I Fought the Colic and the Colic Won

Cirque du Today26 Comments

When I had my first baby at the age of 31, I thought I’d know what to do. I had four younger siblings, plus I was a nanny for most of my college years. Changing muddy diapers? Applying Desitin to chapped little butts? Dressing squirmy, delicate infants? Doing the Baby Bounce to put them to sleep?  Dodging the Puree of Pea Catapult feeding stubborn toddlers? Playing the clown to defuse a toddler meltdown? I’d done it ALL. I’d been doing it all, Child Labor Style, since I was 9 years old.

That being said, you can imagine my surprise when I popped out a kid of my own and totally lost my mojo. My new baby bundle of joy refused to cooperate with me, and I was sure it was because I was doing something wrong. First off, he didn’t want to nurse. Whenever I would accost tap his cheek with one of my new freakishly large boobs, he wasn’t rooting. (For all the non-parents out there, that is the technical term for when an infant instinctually searches for his mother’s breast whenever he feels a warm touch on his cheek). No, no my child wasn’t ROOTING for my breast; he was in fact, BOOING it. He would wig out like I was trying to suffocate him with a monstrous pillow. However, if I offered him a man-made, artificial boob, i.e., a bottle filled with liquid not produced by my own milk-makers, he thirstily consumed it with the gratitude of a baby who’d been inch-worming his way through the Sahara Desert since his last feeding. And I have to say, before I had him, I had a very laissez faire attitude towards breastfeeding. If it worked out, great; if it didn’t, I would pump and bottle feed. BFD. I never suspected my new Mom Self-Esteem would take such a debilitating hit when I failed at breastfeeding, and that big fat F was indelibly stamped on my first test of motherhood.

Depressed as I was, I pushed aside my hurt pride, pulled out the milking machine, and spent all my “spare time” being suctioned by a couple of cones I nicknamed Hoover and Dyson. We actually became quite close. THEY never rejected me. THEY never got pissed off when I tried to attach them to my boobs. Admittedly, they could be a little rough sometimes, especially when I was in a rush and had to turn the sucker intensity up to the Nipple Napalm Setting, but whatever, not their fault. They GOT me! I was trying my best to be a good mom. Why couldn’t my new infant try to work with a mother?

This was his "I'm pissed off 'cause I'm wet" cry.

This was his “I’m pissed off ’cause I’m wet” cry.

Two-and-a-half weeks after birthing my baby, I’d mended my heartbreak over not nursing him, and I’d settled into some confidence with our new routine. That was right around the time the crying started. The Crying Started.  And. It. Wouldn’t. Stop. Prior to this, I had read about colic in my obligatory  What to Expect When You’re Expecting  book, and I’d listened to friends’ third-party stories about it in that detached, Urban Legend kind of way. In the way you cock your head and condescendingly listen to stories about a Loch Ness Monster or Sasquatch sighting. In a That Sounds Terrifying but I Don’t Really Think it Exists and Do You Also Believe in Ghosts, Because If You Do, Take Your Evil Spirits and Get Your Cuckoo Ass Away from Me Before I Have Nightmares kind of way. Yeah see, in my ultimate pre-parental wisdom, I thought that “colic” was just another word for The Mom is Doing Something Wrong. I know, I was an idiot.  I found out the hard way, karma-style, that colic is a very real and very terrifying phenomenon.

The crying would start, inexplicably, at 4:00 p.m. on the dot every single solitary day (even on The Lord’s Day, which should be kept holy and scream-free), and it wouldn’t stop until around 8:30 each night. Oh, that’s not so bad, you say? That’s only four-and-a-half hours, you say? Have you ever heard a newborn scream for 5 minutes? In that shrieky, wobbly, heartbreakingly high-pitched way that sounds like a baby kitten in the process of being declawed? You have? Then you know it’s bad. Have you ever heard a newborn scream in that way for  270 minutes  straight? Well I have, and it’s bad. It is very, VERY bad. And it is disheartening, deranging, depressing, and downright soul-crushing to a new mother who is trying desperately to soothe and comfort and calm and nurture and pacify and shut her newborn baby the EFF up!

