As someone who prides herself on being emotionally stable and capable of handling most anything, I never thought I would suffer from postpartum depression, anxiety, rage or whatever I survived from the time my daughter was 6 weeks old to 10 weeks old, but I was raw and ragged with frustration.
My second daughter, my sweet baby Luna, cried inconsolably for no reason unless I was nursing her or doing some combination of swaying, jiggling and deep-knee squats. I don’t mean she cried occasionally or even for an hour at a time—she would wail, turn purple, and gag herself she was screaming so hard. And throughout that month, I nearly lost myself.
To say I was not my best self was an understatement. I said things to my spouse, my two-year-old daughter and my newborn that I will forever regret. I snapped at everyone, showered weekly at best, and did all the deep breathing and yoga I could to keep my head on straight.
The peak of her crying aligned with my wife’s first week back to work when my daughter was 8 weeks old, meaning I spent most of my days in her dark nursery desperately try to sway, squat and shush her while simultaneously googling why she was so inconsolable. I tried gas drops, probiotics, pacifiers, switching my diet to dairy free, bouncing swings and long walks in the stroller, all to no avail.
My wife tried desperately to help. She held our crying baby and I attempted to step outside, but my daughter’s unanswered cries were all I could hear in my mind—and it was agonizing. My wife asked repeatedly “What do you need?” and yet I couldn’t answer. Because all I really needed was for this little helpless being to stop crying. All my personal needs fell secondary to that. I didn’t need to shower. I didn’t need to work out. I didn’t even need to eat. I just needed to be able to put her down for a mere minute and not hear her cry.
Not being able to soothe your own baby creates a physiological pain deep inside that I cannot describe. Is there something wrong with my breastmilk? Is she not eating enough? Is she in some kind of pain? Is it something I am eating? What am I doing wrong?
When I went to the pediatrician for her two-month checkup, she confirmed there was nothing wrong with my baby physically. She likely just had colic, a catch-all term that does nothing but make it seem like her behavior is benign, tolerable and totally normal, which it is for 15% of babies out there. She explained my daughter’s little brain was growing like wildfire during those weeks, making so many new synapses that she just could not handle the world around her. She said with a grain of hilarity that studies show the fussier the baby, the higher the IQ score later in life and by the time she was 3 or 4 months, she assured me she would be a different baby.
And she was right. At 11 weeks old, almost overnight, she just stopped crying. There was no new potion or method, she just suddenly became OK with the world. And today at 17 weeks old she is a smiley, chubby baby who only cries a blissfully normal amount, usually when she is tired or hungry, and for that I am forever grateful.
Throughout all my research and chats with other moms and doctors, if you have a child that cries inconsolably for hours and weeks on end, it is entirely normal to feel the way I was feeling, but rarely does anyone talk about it. As much as I knew I should seek professional help, I just kept waiting for her to turn a corner—and thankfully she did.
Throughout those weeks what saved me was commiserating and connecting with other Moms, especially new Moms. To the Moms in my Fit4Mom workout class and Mom & baby yoga class who shushed and swayed my daughter in my stead (or just ignored her hour-long screaming like it was normal), thank you. Thank you for offering your suggestions, hugging me when I didn’t know I needed it, and telling me I was welcome no matter how loud she screamed.
To my Mom friends who I went to lunch with, sometimes during one of her peaceful naps on my chest while I gobbled down my food knowing it would soon come to end, for telling me my baby was perfect and sharing your survival stories too.
To my wife, thank you for loving me when I was far from my best self, sleep-deprived and physically depleted from breastfeeding and perpetual squats. To my Mom who has become an expert listener, and for that I am eternally grateful. To my 2-year-old daughter who loved me even when I lost my cool, gave me lots sloppy kisses on the lips, and did her best bouncing, pacifier-put-in dance for her baby sister, always with a smile.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a difficult baby, especially in the weeks around when that illusive “colic” definition peaks, do what you can to help yourself and take comfort in the fact that it will come to end. Accept help, talk to other Moms, get out of the house, and take solace in the fact that one day you will wake up and they will have turned a corner. Until then, hold on for dear life, mamas!