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To the Mom of the Colicky Baby

To all of the mommas out there with colicky babies, please take a deep, cleansing breath. It will get better. How do I know? Years ago I was you. I was the mom embarrassed by the stares I received while walking through the grocery store with a screaming baby swaddled to my chest. I was the one who couldn't manage a conversation with a friend over the phone due to the high pitched wails of my child. The crying was constant. His needs were constant.What was wrong with him? What was wrong with me? I am his mom and yet I couldn't make his crying stop. I became mentally and physically drained. Years later what I know for sure is that I was dealing with a colicky baby but at the time my son wasn't given a diagnosis because he showed symptoms within 24 hours after his birth, and according to textbooks, colic presents itself about two weeks to a month after bringing children home from the hospital. That may be so, but there are exceptions to every rule and my baby was the only one at the nursery that had eight pacifiers in his bassinet, courtesy of the hospital nurses, when we brought him home. We can laugh about it now but it wasn't funny at the time. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "Did you try...?" Yes, we did. We tried gripe water. We tried swaddling. We tried baby massage. We switched pediatricians three times. Nothing worked. When he napped, which was a chore to get him to do, he would do so in the car. I was forced to take long car rides around our windy country roads in order for him to get some rest. It was really only then that he would stop crying and I was able to get a break from his cries and fussiness. We spent a fortune on gas but that silence was so precious to me. Everyday was a challenge. Some days I lost the fight and I too would cry along with my baby. It wasn't until I confided in a friend about how inadequate I felt that I was given the most important advice I had ever been given about motherhood. He said that the universe had given me this particular baby for a reason and only I could be this baby's momma and give my baby what he needed. At that moment it was as if a light bulb went off in my head. My friend was absolutely right. From that point on, life really became about living moment by moment instead of day by day. Sometimes I had to tell myself to try to just get through the next five minutes of his cries. After those five minutes were up I would get through another five minutes, and so on. I can honestly say that those first nine months of little sleep and constant crying fits is, up to this point, the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life but I learned so much about myself. I know this is going to sound silly but I taught myself how to breathe. Not just the mindless breathing we do everyday to stay alive, but rather deep, meaningful breaths to promote relaxation in the midst of chaos. Baby wearing walks outdoors became a life saver since my son couldn't stand to be in a stroller. It's amazing how restorative the fresh air can be even when you have a crying baby strapped to your body. I developed a tremendous amount of patience that I'm not sure I had in me before I had my son. Also, having a colicky baby made me realize how different each child really is. There's no point in comparing my child to the smiling, cooing baby of the mom sitting next to me at the pediatrician's office. No amount of advice from friends and family, or Googled information can "fix" my baby. My son's needs really put me in tune with our mother/child relationship. When I accepted my son, his needs, our reality, it was as if a cloud lifted. At around nine months old, my son started to willingly nap. He stopped the unprovoked cries. He started to smile...a lot! Today I have a very happy, healthy child. People that know us will tell you that we have an extremely close bond. We survived those dark days and I know you can too. How? Step one is to breathe. It's amazing how this one step can get you centered and calm. Second, take it moment by moment. Don't worry about the list of things that need to get done. You are just trying to get through the next few minutes. Third, try to manage to get some time for yourself. A shower, a walk around the block without the baby, a quick cup a coffee with a friend can do wonders for your spirit. Lastly, hang tough, moms. Although it may not feel like it right now, there is a rainbow behind that storm cloud. ~HZM

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