Single, with eggs that weren’t getting any younger, I decided it was now or never to have a child and plunked down real cash to get my wish. My pregnancy was blissful, I felt superhumanly fertile as I attended prenatal yoga classes, discussing babies with the other mommies, rubbing my belly like a talisman. I would breastfeed, of course, I even joined a group; I would use cloth diapers–and water, no wipes–for nothing but cotton should touch my baby’s precious bottom. I would wash her clothes with Planet or Dreft. I would wear her in a sling, who needs a stroller, I would co-sleep, who needs a crib; there would be no television, for I would be my child’s distraction–I didn’t even have toys other than those given to me at baby showers. Since I had waited so long, I wanted the entire experience of motherhood to be instinctive, natural. I romanticized the birth of my baby like a bride plans her wedding; ours would be a happy-ever-after lovefest. I pictured my little angel smiling sweetly when she wanted to nurse, and afterwards, drifting to sleep in her Moses basket as I floated from one bohemian setting to another. (I’m sure in this fantasy I was wearing something diaphanous.) “Women have been doing this for thousands of years,” I kept repeating, and each time someone with children suggested being a parent was the hardest job around, I’d say, “Bring it on.”
Nothing–but nothing–went as planned. My labor was 36 hours long, and after all my meditative classes and breathing techniques, I was induced, pushed for almost 5 hours, and ultimately had a C-section. Coming home from the hospital, I launched into hourly nursings, endless laundry, and constant diaper changing–stuff was coming out of my angel that looked like work for the Haz-Mat team. But my baby, Arabella, nursed and slept and nursed and slept. This isn’t so bad, I thought. “Is she always this mellow?” visiting friends would ask, and I’d nod yes, my breasts and heart full, isn’t it wonderful.
Then somewhere around five weeks, all hell broke loose. My sweet little lamb with the heart-shaped mouth started crying. And crying. She cried each time I put her down. She cried when she nursed, tormented by gas. “Colic,” said the pediatrician, and prescribed Mylicon ‘round the clock. “She’s just a high need baby,” said the breastfeeding group. “She needs a cranial,” said the yoga mommies, and gave me a card for a baby chiropractor. I rattled toys, I cranked up the Symphony-in-Motion mobile, put her in the swing, bounced her on the exercise ball, walked her, sang to her, read to her, bathed her, massaged her, and still she screamed. She screamed in the car seat, she screamed in the stroller, the Baby Bjorn; the only place she wanted to be was in my arms, so I configured the sling and clocked dozens of miles going anywhere within walking distance. I started simplifying. Out went the cloth diapers. I plopped her in front of PBS. I started throwing her clothes in with mine and the Cheer. Friends came to my home to hold her while I ran errands in the car, but I could never be gone more than two hours unless I pumped breast milk, which was impossible to do when I was holding her all the time. In the breastfeeding group, we were supposed to go around the room, introducing ourselves and our babies and stating a positive for the week. By week 10, my positive was that I hadn’t lost my mind.
“Whatever you do, be consistent,” said the pediatrician, but one day, Arabella was calmed by something or, inexplicably, napped, then the next day was different. “Do whatever works,” said the breastfeeding group, and the yoga mommies smiled serenely and said, but, really, isn’t it all good?
“Colic peaks at two months and ends by three,” said all the books, but she turned three months and was still going into what my sister called “the vortex,” where she cried inconsolably for no apparent reason. Then, the colic parents started weighing in. “Put a blow dryer under the swing.” “Run the vacuum cleaner next to her.” “Swaddle her.” Colic diets were offered: “Eat organic chicken, zucchini, bananas, rice, and pears for 48 hours. Reintroduce foods slowly, so you can tell which are bothering her.” Online, I read to avoid eggs, cow’s milk, dairy, peanuts, wheat, soy, corn, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, seafood, pork, berries, chocolate, spices, citrus, and mustard. My baby was eating as much as ever, but now I was starving. “It’s not your diet,” said the pediatrician, who prescribed Zantac for acid reflux and referred me to a pediatric gastroenterologist. The medicine made my daughter gag and cry even harder, and the idea of sticking a tube down her throat kept me from making an appointment with the specialist. I discovered that if I walked with her nursing, or bounced on the ball, she calmed, so we spent some feedings in motion. www.Colichelp.com recommended homeopathic tablets, and a massage called “the paddlewheel” which begins with one hand at the shoulder while the other follows, around and across the tummy, under the belly button and back up. She began to have better days. “The worst is over,” said the seasoned mothers.
