I was recently scrolling through my Instagram feed where I happened upon a picture of Shannon's new baby Hudson. I had seen that look before, I though. THAT is the colic look. I'd recognise it anywhere, because I had a colic baby.
Colic babies have a look, you see. Their eyes narrow, glazed over as if retreating from this cold, bright world. Their faces are pinched in a three-month-long wince. You only need look into a colic baby's eyes to tell if it will be a good day or a bad one. A colic baby's face betrays all.
THE LOOK. Right here.
Every day at 5:30 PM, I'd go through the same routine: Draw the curtains; turn on the AC and cool down the bedroom; heat up my dinner and place it on the bedside table; put on the white noise (or, if it was a particularly bad day, the vacuum, which I can imagine made me pretty popular in my apartment building); change diaper; swaddle baby; prepare for the onslaught.
It would start with some fussing, and then soon wails. Piercing, soul-crushing screams. The painful howls that continued until late in the evening, when my girl would eventually pass out, exhausted but no more comfortable.
Everything you read about colic is inconclusive, and nothing is very helpful. No one knows what causes it, or how to stop it. Some say it's gastrointestinal, and a change in diet will do the trick (nope!!), or baby massage will help (nope!!!), or perhaps some bicycle legs (also, NO.) Others say it's neurological, the harbinger of migraines, or the sign of an underdeveloped nervous system (ummm, thanks for scaring the pants off of me, and also, so what? Make the crying stop, PLEASE!!!)
Regardless of the cause, most of what you read on the subject of colic will tell you not to be too concerned, your baby is fine, the colic will stop, and if you can't hack the screams, just put your kid in the crib and walk away. They'll be fine.
A colic parent knows this is ridiculous. Its not the screaming that is unbearable (though that's totally and completely unpleasant). It's the fact that you know your child is in distress. Just look at the eyes of a colic baby, and you can see something hurts. Something. What though? The stomach? Maybe? Headache? Nervous system overload? Whatever it is, there. It's painful.
When your baby has colic, time takes on a unfamiliar quality. The hours leading up to the witching time stretch and expand, heavy with anxiety. The months that lay before you seem to extend into vast infinity. You lose hold of the concept that
We went to enormous lengths to figure out colic. We researched gripe waters, teas, swaddling techniques, sleep requirements, dietary changes, allergies, reflux, and other colic-busting contraptions. Though we never really did pin down the exact cause of our daughter's suffering, we did find one thing that would calm her: a hammock. We installed it in our tiny bedroom, and I would pass the evening hours bouncing and swinging my girl in the cool darkness. For months I was bound to my bedroom from the hours between 6 and 10 PM, which was sub-optimal to be sure, but certainly a infinitely better than spending those hours knowing my kid was hurting.
I came to even enjoy that time. It developed into a solemn ritual, something that I could do for my child to make her feel better when nothing else seemed to make her happy.
Since those months that feel so long ago and also so recent, I've discovered some international colic treatments, like The Juju Band, which is a modern take on an ancient practice of belly binding. From what I gather, belly binding is super common in Haitian culture, used to keep the tummy warm, which is apparently helpful in relieving colic. We all know that I'm happy to glean parenting wisdom from any culture that's willing to offer it. I may just give the Juju Band a try next time 'round, not least because they come in adorable patterns. (I mean, if there is a next time. I'm kind of terrified of the prospect of combining a colicky infant with a rather spirited toddler.)
This post was sponsored by the kind people at Juju Band. All opinions herein are mine alone.