Monday, March 19, 2012

A Birthday Boy (And A Colicky Story)

 It's 4:26 AM.

Most of the night I've been awake.  Uncomfortable.  Bad pillow arrangement.  Twisted pajama pants.

But finally, I drift off to sleep.

And then I'm suddenly startled with the sense that someone is silently standing beside my bed. 

"Hi, Mommy," he whispers.  "I'm firrrrrrrsty."

It's my Matthew.  My baby.

Like most mamas, I can be in that most delicious stage of sleep--where arms and legs are numb and heavy, and minds are blissfully turned off--but when I hear the doorknob turn on my kids' room, I am instantly and fully awake.  I am a machine, ready to change pee-pee sheets, soothe the aftermath of a frightening dream, administer Motrin for painful "Charlie Horses", or let a confused child know that, no,'s still nighttime, not quite time to play with Legos yet.

As I scoop Matthew up and walk toward the kitchen, I whisper in his ear, "Happy Birthday, little man."  

He's 3 today.

Three years ago.  Today.  I released an 8-pound, 6-ounce child into the world. ("Released".  That's funny.  Kind of like "releasing" an analog computer monitor from one's nostril.)

1,096 days ago.  1,095 nights ago. 

Oh, the nights.  

While we were still in the hospital after his birth, I knew something wasn't quite right with Matthew's stomach.  He would cry when he was hungry, of course, but he would also cry while he was nursing and for a long time afterwards.  At his one-week check-up, I told the pediatrician I knew something was wrong.  She (who had never had her own babies, I might add), with her barely-concealed eye-rolling at my novice concern that my otherwise healthy newborn was constantly "fussy", replied:  "most babies are."   I almost punched her in the face.  

Taking matters into my own hands, I figured something I was eating was upsetting Matthew's tummy.  So, I eliminated nuts, dairy, flour, sugar, and eggs from my diet.  

Nothing changed. 

I knew it.  He had colic.

And guess what the treatment is for colic?  


For twelve L-O-N-G weeks, my sweet baby cried through much of the day and most of the night.  I was quickly losing my mind, my patience, and my desire to be a mother.  I was a wreck.  A hormonal, exhausted, weepy, angry, desperate wreck.  Not sleeping was my personal version of hell:  as soon as Matthew would fall asleep (usually at 6 AM), Timothy, then 3, would wake up cheery and ready to play. 

Sleep deprivation made me a lunatic.  Every evening as the sun began to go down, dread would cloak me like a smothering black blanket.  I couldn't silence the crazy thoughts in my head: in the span of three seconds, I could go from wanting to kill my entire family to plotting suicide.   The cumulative effect of virtually no REM sleep combined with a sturdy case of post-partum depression converted me into a monster.

One night as Matthew was red-faced with his little back arched in pain, I realized how easy it would be for me to abuse this defenseless colicky baby.  While in the midst of roughly changing his diaper as he screamed endlessly, I had to stop and walk outside (at 2 AM).  I sat on the hood of my car and looked at the stars and cried out to God for some mercy.  In an instant answer to my prayer, Matthew got quiet.  (To demonstrate how low I was, I figured I didn't deserve to have a baby in my care and decided that Matthew had died; I steeled myself to find him lifeless in the bassinet.)   I gathered my courage and went back inside.  As I neared him, I saw that his face was wet: the child had peed on himself, and the dampness had shocked and distracted him from the pain!  While I was so far from being able to smile,  I did have to shake my head and offer my thanks to God for a few moments of quiet.

Memories of that night and dozens more like it make me wince in pain at the realization of how close I came to shaking Matthew. I still struggle with guilt and regret at the feelings I had toward this precious angel when he was so blameless and tiny.  I mourn the lost moments of the joys of a newborn, and the anger and frustration I had toward Timothy and Chris during those months. 

At 12 weeks, Matthew made a dramatic improvement.  Seemingly overnight, his colic resolved and he morphed into a smiley, happy baby.   While he wouldn't sleep through the night for a very long time, he did begin to sleep in longer stretches.  I felt instantly better.  Three hours of solid sleep is a miracle-worker. 

As I poured Matthew a sippy cup of milk this morning, these memories washed over my heart. 

And I had to wonder, is anyone "out there" struggling with this right now?  

I'll say it again:  colic = hell.  

I want to offer encouragement to any parents who are wading in the trenches of endless screaming.  It will not last forever.  You will survive.  Take a break, if possible, even just for a few minutes at a time.  Once, the mom of one of my friends stopped by to bring a baby gift.  Matthew was crying, I was crying, Timothy was crying.  The nice lady stepped into my house and I promptly handed her Matthew and then ran to my car and drove around for about 10 minutes.  Many nights when Chris came home from work, I was waiting with my car keys in hand.  In retrospect, I should have reached out for help from my local friends.  I was afraid to tell anyone my true feelings because I felt so inept to be experiencing these emotions and yet still call myself a mother.

Is this your life right now?  If so, get help if you can.  Give yourself grace.  You are a good mom.  You are not a failure.  And this season will end; your baby will not walk across his college graduation stage screaming.  I promise.  

And to my sweet birthday boy:  if this little blog is still in existence one day when you're old enough to read and grasp the meanings of these words, I love you.  I am so proud to be your mommy, you happy, cherubic child with a French accent.  You bring my heart joy and gladness.   I'd take 12 weeks of hard for a lifetime of having you in my arms and in my heart.

 The night before he was born.  
(Me + 8 lb 6 oz baby = a lot.)

I love epidurals.

Hello, little love.

 My boys.

Aunt Mags and her boys.

 Arriving home:  let the crying begin.

 I haven't slept or washed my hair in 4 days.

Matthew, puzzled, wondering if his mommy knows what she is doing. 

I love you, baby.

Happy Birthday, angel.

*We tried Nutramagen formula.  It did nothing for the colic.  Colic Calm was the most helpful thing we tried.


Anjie Fitch said...

Very honest and very brave of you and I respect that! There are lots of moms out there that need to know this and know they are not alone....I wish I had been more aware. Love you!!

Kathi said...

Oh, I know exactly what you are talking about. My colicky baby is now 27 and your words bring it back like it was last night. All of the same feelings and thoughts were in my head too. Happy Birthday to your little one and grace to all with a colicky child.

Cary said...

Harper didn't have colic but she did have reflux. I totally agree, lack of sleep and hormones mixed w/ postpartum is a crazy mess just waiting to happen then add a cranky baby...ohhhh my!

Unknown said...

Love this Ginny!! You write beautifully! I remember those nights of waiting for Scott to get home with my car keys in hand so I could escape to the mall for an evening to myself. I know you're a wonderful mom!!