I’m here to tell you that colic is a mutha. It’s like a waking up in a zombie infestation. It’s like a poltergeist taking over the home. It’s like that part in Gremlins where Stripe jumps into the pool. It’s a helpless situation…seemingly. I’m here to tell you that if you keep your wits about you and learn how to smile through it, your chance for survival greatly improves. Make no mistake, though, there are going to be times of desperation, exasperation, desolation and a whole ton of other =ations.
Colic is kinda like the boogeyman. If you talk to some, they’ll call it anything but colic. It’s gas. It’s diarrhea. They’ll ask you if you’ve truly studied their poos (on a somewhat related note, over Thanksgiving, I heard my grandmother use “B.M.” [that’s bowel-movement for all you kiddies] as a verb…and in the past tense…like “that dog bee-emm’d on the carpet”…awesome stuff…anyone want more dressing?). They’ll call it fussiness even though the kid’s screaming so loud, a deaf dog two zip codes away starts barking. They’ll call it hunger. They’ll call it sleepiness. They’ll call it restlessness. It’s like there’s a anti-colic movement going on somewhere. Pediatricians, we’ve found, hate calling it colic because, by definition, that means they can’t cure it. You can only cure the symptoms. They’ll call it anything and everything, but when you treat the fussiness, the restlessness, the sleepiness, the hunger, the gas, the diarrhea and you’ve stared at their loaded diapers until you dry heave and have nightmares about them…just wait. If you’ve done all of that and nothing seems to work…you got the colic. “Colic” as a word is derived from Old French colique which means “colon.” This is the first mistake new parents might make is that, because it’s derived from an old word meaning “colon,” it’s a related to their crapsack. The truth about colic is that their colon could only be one fifteenth of the issue. Or it might not have anything to do with it at all. It could triggered by gastro-esophagal reflux disease (or GERD which is the name that I’ve reserved for our next beagle). It could be she’s hot. It could be she’s cold. It could be an allergy. It could be demonic possession. You’re gonna think it was demonic possession. Welcome to parental colicky frustration. You’ll be like the dutch boy sticking fingers and toes into the barrel and then, after three months, it’ll magically disappear and you’ll have nothing to do with the cure. It’s the ultimate punchline. Put parents through an incredibly enduring and torturous trial marked by intense crying, flailing about, public embarrassment, depression, sleeplessness, lack of productivity, anxiety, feelings of failure and parental ineptness and then, lift the veil, and it’s gone. Gone like it was just one really big fart. You didn’t fix it. It just left town.
Admittedly, we’re still right smack in the middle of it. She’s about to turn three months old and we’re waiting patiently for God to say, “Alright, you’ve suffered enough.” We’ve prayed about it. Joked about it. In fact, I made pottery to express colic’s powerful impact on my life. All are appropriate ways of dealing with colic.
I felt, also, that seeing as Raising Elle is documenting the come-up of one beautiful and sweet colicky Ellison Jayne, it’d be appropriate to share some of the things we, as a couple, have determined to help with colic survival aptly titled:
THE WYRICK HOUSEHOLD COLIC SURVIVAL GUIDE
It’d be necessary to disclaim that, again, we’re not treating “colic” itself, but rather the symptoms. There are techniques that give us relief and there are practices that help us maintain our sanity, but in the end, this is not a CONQUERING COLIC GUIDE. That, unfortunately for you, doesn’t exist. Deal with it. Every parent does. In fact, over a million parents a year in the United States deal with it. You’re not alone. Just know that if you don’t take our advice or develop your own techniques in surviving your baby’s case of colic, here’s what (according to Wikipedia) awaits you: “marital stress, breastfeeding failure, shaken baby syndrome, postpartum depression, excess visits to the doctor/emergency room, unnecessary treatment for acid reflux and maternal smoking. Crying and exhaustion may also contribute to SIDS and suffocation (from agitated babies flipping onto their stomachs, concerned parents placing fussy babies on their stomach to sleep, tired parents falling asleep with their baby in unsafe places like couches or beds with bulky covers), infant obesity, maternal obesity and even automobile accidents. The total financial burden of the 500,000 infants/year in the US with colic may exceed $1 billion/year, paralleled by even greater human and emotional costs.” In short, get ready for a fight or else you’ll be an easy takeover.
