Friday, August 11, 2006

Jackson Colic

The other night, I was watching an episode of Surviving Motherhood, also known as Lady, You're Crazy and saw a story that took me back to the Bad Old Days of Jack's early babyhood. The woman's son was suffering from colic. Seeing the desperation on that woman's face really brought me back. Jack had colic from when he was six weeks old to around three months. If you haven't experienced life with a colicky baby, you just can't imagine how hard it is.

Jack would scream and wail inconsolably every single day for hours at a time. I was very, very new at the whole motherhood gig, and it really shook my confidence. What kind of mom was I if I couldn't do anything to stop my baby from crying? I was also embarassed to be living in The Screaming Baby House, convinced that everyone in the neighborhood could hear it and hated us. And I'd look at other women who had babies without colic. I'd watch their kids happily playing with their feet while I strapped Jack into the JackSack (aka Baby Bjourn) and trying frantically to calm him down, and I would secretly hate them because I was just so jealous. I was also sleep deprived and exhausted.

Any time I'm faced with a problem, I try to learn as much about it in hopes of finding a good solution. So I took to the internet. Here's what I learned: 20% of babies suffer from colic. Doctors think that it's probably discomfort due to an immature digestive system. Or maybe overstimulation. Or maybe something else entirely. They just don't know. I could not believe it. 20% of all families with new babies are suffering this kind of hell, the kind of thing that, to be honest, makes Shaken Baby Syndrome seem a bit understandable, and there's no huge Colic Foundation dedicated to finding the cause and fixing it? We just have to suck it up?

I heard good things about The Happiest Baby on the Block. Dr. Harvey Karp supposedly had a magical program that would, like a switch, quiet a crying infant. Madonna had used that program, and as luck would have it, I'd gotten his DVD as a shower gift. I popped in the DVD, and Steve and I watched in amazement as time after time, Dr. Karp stopped fussy infants from crying, transforming them from wailing banshees into sweet little angels. So we tried his 5 S's to see which would help Jack.

Swaddling: Worked great... as long as Jack was asleep. For wakeful times, not so much.
Side/Stomach Position: Terrific. Now if my arms are tired from holding him upright, I can take a break and hold him differently while he screams. Next!
Shhh Sounds: The shushing gives me something to do while Jack cries.
Swinging: Now not only is Jack crying because of the colic, but also because he's not being held.
Sucking: The only sucking that could have helped was me sucking down a bottle of wine.

I decided quickly that Dr. Harvey Karp could kiss my stretchmarked ass. My five s's were starting to include sweating, swearing, swigging booze, stifling screams, and wanting to strangle Dr. Karp.

It was soon getting to the point where when Jack started to cry, I'd just join him. Then, my wonderful husband had a simpler, breakthrough revelation. We needed two things.

The first was a change in attitude. We needed to accept the fact that there was not a single thing we could do to stop Jack from crying. The only thing wrong with him was colic, and we'd just have to wait it out. Instead of trying to stop his crying, what we needed to do was let him know that we were there for him while he worked through it.

The second thing was... ear plugs. I know, it sounds crazy, but believe me, with ear plugs in, we could still hear the crying just fine. It just wasn't as piercing and painful when it was muffled by a bit of foam in our ears.

Those changes made all the difference. I was able to calmly hold Jack while he cried, not wondering if there was something different I needed to be doing. What he really needed was for his mommy or daddy to hold him close so he'd know that even though he was having a hard time, we loved him and were there for him.

The weeks passed, and one day, the darkness seemed to be lifting. It was a while before either one of us dared to say it: the colic seemed to be gone. Sure enough, Jackson Colic was no more, and Jack started to develop a reputation as an incredibly happy baby.

Looking back, I think the tough days of colic really brought all three of us closer together. Jack learned he could rely on us in hard times. I admired Steve's strength and brilliant thinking. And Steve appreciated how much more patient I became as a result of this trial. Now, any problems we go through just don't seem as hard, because we know we can get through some trying trying things. And now, I think I really do have the Happiest Baby on the Block.

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