A year ago after a beautiful labour experience, our precious baby girl Erin entered our World. I fell in love with her the minute I saw her but it wasn't Hollywood style tears and overwhelming emotion, it was measured, awe, happiness, wonder, adoration and a little bit of 'sorry nurse, what did you say I should do next?'. I have the most supportive husband who nursed me with a broken ankle through the last two months of pregnancy while I was bed bound, needing 100% care to be carried anywhere in the house and into a wheelchair for hospital appointments. I felt that if we could get through those challenging 8 weeks pre birth, we could conquer anything. Close friends told me I was due a sleeping, peaceful baby after all I had been through.
But from the get-go Erin had colic. Not the colic I had heard people mention in passing where their babies were fussy between the hours of 7pm and 10pm (Google that, it's really a thing), or where she had feeding issues and colic was put down to tummy pains. No, our baby had full blown, all day, all night COLIC. And most, if not all of her waking hours consisted of crying. Purple faced, non stop, brain-grating CRYING.
On new-Mommy-autopilot, I was in tune with Erin from day one and never panicked. I just listened to her, soothing her, pacing all day in my PJs with her. Not the soft, swaying kind of pacing you see in movies, but vigorous, fast paced trotting on a healing but painful broken ankle, limping around the house from dusk until dawn. My husband is my absolute HERO after all he did to support Erin and I during this time. There are no words to describe how much I love him even more after this experience. There are no words to describe how much we almost strangled each other while going through the first few weeks either. But we laugh about that now.
Everyone had a solution for us. So we tried everything people suggested from swaddling to running water, white noise apps, cranio, bottle drops, a special bouncer, baby wearing, co-sleeping, changing to a very expensive lactose free formula and other ridiculous theories we tried out of complete desperation and because people told us it was what 'we should' be trying. None of these solutions did as people had promised us, none of them worked for our baby. The weeks were pushing on and we were getting less and less rest and more and more worn out mentally and physically.
I forced myself to shower, get dressed and get out in public every day, regardless of my screamer. On supermarket trips I was met with strangers approaching my buggy to offer unsolicited comments to my just fed newborn such as 'oh the poor baby, she is starving'....or 'a new Mummy? You'll get used to understanding what is wrong to stop her crying'....as if there was an obvious, simple solution I was missing. I even had a public health nurse tell me I was probably over stimulating Erin taking her outdoors - when going out for air was the one thing that helped me keep Post Natal Depression at bay.
After 4 weeks of living in a crazy, sleep deprived, tearful, colic bubble, I joined a private support group on Facebook and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I linked in with other new parents of seriously colic babies who I could talk to in the dark of night when I was delirious from the lack of sleep and the sound of crying was pushing me to the edge. We would support each other, swap tips and share pictures of our husbands holding sleeping baby next to running water at 4am to celebrate baby finally sleeping for an hour - at the cost of Daddy sitting like a zombie on the side of a bath getting no sleep. I suddenly felt part of a community of similar new Mummys and even laughed with other parents going through the same challenging times.
Then a trip to my GP made things fall into place even more. He told me colic was not tummy or feeding pains as people had repeatedly told me but rather a baby's undeveloped brain receptors incorrectly reading post feeding feelings as pain. He said our precious baby was not in pain. Horray! He told me we were doing a great job. Double horray! He said there was nothing else wrong and that this would pass, in a few weeks, at worst in a few months, but it WOULD pass. He said the only concern a doctor has in a colic household is the parents not the baby as it is so tough on a parent's mental health. He told me to stop listening to what people are telling me I 'should do' and do and start trusting my own maternal instincts. That nobody knew my baby like I did. That is the single, most important and supportive advice that I still apply as a Mummy a year later. When challenging days pop up, I know Erin better than anyone else. I've got this!
When Erin was 7 weeks she slept, for 5 or 6 hours in a block. And I wanted to scream it from the rooftops I was so happy. I felt as if I had been on a week's sun holiday I was so refreshed. I was changing her nappy and she giggled as I talked to her. A proper belly laugh giggle. After 7 weeks of purple faced crying, it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life and I cried. I was finally one of the Mums in the Colic Support Group who could declare that colic had left the building. And had left us with a smiley, happy baby.
For parents lost in a bubble of Colic craziness:
There are NO solutions - you will hear MANY tips from people about what you SHOULD be doing with your baby. If your baby is as colic as ours, TIME is the only solution. Parents of blissfully calm, sleeping newborns will rush to tell you all about how they have amazing routines and the perfect baby. You will try to force routines on your baby, force them cry it out, stress them out even more, but more than likely, it will NOT work and you will end up even more frustrated. Why? Because no two babies are the same. And because there is no perfect way to parent. If there is, please send me the book. You know your baby better than anyone, just go with it and it will pass.
Don't be hard on yourself. Its ok that the house is up in a heap. Its ok that it's 4pm and you are still in your PJs, unshowered. This is a temporary time in your life, let perfection go out the window and do what you need to do to cuddle and try settle your baby.
Ask for help. You will be afraid to leave your screamer with anyone for a few hours as baby may get more upset or your temporary carer will end up as tearful as your baby, so ask a relative or friend to call over. Put the kettle on and have a cuppa in the garden with the door closed. A simple few minutes in fresh air will be all the time out you need to get your head straight from hours of crying. Tell yourself you have this, it's temporary and don't dwell on how hard it all is. It passes.
Ask people to bring dinners for the freezer. I remember looking at the clock some days, in disbelief that it was 5pm and I still didn't make my breakfast. Time goes out the window and so does looking after yourself. So have pre-prepared wholesome meals in the freezer to pop in so that you keep your energy levels up.
Don't listen to other Mums who may judge and pass comment. Unfortunately I encountered a lot of Mums who judge other Mums parenting decisions. I even encountered girls with no children telling me what I 'should be' doing and 'shouldn't be doing' as a new Mum! I laugh now but at the time after weeks of no sleep, it wasn't encouraging. I have no time for negative, judgmental people so don't allow anyone burst your bubble. You are doing a great job and only you know what's best for your baby. Whatever works best for you and baby, you do!
Ask a friend or your partner to pace with baby while you sleep. Get earplugs, go to bed and SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP. Even if it's the middle of the day, try to grab an hour or two and don't feel guilty about it. Your baby will be fine without you for a couple of hours and you will be a better parent after rest. Rest is everything. It is a luxury for the first few weeks, maybe months. But again, this is all only a phase that WILL improve and pass.
And remember IT DOES PASS. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Erin is now the happiest, most content baby. She makes us laugh every day. She has a strong personality like her Mummy and Daddy and thanks to colic, we are surprisingly relaxed parents. We have had the best training after all. Colic can push you to the brink but it makes you a stronger person in the longrun and a great parent. Nothing phases us now and I think I am a more calm, measured and relaxed person as a result of the past year. I really love being a Mummy <3
So hang in there, ride it out. A year on, I can honestly say it is worth every tear, every sleepless night. I wouldn't swap the past year for the World. You're doing a great job and trust your instinct. You know your baby better than anyone!