We did eventually find that one thing, just ONE thing would calm our sweet little ambulance siren, and that one thing was stereo static. Loud stereo static. Deafening stereo static. As soon as we’d turn it on, and turn it up, the crying stopped. We began to breathe a little easier during the colic hours, as long as we had the good old stereo static, which became the soundtrack of our lives. Even though we wanted to claw away our ears, and often heard static in our dreams, it was much, MUCH easier to endure than the crying.

Having the crying somewhat under control, I could’ve enjoyed a little feeling of maternal success had the poor baby not suddenly developed acid reflux and begun projectile vomiting with Linda Blair Gusto halfway across the room at any given moment. So instead of draping over my shoulder the cutesy little bear and bunny print burp cloths I was given 9 million of for my baby shower, I began wearing bath towels. No joke.

Every day, by the time my husband cruised on home from work, I was waiting at the door. My hair looked like I’d gotten into a street fight with a can of Aqua Net. Yesterday’s Maybelline mascara mixed with little salty patches were marking the Tracks of My Tears. I was outfitted in a striped beach towel toga, adorned with wet and dry clumps of cottage-cheesy baby puke. I was also holding the baby out, arms outstretched, to my husband, as if the baby were a skunk ready to pick up its tail and let loose.

H e likes me! He REALLY likes me!

He likes me! He REALLY likes me!

All of this sounds very whiney, I know, and I know it could’ve been worse. So much worse. I probably sound like a horribly ungrateful mother. (Mom Guilt, Mom Guilt, Mom Guilt). I  was  grateful for my healthy baby, and I loved him, I really did . . . I just didn’t think he KNEW that. Or that he knew how hard I was trying to be good at this, to make him happy, to make him love me back. And then, magically, at six weeks, he smiled at me, and he kept smiling bigger and bigger every time. In fact, even though he still screamed his little head off at 4 on the dot every single day, he smiled all day long up until that point. And, then, at three-and-a-half months old, he stopped screaming.

At first I thought there was something wrong.  He’d forgotten who he was – did he hit his head on his crib? Did he have amnesia? Did he need a baby hypnotist to get him back to the screaming banshee I was sure he’d be for the rest of his life? I held off on my neurologist/hypnotist appointments, but the next day, and the day after that, and that, and that were all scream-free. It was a whole new world. I knew when my baby was going to be unhappy (hungry, sleepy, poopy), and I knew none of this natural unhappiness had to do with the terrible job I was doing as his mother.

Now, seven-and-a-half years later, my boy is my heart’s joy, and he is his Mama’s Boy. He has been his Mama’s Boy since he was six weeks old, and probably even before that. I was simply too blinded by projectile puke, too deafened by tortured, feline-baby screams, and too naive to get it.

For more stories about newborn struggles, read I’m A Multi-Tasker Disaster and My First Six Years With Twins.

My sweet boy

My sweet boy

I Fought the Colic and the Colic Won

26 Comments on “I Fought the Colic and the Colic Won”

  1. Bridgitte

    Oh man, I remember those days!!! Next write about the “Samual”–I will send you a copy in case you need reminding! Hahahaha!

    1. Ashley

      Oh boy, yes please if you really do still have a copy! Make me look at proof of what a neurotic new mom I was, please, please. 😉

  2. Uncle Wiggly

    Bravo! This is about the most loving, poignant, revealing, inspiring story of motherhood I have ever read. Us guys need to hear these powerful stories from the front. I stand back with my hat in my hand, brave and shining soul!!!

  3. Jennifer M. Reed

    Your Story Is All Too Familiar For Me. I Was Feeling Your Pain As I Read This Story. I Actually Loaded My Son In The Car And Took Him To My Husband, I Didn’t Know What Else To do

    1. Ashley

      Thanks for commenting, Jennifer. I hoped this post would reach someone who’d been in the same boat. It’s a rocky way to start out as a parent, and even if you didn’t start out with your first child having colic, it can be very demoralizing. :/ Light at the end of the parenting tunnel, though, as always.