Here’s the twelve steps to surviving colic in the Wyrick household:
IT AIN’T YOUR FAULT
Colic strikes at random. You did nothing wrong so go ahead and get that outta your head right now. You’re not being punished by God. You’re not feeding wrong. You’re not burping incorrectly. It’s not your driving (pause this thought to let readers know that Miss Ellison just farted so loud that it woke up Tucker the deep-sleeping beagle laying about ten feet away…magnificent…and there were about four or five of those powerful and impressive explosions consecutively). It’s not anything you did during pregnancy. The only way you could be at fault is if you succumb to its power and do nothing to help your little one. But go ahead and say it aloud, “It’s not my fault.” Say it like a sibling standing over his younger brother with his hands out to his side and his shoulders shrugged while his brother’s holding his head and screaming bloody murder: “It’s not my fault.” You did nothing to provoke it. Colic doesn’t roll through the neighborhood looking for the right opportunity to put a smack down on a family. It’s as random and unpredictable as West Texas dustdevils. Breathe deeply and say it with me: …it’s…not…my…fault.
IT AIN’T HER FAULT EITHER
The same affirmation is true for your child, as well. This one is probably even more important and equally as difficult to get your hands around. It’s not your baby’s fault either. She’s not crying to be malicious. She’s not crying to agitate you. She’s purely reacting to the effects of her colic. If she’d could just speak up and say, “I’m sorry, I’m suffering from some pretty intense pain right under my belly. It feels like it might be intestinal gas or one helluva bowel movement coming on,” then it’d be pretty easy to deal with. Being that she doesn’t know what it is and that she can’t speak, she’s in as helpless a situation as you are. You’re in this together. I see it kinda like Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair in The Exorcist. So, your child’s possessed. The levitation, stabbing herself with a crucifix, projectile vomiting and uncontrollable urination is not her fault. She doesn’t have sour stomach because she snuck out of her crib and went on a binge down at the Regal Beagle. It’s not her fault. She can’t help it. Don’t shake the baby. Don’t spank the baby. Don’t ground the baby to her crib for three days. Help the baby deal with it. Help the baby cope.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE COLIC PUBLICLY
Look, the quicker you just get it over with and start telling others that you have a colicky baby, the quicker they can be sympathetic to your situation. It’ll likely be one of the first tough admittance as a new parent. Just get used to it. Next, it’ll be that she has problems making friends or she’s dumber than a sack of hammers (not Ellison, nope) or she’s gotta terrible singing voice (again, not Ellison). Just step out there and let everyone know. We were at a party the other day with some friends from church and one friend, who is also a mother of three asked my lovely wife how Ellison was doing to which my lovely wife responded half-heartedly, “She’s doing alright.” Knowing that she wasn’t being fully honest about Ellison, she slapped her on the knee and said, “Aren’t we horrible?! We just act like everything’s alright!” You paint on a smile, tell everyone everything’s going great and you never grasp or grapple with the reality that your baby has colic. It makes matters worse for you. Trust me. It’s not like admitting you’re a bad parent.
IDENTIFY THE PATTERN
To help store up the energy for reserve the time for outbursts, attempt to chart when the crying starts and when it normally ends. This will help you in planning and getting ready for the battle. Realize, though, that there will be variance on times and even days of the week. Again, it sometime is completely random and hard to predict. You will find, however, there are patterns to the attacks. In our household, we’ve determined that the colic graphs out the following results.
The worst period is right around 4:30-7:00. She goes from a sweetheart to some mythical monster like Godzilla or King Ghidorah who breathes fire and demolishes entire civilizations. It can even peak above that in a period that we liken to the final three minutes of a July Fourth fireworks display where they basically take whatever fireworks or explosives are left in the trailer and set them all ablaze lighting up the night sky like freaking Baghdad. Then, it winds down, everyone packs up their folding chairs, heads back to their cars and then goes to bed. Study the times, though. It’ll make it much easier to get ready for when it arrives. It’s like uninvited guests. Ever hear yourself saying, “It’s not that we don’t want to see you, it’s just that we weren’t expecting you,” or “I just wish we would’ve known.” Same with colic. Knowing of it’s arrival makes it much easier to deal with and knowing the pattern will make it easier for tracking progress.
CUT TOENAILS AND FINGERNAILS
When the colic takes over, that baby is gonna be like a freaking prize fighter. She’s gonna kick, punch, flail. She’s gotta roundhouse that’ll knock you to the ground and her haymakers will have you calling her “Sugar Ray” (or Sugar Raven). They come quick and will leave you in tears sometimes. To minimize the damage of a left hook, make sure you keep the fingernails trimmed. It’ll do less damage to you and less damage to her because remember of her tendency to miss and strike herself in the face. The motor skills are still being refined and sometimes the only thing that stops a flailing hand her cheek or forehead. Protect her precious face from scratching or scaring by trimming those nails. They’re the only weapon she’s packing at this point so be diligent about it.