But it wasn’t over completely, and I was so traumatized by this time, when she even started to cry, I panicked. One night, my sister and a friend left me for an hour, during which Arabella went into the vortex. By the time they returned, I was sitting in the dark, wearing only my nursing bra and shorts, rocking and crying right along with her. “What happened?” they asked. “It’s starting again!” I wailed. “Where is my baby?”
“This is your baby,” said my sister. I had shared with her again and again how frustrated I was that Arabella wasn’t living up to the angelic baby of my dreams. Suddenly, I felt a new surge of protective love for this screaming, uncomfortable little person. It was time to leave the fantasy and to be a parent, unconditionally.
The next day I made an appointment with Tanya, the baby chiropractor, and by the time we reached the office, 30 minutes away, Arabella and I were both sobbing. After filling out a form describing her birth, I was asked to lie down on one of the massage tables with Arabella on my chest. As Tanya worked on her, I heard little pops, then one big one, which made her cry. “She’ll feel that,” said Tanya. “Her hip was stuck.” This made sense. One of her shoulders had been wedged in my pelvis, and in the last stage of my pregnancy, her little body would often move up until one side of my belly was higher than the other. Placing Arabella in her dreaded car seat for the return ride, I hoped upon hope there would be a change, but she cried herself purple. The next morning, she seemed better, so I took her to see her grandparents. Not a peep from the car seat, she slept all the way there. It’s over, I thought. Thank GOD. But when she woke up, she started crying, then screaming, and it was a different cry this time–not gas–more like physical pain. “Do you think her hip still hurts?” asked my father. Exhausted, hungry, and wide-eyed, I decided that western medicine should at least have a say. I called the specialist, who examined her and said, “We can do this slowly or cut to the chase.” He prescribed Zantac, after feedings. After that, god bless him,
She Just Got Better.
Arabella no longer fussed the moment she woke up. When I walked her in the stroller—with the sling in case she screamed—she didn’t. She started smiling, she laughed. Slowly, I started seeing the baby I’d dreamed of, as she left the vortex, not to return until toddlerhood—but that’s a whole other email.
If you have a colicky baby–or whatever they’re calling it these days–it can’t hurt to try any or all of the following:
- Dr. Sears sling
- Happiest Baby on the Block video
- Swaddling blanket
- Air filter or other noise-making machine near the crib
- Symphony-in-Motion mobile
- Hyland’s Colic Tablets (they don’t “dissolve instantly,” try them in a drop of water on a plastic baby spoon–homeopathic has a magnetic reaction to stainless steel or silver)
- Bouncing ball (don’t forget to buy the pump)
- Ravi Shankar or other Indian CD, preferably with tabla (soothing rhythm)
- Lamaze Celeste the Sun toy—she could watch that thing for hours
- Kick & Play vibrating chair (minus the annoying sound arch)
- A good chiropractor who does “cranial” work on babies (something to do with a pumping mechanism in their little heads that doesn’t switch on in some babies) and/or a good pediatric gastroenterologist
California Baby massage oil
- Silky rubbed with your scent or breast milk to hold in the car seat
- Elmo mirror on the headrest facing the car seat and sunshades on the windows
- Loads of patience, and the knowledge that this will pass and, as they kept telling me, “everything changes.”
Article by Cecily Harrison