  4. Kelli

    Wow! Reading this really brought back memories for me too! 4:00 PM was the time my boys would start screaming and your description of the reflux is so true! I really enjoy reading your blog! 🙂

    1. Ashley

      Oh, no, Kelli! Tell me you aren’t saying that all three of your triplets had colic! And reflux?! Please, please, no. You are the one who should be writing a blog! Thanks so much for reading. 😀

  5. Robyn

    I can’t imagine. I was so lucky with Luke that I wondered why people said being a mother was so hard. It’s much harder now that he’s INTO EVERYTHING.

    1. Ashley

      Robyn, you were so lucky with Luke! It’s nice to start off motherhood with an easy baby – gives you great confidence in your mothering skills to prepare you for what’s to come. He is in that stage where you can’t turn your back on him for a minute, I’m sure! I remember when the twins were his age, I must’ve dropped 10 lbs running after them all the time! He’s adorable, though, girl. Give him a kiss for me, and thanks so much for reading!

  6. Rachell S.

    I must say, I thought I was the only one who had trouble being a mom. In my circle, everybody else’s baby took long, 4-hour naps every day and woke up quietly cooing. My baby took 20 minute catnaps and woke up screaming. Having said that, my daughter was the best thing that ever happened to me. The most important thing for new moms to know is just what you said. It does stop. Whatever the “it” is. Everything gets better. It’s important to remember this for the dreaded middle school years. Wonderful post, as always! Your writing is humorous, honest, and poignant. More, more, more, please.

    1. Ashley

      Rachell, Sam would take 30 minute naps on the button until he was old enough to drop all naps! It never got any longer than that! I was hoping this post would reach a mother who was struggling in some torturous kid phase and hopefully stop beating herself up about it. Thanks for reading and for your kind words, Rachell.

  7. Nat

    i love reading your blog! This one is a bit intimidating being 6mo’s preggo with baby #1… now i know who to call at 4PM when the screaming begins 🙂 Don’t worry, it’s clear to me from the sidelines that you are an amazing mom.

    1. Ashley

      Aww, thanks, Nat! I am so excited for your new adventure. You can call me anytime, day or night. I remember feeling so alone as a new mom and not sure who to direct all my zillions of questions to. Have you heard of Happiest Baby on the Block? That book saved me when the colic hit, but I used many of the tactics (The Five S’s to soothing a newborn) with my twins, who did not have colic! That was my bible!! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, and please believe me – I will be there for you! (Ask Lena – we exchanged novelesque emails when she was a new mom). 😀

  8. Amy Denton

    This is making me SUPER excited for April…;) Loved the entry. Love your son and I’m glad he doesn’t cry at 4:00 every day anymore!

    1. Ashley

      Hey, don’t get worried now, Amy! I am sure you’ll have one of those super easy babies, but on the off-chance that you don’t, remember two things: it’s not your fault, and this too shall pass. Thanks so much for being such a great and caring teacher to my little boy, and thanks for reading. 😀

  9. Jessica

    Oh girl… I’ve loved through the colic hell twice and the acid reflux ( in varying degrees) four times. It’s seriously hell on Earth, and I felt like the most inept mother ever… Because, as you know, NOTHING makes these people happy. My oldest screamed from midnight to 4AM for 3 months… And he’s still a wound up, easily overstimulated kid. The youngest screamed for 3 months nonstop. Period. I had to hold her every second of the day and I felt like I was neglecting the other 3 kids (more mom guilt). Hiw did we love through this?

    1. Ashley

      Jessica, so sorry for the late response! I like the way you describe living through hard times with kids as “loving” through. My oldest is also easily overstimulated…I have always thought that was traceable back to the colic. I really can’t imagine having a colicky baby with 3 other kids to take care of! That must’ve been SO tough! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  10. Ashley

    Great piece! Your writing mirrors my feelings even after I was a 4th time mom..Ive been rejected by my boobs, by my milk then my boobs turned the tables and started rejecting them before they even got a chance lol…the colic….oh that colic my 1st born had it our batter opperated fisher price ocean swing was the only saviour, I was in a new mom stupor all I kept repeating was “stop stopping oocean sounds” my 2nd born had pyloric stenosis my husband and her pediatrician were the only saviors there, my 3rd healthy as a horse with an unending appetite enfamil and walmart brand formula with tricut nipples to add “a little” cereal saved us there lol… number 4…. we are still getting to know her. (TBC)

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