Recommended reading from my lovely wife is Harvey Karp, M.D.’s The Happiest Baby on the Block. You can buy one used for less than the cost of cup of coffee. Everyone’s read it. It’s gonna be essential reading. If you don’t educate yourself and take the advice of authors (or neighbors, mother-in-laws, sisters, cousins, pastor’s wives or pediatricians for that matter), then don’t be surprised if you find yourself pounding your head into a wall so hard that half of your torso is all of the sudden in the garage while your other half is in the living room. Read, read, read. I hate reading, but it’s imperative as a new parent and essential to your survival as the parent of a baby with colic. Also acceptable is marrying someone who reads who can give you the Cliff Notes summary of books.
REMEMBER THE FIVE “S”s
swaddle: Swaddling the baby helps limit their movement of arms and legs and, in turn, helps decrease the chances for a monumental meltdown. Many times, logic suggests to us that if you let them move their arms and legs, it’ll frustrate them less and help appease the situation. Couldn’t be further from the worse. By tightly swaddling the baby (the “baby burrito”), it helps the baby realize quicker that those movements will accomplish nothing and all of her struggles are futile. Colic contained. Her gyrations will make you think she’s in pain, but don’t be deceived. Make sure that swaddle is bulletproof. Put a padlock on it for heaven’s sake. Ellison was like the Whodini of swaddles. She could get out of the tightest swaddle ever until we found one with Velcro. I liken this technique to another “s”…straightjacketing. The swaddle to a baby with colic is like a straightjacket to a mental patient.
shhhhh: Shhhh-ing is an audible calming mechanism. Not only does it work on kids in the library and that cat in the movie theater who’s trying to impress his date by his recognition of social commentary, it can work on a colicky baby. Important to note, though, that it’s not just one quick “shhhhh!” and it’s over. No, my lovely wife will tell you that she’s found herself shhhh-ing to an empty house. She shhhh’d so much that she can’t stop. She can’t speak without shhhh-ing. “Sho, honey, sh’you shed sh’ur goin’ shu the sh’tore, sh’can sh’you pick sh’up sh’um sh’cabbage?” Translation: So, honey, you said you were going to the store. Can you pick up some cabbage? She’s shhhh’d for hours on end. Once Ellison hones in on that sound, she eventually begins to wind down. In the madness of a colicky fit of rage, the only sound she can hear is her screaming. She’s looking for something to replace that. The shhhh’ing is like throwing her a flotation device out to her and waiting for her to grab hold.
sucking: Keep a pacifier nearby always. By extras to pepper around the house. And because you can imagine it’s hard to keep a paci in place when you’re mouth is wide open screaming, it doesn’t always stay in place. Get good at anticipating the dropping nibs. I’ve gotten so good that I can catch it as it rolls out of her mouth by hackie-sacking it back up to an empty hand. Make a sport of it. There’s none better in Potter County in catching a falling pacifier. It’s like Miyagi catching houseflies with chopsticks. It’s an art form. You lost.
sideways lying: Not sure why this is, but decades of practice have proven it more comforting for babies to lay on their side. Maybe it has something to do with their airways or just the fact that they spend so much freaking time on their backs that it’s just a new position, but I’ve seen it work. Make sure that when you lay them sideways, though, that they’re not at risk of rolling onto their belly or the SIDS police will find you and ticket you. We would brace her with two firm couch pillows to keep her in place and from rolling to her back or her belly. Got some good nap hours out of that position.
swinging: They say that it helps replicate the movement in the womb. I wouldn’t know because I can’t remember that far back. Invest in a good swing though. They tend to be bulky contraptions and get in the way, but they’ll be your hero in the darkest hour. It should be mentioned that swinging can also include “bouncing” or “rocking.” It’s really any movement that can be sustained for a period of time when she’s coming down from her fit. We employ swinging, rocking and bouncing. Whatever’s necessary.
