grown so much as a mother during that time!

The Three 22nds said...

I am so glad I haven't had to go through that...I loved the poignancy of the post. (by the way, I finished my post for SOS! I think I did it right :)

Lauren said...

There's nothing like waking up from a dead sleep to the blood curdling scream of a colicky babe. It makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.

Thanks for your comment. I cracked up a little at the "my people". I thought wow she's really into him, he's one of her people:)

Jessica said...

YES. You described perfectly the guilt, the frustration, the begging for sleep . . . the immense love and attachment that is formed in the ugly middle of it.

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