Colic. That one word can cause two very distinct reactions - confusion or sheer terror.
I was lucky enough to experience both reactions, although the terror lasted much longer than the confusion. I was embarking on another thing they don’t really talk about in those parenting books, the journey through colic (shudder).
Our darling, beautiful and thankfully was discharged from the NICU one day after I was sent home. The pomp and circumstance that I felt cheated out of did happen, just not on my time table. There were the visitors ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over our little miracle. There were also the quiet moments when it was just Emma, Ivan and I, a picture perfect little family. We took her for walks and gave her a first bath. Ah. Blissful. And then, like a light switch, everything changed.
Emma was three weeks old when the crying started. She was five months old before it started to abate. Seriously. It happened so suddenly that it clouds my thinking to this day, five years later.
I rushed her to the doctor. I mean, surely she must have some horrible syndrome, maybe one yet unnamed that would explain what happened to my sweet little newborn. The doctor only had one explanation and it was that dreaded word. Colic.
To be honest, I had heard of that term, but I had no idea what it meant. When I asked her to elaborate on this diagnosis, she said something that sounded like “blah blah blah. Emma will outgrow it in a few months.” I was calm on the outside, but on the inside I was screaming “WHAT?!?!?” A few months? I was ready to throw in the towel and it had only been a few days.
So I came to discover what colic really meant. It meant that Emma would cry, scream actually, and she wouldn’t stop. All day. The only thing that would calm her down was constant motion by me, swaying her in a very certain and particular way. If I wavered from her desired movement, she let me have it with a bloodcurdling scream into my ear.
And on it went, every day being the same - Emma waking up in the morning and soon after, the crying, screaming, would start. And it would end at bedtime. My husband discovered that she even understood altitude. He would be holding her, pacing the floor forever and she was no little baby. She was a solid, hefty little thing. After a while he would get tired and he would lean on the arm of our couch. He never shifted her or stopped rocking, he just rested his backside on the arm of the couch. And like clockwork, she would freak out. She knew that he had dared tried to rest and she would have none of it! Keep moving or feel the wrath of Emma Julia. We lived in a little bit of fear to be honest.
She even yelled in the car. I read that the motion of the car helped colic. I was prepared to drive across the country if need be, but Emma had her own way of dealing with the car too. She would settle down as long as the car was moving, but God help us if I stopped at a red light. She would feel the car decelerating and would work herself up. She would be in a rage by the time the light turned green. And we would go through that process over and over again. If there was traffic I was in trouble and when is there not traffic in Nassau County???
I remember my mother-in-law (a lady who doesn’t mince words) came to visit. She took one look at me and said “Wow. You look terrible. You need to get out of here. Go anywhere, as long as it’s away from here.”
I ran. Literally, I tripped over myself getting to my car. I raced out of the driveway and then stopped at my corner. Where did I think I was going? I hadn’t showered and was pretty sure I stunk of baby spit up. Had I even brushed my hair that day? I actually thought if I went out in public I might get committed. And then I smiled. That wasn’t such a bad thought after all.
I went to Starbucks, sat down with a coffee and someone’s discarded newspaper and I just stared at the wall. I remember not wanting to go back to that crying. It’s a shameful thought, looking back on it, but one that was totally unavoidable.
I know there were times with our little girl that were fun, lighthearted and sweet. Unfortunately, when I think back on my first five months as a mom, that word – colic – is the first one that pops into my head. I think plowing through that time, that ‘colicky stage’ was the hardest part of this journey. I didn’t think anything could be tougher than dealing with infertility. But surprise, surprise, I was wrong again.
And then, the silver lining in my colic raincloud came. Just like that rude light switch that so callously flipped on me those first few weeks, month five dawned and with it, a new Emma emerged. A happy one!
I had just started to lose hope that I might never see a happy Emma but we did. Gone was the screaming for no reason. Gone was the need for constant motion and swaying. Talking about it now, it seems a foggy dream that may or may not have happened to me, Mother Nature’s self-preservation at its finest.
We were in the clear. Hallelujah! That is….. until the terrible two’s strike. And by the way, they don’t hit at two. It’s more like 16 months old, but if I could come through on the other side of colic, I could handle some cute little alliteration called “the terrible twos” right? Right?!?!?