Now, my lovely wife has developed/discovered a technique that employs ALL FIVE OF THE ABOVE TECHNIQUES AT THE SAME FREAKING TIME. Yep. And she makes it look damned good to. I’ve seen it work in short time. She can deescalate a screaming Ellison in a matter of five minutes. Sometimes longer, but in the end, she’ll win. Take the baby and swaddle her. This is the trickiest part because swaddling a baby who’s basically doing angry jumping jacks can be a dicey proposition. Once swaddled, pop a paci in her mouth, lay her across your chest on her side with her face inward directly into your chest, press her gently inwards to limit her wiggling, shhhhh downward and start rocking or bouncing. Facing her inwards helps keep that paci in place. Make sure, obviously, you can hear her breathing through her nose. If you’re doing it right, it’ll be the right amounts of everything and you’ll be able to successfully navigate through the fit in short time.
GET AN OIL CHANGE AND TIRE ROTATION
A good reason to always remember that, as a new parent, you need to have some sort of reliable transportation. Screaming babies tend to like car rides so pick a nice long route with no stop signs and little traffic. We prefer hopping on the interstate and heading west. I’ve found out the hard way that it’s not a time to hit a drive-thru or go Honda shopping. Leave that for later. What you’re seeking here is sustained periods of driving. Make sure that you always have a solid half-tank of gas. Ask for gas gift cards for Christmas. You’re gonna need ’em. And find some music that’s appeasing to both you and her. Keep the music low, the cruise control on and keep it in the left lane.
HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR
If you never did before, now’s the time to start. It doesn’t have to be hilarity, but just something that helps you get through it. I tend to laugh when it hits the ludicrous levels of a colicky fit. The other day, when Ellison was in my arms, she began to kick and scream so much that I had nothing to do, but just laugh and exclaim, “Good God, woman!” When I laughed, Ellison stopped for a moment. Then, she went back to crying, but for that brief moment, it helped me release that tension. We’ve even named her fits. The official name for an Ellison throwdown is: Elle’s Bells and a Bucket of Tears. When you hear those words, brace for impact. It’s coming.
Just like her mother, Ellison loves her a warm bath. I’ve never heard that girl cry during a warm bath. Now, you can’t bathe her for hours on end, but the soothing sensation of a warm bath helps ground that girl and her crying. Relaxes her muscles. Work that tension out of her body. The warm bath is usually administered after we’ve brought her out of a fit and are getting her ready for her last feeding and then bed. That’s Ellison’s time for a bath. The calming effect on her mood and the resulting relaxed feeding and transition into bed is evident. I’m not a bath guy. She must get it from her mother. It’s a time, too, for the one administering the bath to spend some quality time with the baby. Ellison smiles, laughs, goos, plays in the water. She loves it and it’s therapeutic for both of us as parents…especially if you’ve spent an entire day fighting colic.
GET A PARTNER (AS MANY AS POSSIBLE)
Surviving colic is, at least, a three-person game. There’s the colicky baby, you and a partner. If it’s not a spouse, it’s a neighbor. Family member. Daycare worker who’s doing some overtime. Friend from the church. That guy who lives under the bridge. You need someone who is fresh (or fresher) near you at all times. You do not live on an island. We’ve found, as a household, sometimes the two of us is not enough for Miss Ellison. We need a third party to help out and we have no problem asking for it anymore. Even if someone takes her for only thirty minutes, thirty minutes is bearable for an extra teammate, but means the freaking world to my lovely wife and I. That thirty minutes of serenity is priceless if you’re surviving colic.
BUY A WRAP
It’s some thirty feet of material and works like a 100% cotton boa constrictor. It’s like duct taping your baby to you and the effect is an infinitely calming sleep. It’s the Moby Wrap and once you’re sold on it, you’ll be wondering how you survived without it. My lovely wife testifies publicly to its greatness. The cloth snakes around you and pushes the baby against your bosom. By doing so, it calms the baby from a colicky fit. Secondly, it brings you closer to your baby as most “professionals” would attest wearing a baby on your front side accomplishes. And lastly, it helps your lovely wife develop hulk-like shoulder and back muscles. The Moby Wrap. Look it up. Buy one. Essential purchase for a colic parental.
Not sure why in the hell you’d need a camo Moby Wrap. First, I don’t think hunting or being those who are hunting with rifles is particularly safe. Secondly, if I was around others with guns and had a baby strapped to the front of me, I might wanna be as visible as possible. The only sense I can make of a camo Moby Wrap is that it’s fashionable. In some states. Or just Alabama. Or maybe just in certain counties. In Alabama. Northern Alabama. Okay, just one county. Otherwise, there’s no reason to purchase a camo Moby Wrap.
Love on that colicky baby of yours.