Let’s just get this out there up front: Colic is bullshit. For one, it’s not really a diagnosis. (Okay, so I know some docs say it’s reflux, but every baby has reflux [Hello? Spit up anyone?] so I think that’s a little too easy. And the medical community is mixed on this belief, anyway.) I believe it’s a state of being (read: crying) for some babies of a certain temperament when they are younger than three months (and sometimes longer for some poor mamas). And it doesn’t “just” mean crying. It means crying a ton – for hours and hours and hours (and hours) at a time. (My son’s record is eight, but his pediatrician knew of others who cried upwards of 12 hours. In. A. Row.) Not just because they need something. Not because they’re hungry or tired or hurt or gassy or whatever else their tiny lizard brains conceive of when they can barely focus on your boob. Nope. It’s just because they can. At least that’s the way it seemed to me when my sweet son was born screaming into this world.
Of course, he wasn’t. See, the thing with colic is that it’s a stealth beast. It doesn’t emerge until after the first couple of quiet weeks past that initial gasp for air. Just when you start to think, “Hey, this newborn thing ain’t so bad. I think I might even be good at this,” your little lamb turns into a writhing horse fetus and you want to jump off a bridge. Or at least that’s how I felt. Nothing in my life prepared me for how much his crying would impact my sense of self and how much it would make me feel like disappearing. It was all-consuming. Crushing. Debilitating. It made recovery from a very, very, very tough birth both physically and emotionally torturous. It made me insane, at times, and certainly delirious. But it also made me committed to telling you the truth. Colic is bullshit. But here are some things my partner and I did to make it through those long hours when all you can think about is how you want your life back (or for your kid to grow the hell up already).
1) GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE HOUSE!
Seriously. I mean it. If you’re sitting in your house feeling miserable, strap your kid in your favorite baby carrier or stroller and get the hell out and stroll. Even the jerkiest of jerk kids will often stop crying with a change of scenery. Even if s/he starts up again as soon as you’re back inside, it will be worth it to step away for a bit. Silence is a sanity restorer. Infanticide will not solve your problems.
2) GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE HOUSE!
I’m totally serious, you know? Find a new mama meetup or support group and GO. Take your jerk kid to a movie. (Most major theater chains have special viewings set aside for new mamas their possessed spawn. Take advantage!) Go somewhere loud and distracting. Even better: Go somewhere with beer. (Yes, you can have one while breastfeeding – the rule is if you can feel it in your head, baby will get it from your milk.) We brought our son to outdoor festivals, loud pizza places, parties…anything to keep him focused outward and not on whatever the hell inner turmoil creates colic.
3) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF EVERY DAY.
If you’re the dominant caregiver, you need a break. Take time for yourself. I signed up for a marathon when I was 8 months pregnant, so once I was semi-recovered from the birth, I started to go on short runs every day. Though it was hard to leave the scraeling, it did wonders for my sanity. Take a fitness class. Walk to the grocery store. Put on loud music in the bathroom and take the hottest bath you can. Anything to get you away from the kid for awhile. Because your kid? Yeah, yours is a jerk.
4) DISTRACT YOURSELF AND THE KID.
Play loud music. Play YouTube videos of other babies crying for no reason. Make movies of your own kid and share them with your mom. Tumbl your feelings. Make fun of the circumstances and distract yourself and the day will go by faster. I also watched a ton of Roseanne.
5) WEAR YOUR BABY.
I don’t mean skin it and wear it as a stole. I mean put him or her in a close-to-body carrier. My son still loves his CatBird Baby Pikkolo. Others swear by the Moby Wrap or the Ergo Baby. Being close to mama and moving as she does seems to help the colicky ones. At the very least it frees your hands to do something else. You know. Like eat.
6) MAKE FUN PLANS.
Schedule trips or activities that will take place when the kid is less of a jerk. This will give you hope. My best friend came to visit when kidlet was 13 weeks old – just out of the so-called colic period. On the longest days, when no bouncing soothed him and the tears kept flowing (out of both of us), I imagined having beers with her and things seemed less horrible. I also traveled to Chicago for the marathon when he was 7 months old. Planning this trip meant I had something to look forward to beyond another diaper to wash.
7) PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE EASY BABIES.
When you have a kid with colic, everyone else you know seems to have infants that smile, coo and generally enjoy life. You will be jealous of others’ easy babies; the ones who are always smiling. The ones who take bottles. The ones who will deign themselves to be babysat by relatives or friends. Pay no attention to the easy babies. You will only torment yourself.
These seven tips are the things I tried to do (or didn’t do at first and learned the hard way) to distract myself during those first three months. Having a newborn is already so alienating. Having one with the nebulous affliction of colic is even more so. You question everything. You feel so alone.
But you really, really aren’t. Millions of jerk babies have grown into perfectly passable human children. While the days may seem endless and the minutes like hours, rest assured they will grow out of it. It gets better. Infinitely so. (There should probably be an It Gets Better Project for new parents.) And they will one day look at you with recognition and adoration. And you will remember all the fun times you had with them when they were teeny-tiny. Like when they finally fell the fuck to sleep.