Love In The Time Of Colic

by Annie Reneau
Originally Published: 

The newborn period is magical. I’ve even heard people call it a “babymoon”—like a honeymoon, only with your babe instead of your spouse. Those first weeks and months are all about sweet bonding, gazing at the miracle of life sleeping peacefully in your arms, and falling madly in love with your child.

Unless you have a colicky baby, that is. When you have a colicky baby, there is no babymoon. There is only crying. Sometimes the baby’s. Sometimes yours. Crying. Crying. Crying.

Only it’s not just crying. Newborn crying is sad and sweet and maybe just slightly annoying. Colicky crying is on a whole other level. It’s blood-curdling screech-crying with some fingernails on a chalkboard thrown in for good measure. And it doesn’t stop for hours, every night.

You may have heard of colic. If you’ve never had a colicky baby, you’ve probably nodded your head and said, “Oh yes, that must be rough.” But it’s not just rough. It’s It’s nerve-wrackingly horrible and soul-suckingly awful. Did you know that a baby crying is one of the 10 most irritating sounds in the world? Most people can’t stand it for even a few minutes, much less hours on end. Screaming babies could be used for psychological torture.

That’s basically what colic is. It’s psychological torture for parents. How can you feel like a good mother when you’re helpless to soothe your own child? How can you even keep your sanity intact, much less enjoy your babymoon when your angel wails like an air-raid siren? How can you bond with a creature whose sounds could rupture your eardrums? How can you fall in love with a baby who screams as if you are stabbing it with hot branding irons from 5 to 10 p.m. every day?

And yet, you do. You love your baby. Of course you love your baby. Even when you’re on your third hour of bouncing, rocking and swaying that only makes the crying slightly less intolerable. Even when you’re Googling recipes for something called “gripe water” and wondering in your sleep-deprived stupor if there’s a witch doctor in your town who might offer some wisdom. Even when you swear you’ve tried everything and would literally give your right pinkie to get the baby to stop crying. Even then, you still love your baby.

But that love is hard won. It’s not sweetness and sugarplums. It’s a wartime, battlefield, shared traumatic experience kind of bonding. Sure, there are some quiet times throughout the day when you get to ooh and aah over the wonder of a new life wrapped up in a cute package. But even then, you know what’s coming. You try not to think about it during the downtime, but it’s always there, hovering. You know the crying will start and you will have to steel yourself against it. You know you’ll have to gather every ounce of strength and patience you have in your postpartum psyche to deal with the incessant wailing that—impossibly—has no known cause or cure.

You arm yourself each day. You prepare for the assault every night. You learn to let love fight that battle, because it’s the only thing that keeps you from walking out the door. You gather reinforcements because no one can survive this alone. You become convinced that it’s never going to end.

And then one day, miraculously, it stops. Or maybe it doesn’t, but it’s shorter or less intense. You pray it’s not a fluke. You wait for hell to break loose again. You’re sure it must be coming. But nothing happens. Before you know it, it’s gone, just as suddenly and inexplicably as it arrived. The war is over and you’ve both made it.

Love in the time of colic is tortured love—it’s real and intense, but painful. It feels right and wrong at the same time. It makes you question everything about parenting, right from the get-go. But it also conditions you. Colicky babies make you seasoned and strong, and oh so appreciative of normalcy.

Things do become normal in time. You may find yourself having PTSD-type symptoms every time you hear a newborn scream, but you’ll get your babymoon eventually. And it will be glorious.

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