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Colic Won’t Kill You But It Will Make You Crazy

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My first child screamed for the first 3 months of life. The moment he turned 4 months old, it stopped, and I completely forgot how horrible it was. My amnesia was so profound, I insisted on having a second child.

“Are you sure?” my husband asked, reminding me of how exhausting it was to birth and then soothe an actual human being around the clock for almost one third of a year. All I remembered were the good parts, because women are bat sh*t lunatics.

Our second child screamed for the first 7 months of life.

I am constantly amazed at the things that are not included in family planning books. I mean, sure, maybe there’s a two-page blurb dedicated to soothing a fussy baby — but they don’t tell you the truth, which is that you will not remember anything you read when you actually find yourself holding a screaming infant for the third straight hour, on no sleep.

Also not mentioned: starvation, your own. It’s really hard to eat when you’re hanging out with an infant with colic. My usual coping mechanism during times of high anxiety involves cramming carbs into my mouth, but the sound of a baby crying makes my entire digestive system shut down.

The thing is, though, that somehow colic is not fatal — even though it SEEMS LIKE IT SHOULD BE, BECAUSE HOW CAN THEY EVEN SCREAM THAT LOUD FOR THAT LONG? And the better news: I went on to have a third baby, and she didn’t cry at all. The moral of the story is that girls are clearly the superior gender (I’m kidding. Not really.) and also, that the harrowing experience did not warp my children or myself beyond repair. Want to know why? None of us remember it. I lived it, I blocked it out, and then I had more babies. That’s the magic of motherhood.

Keep your sanity while dealing with colic

So, how did I make it through raising two extremely fussy babies without jumping out a window? I did everything I could possibly think of. Sometimes it would work for a day or just a few hours. Sometimes nothing worked at all. Sometimes I had to leave my son crying somewhere safe while I took a long, hot shower and cried. We’d sit in a recliner and cry together, or I’d rock him and pat his back and wonder aloud what I’d gotten myself into.

Most often, I stayed busy. If I strapped the baby to my body and did things — anything I could think of that involved any kind of movement — it helped. I went to the grocery store every single day, because for some reason, my babies never screamed in public. I cleaned the house. I went for walks, visited friends, drove aimlessly in circles … whatever I had to do to get us through the day, I did it. I put one foot in front of the other, always moving to keep the baby happy, in a zombie-like state. 

I didn’t rest enough, and it took a major toll on my body and mental health. I ended up on antidepressants, which helped, because holy hell I needed them. A girl can only listen to screaming for so long before she needs something. I tried to pamper myself, and I took every offer given to me from helpful friends and family who were willing to give me a break.

Colicky babies are a lot like the act of giving birth. It’s terrible when it’s happening, but then, right when you think you can’t possibly go on, it’s over. They just … stop. That’s what they should put in the family planning books — an open admission that no one in the entire world has a clue what really causes colic, and no one knows how to fix it. There’s no cure, and no one tells you how terrible it is unless they’re in the middle of it. Everyone else has already blocked it from memory, which is the usual custom for something that gave you legit PTSD.

Good luck. You won’t die. That’s about the best I can do.

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