Before Lincoln was born, I often dreamt of what it would be like to care for a newborn. I couldn’t wait to snuggle his tiny, sleeping body. To rock him in my comfy glider. To hear his sweet coos and watch his eyes take in the world around him. I knew the first few weeks would be difficult. Most of my friends had babies and I had witnessed the challenges that come with keeping a tiny human alive. I was prepared for sleep deprivation. For hours upon hours of nursing. For sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples. For a painful post partum recovery. For poopy diapers. I was prepared for crying. Of course, all babies cry!
What I was not prepared for, nor do I think anyone ever could be, was a colicky baby. I remember praying and praying that Lincoln would come out crying, affirming that he was born healthy and breathing. I realize that sounds crazy, but I was terrified my entire pregnancy that I would never actually get to meet him; an unreasonable fear that stemmed from our experience with pregnancy loss. Well, Lincoln did come out crying. What I didn’t pray for or expect, however, was that he wouldn’t STOP crying.
I will never forget our first night in the hospital after Lincoln was born. The nurse helped me get him latched so he could nurse, and then said to call her if we needed anything. As soon as he finished nursing, he started screaming again. Due to some complications during his birth, I was unable to get out of bed. Mitchell took Lincoln from me, changed his diaper, and swaddled him like a pro. He rocked him. He walked him. He sang to him. He talked to him. He did everything he could possibly do. The crying only got louder. I held him close and rocked him in my arms. I tried to nurse him again. I tried to burp him. Screaming. Just screaming.
I remember looking at my husband, silently begging him to somehow have the answer and to make our baby happy, only to be met with the same terrified, confused stare.
After several hours of this, we called the nurse, embarrassed that we were unfit to be parents because we couldn’t even meet our baby’s needs sufficiently enough for him to stop wailing for even a moment.
She tried everything we did, and eventually said, “He may be having some tummy troubles. You’re doing everything you can. Keep at it.” Keep at it? Lord knows, we kept at it. We kept at it for four grueling months.
In the first few weeks of Lincoln’s life, everyone wanted to come visit. I refused many visitors because 1) I knew he would scream the entire time they were here, and 2) I was literally an emotional basket case having not slept and listened to the sounds of my baby’s heart breaking cry since the moment he was born.
I felt guilty. I felt guilty that my friends and family didn’t get to love on Lincoln. I felt guilty that my husband had to listen to both of us cry. I felt guilty that I wasn’t good enough at mothering to help my poor baby with whatever awful thing was ailing him. I felt guilty that I yearned for a ‘normal baby’ like all of my friends had.
Lincoln’s first few months, he cried sometimes up to 16-20 hours a day. There were better days, where we would have a couple of hours here or there that felt like perfection. Content wake-time. In those moments, he was so HAPPY. He would smile, laugh and babble at us. Those were the moments we pulled out our cameras and the photos we posted on Facebook. Because Heaven knows most of us post only the 10% of our lives that we want to brag about on social media. I was so guilty of this our first few months of parenthood. I didn’t share openly about what we were going through at that time. Who wants to share with the world that every day since their child was born has been a heartbreaking cycle of crying, fear, and confusion? I had friends who had given birth within weeks of me, and were at family gatherings, going shopping, getting manicures, and posting pictures of their happy little newborns who were contentedly along for the ride. It wasn’t their fault, but seeing those posts only made me feel like more of a failure. I felt guilty for envying them and their children when God blessed me with the baby I wanted so badly. Even now as I write this I feel guilty for remembering and writing these very difficult feelings surrounding my baby. Seriously folks, mothering is a roller coaster.
His first 2-3 months, Lincoln averaged about 6 hours of sleep TOTAL in a day, usually in 30-45 minute chunks in my arms. The whole ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ adage was pretty worthless when the baby DIDN’T sleep, and only dozed while I was holding him. I went 21 days without sleeping more than 2 hours each day, usually broken up into half hour or so chunks. I was physically and emotionally defeated.
The worst part was not the sleep deprivation or the sound of his cry. The worst part was not understanding. WHY is he crying? Is he in pain? Is he starving? Is he sick? Am I slowly killing my child? What is WRONG with my baby? My heart broke day in and day out wondering what was happening to my child, wondering why, wondering when or if it would ever go away, and if somehow I was failing him by not being able to fix it.
If you are the parent of a colicky baby and you’re reading this right now… I want to make you a promise. My promise will mean absolutely nothing to you right now, because right now there is only one thing you need, and that is for your baby to stop crying. I am so, so sorry that I cannot fix your crying baby. I am so, so sorry that you can’t, your pediatrician can’t, and your mother can’t. But I can promise you, without a doubt, that this terrifying, exhausting, draining thing you are going through will come to an end.
One day your baby will wake up with smile on his face. One day your home will be filled with the coos and giggles of a happy child. You will throw that baby up in the air and listen as he squeals with delight. You’ll lay side by side on the couch and rub his nose with yours and in that moment, you won’t remember. You won’t remember the sleepless days and sleepless nights that blended together and never ended. You won’t remember the way you held your crying infant and sobbed, tears streaming from your face onto his. You won’t remember the empty feeling you had when you left the pediatrician’s office for what seemed like the thousandth time, still with no answers, and no help.
Regardless of how long your baby’s colicky phase lasts, I promise you, it WILL end, and when it does, it will be worth it. You will know more about unconditional love than you ever imagined possible. You will appreciate every smile, laugh, and peaceful nap more than you would have otherwise.
I promise, you will look back on the nightmare you’re living right now, and without a doubt, you’ll know that you’d do it again in a heartbeat, because ‘worth it’ is an understatement.
About three months into our parenting journey, Mitchell and I both decided we probably wouldn’t try to have a child again. In that moment we literally didn’t feel we could survive having another colicky baby. It didn’t seem physically possible.
Lincoln is now 10 months old. The last six months have been the best six months of our lives. Our little boy is the most joyful, wonderful thing we have ever experienced. He is an unbelievable sleeper, he smiles and laughs constantly, and he makes every moment of every day more beautiful. We are eager to have another child. And we would opt for another colicky baby without hesitation knowing he or she would eventually be as wonderful as Lincoln is now. Hang in there, you incredible parents of Colicky babies. Love that baby. Love yourself. Love each other.