Mackenzie is 4.5 months old now, and finally, we are on the other side of colic. The first 3.5 months of her life were the longest and hardest months of mine.
When she was about 2 weeks old, Mackenzie began to cry a lot. Like a lot a lot. Not just cry, but scream. Body thrashing, red-faced, ear-piercing screaming. The generally accepted definition of colic is: 3 or more hours of crying, 3 or more days of the week, for 3 or more weeks. When I first read it to Thomas, we both laughed and laughed. Mackenzie screamed that much every day. She would cry until she was too exhausted to cry any more. Evenings were the worst, but there would be fits of inconsolable crying all throughout the day. Pretty much if she wasn't eating or sleeping, she was crying. We would only get 5-10 minutes of awake and content baby before the crying ensued. It wasn't even long enough to take a quick shower or make a cup of coffee or brush my teeth.
We tried [what felt like] everything to stop the crying. Endless amounts of bouncing, walking, rocking, swaying, holding. We tried gadgets and contraptions- a swing, a mamaroo, a rock n play, a Dockatot, sound machines, vacuuming, gas drops, probiotics, essential oils, on and on and on. She hated (still hates) the car seat and stroller. The only way I could calm her was to wear her, and even that didn't work sometimes. It was so so exhausting. Physically and mentally exhausting. Most nights she would be up every 2-3 hours and often it would be every hour or more. She wanted to be held all night long, and I was turning into an absolute zombie.
I could feel my heart hardening as I listened to her constant crying; unable to help her, I just had to endure it. I felt cold. I was overly emotional at times from the usual postpartum hormone changes, but more often, I felt emotionless. Like I was just going through the motions of caring for this little being who hated me and everything about the world she was born into. I had a hard time connecting with her. At one point, I even googled the Baby Moses laws in Texas, but it was too late - I'd already crossed the 60 day mark so I couldn't drop her at the fire station.
Our pediatrician (and the hundreds of articles I read) said the colic would likely peak around 8 weeks, then diminish by 3 to 4 months. 3 to 4 months sounded like an absolute eternity. And it went very slowly. When well-meaning people commented something like, "I can't believe she's already 2 months old!" I was like, glad it went by fast for you, these were the longest two months of my life.
, oh and our three year old, Maddie. Bless her heart, she weathered the storm well. There were occasions where we'd all 3 be bawling, but for the most part she was patient. Gone were the days of our daily outings, play dates, and predictable schedules. That's hard for a 3 year old! She watched (still watches?) way more TV/iPad than I'd like or than I want to admit to you. But it was seriously just a time of survival. I cried almost every morning when Tom left for work, and on several occasions called mid-afternoon begging him to come home early because I couldn't handle the next few hours alone. I was terrified of being alone with the baby. I felt like I was failing and I wasn't an adequate mother for my girls. I couldn't help Mackenzie feel better. I couldn't give Maddie the attention she needed. Why couldn't I handle having two kids? I would sit in the dark, rocking Mackenzie to sleep, and cry as I watched Maddie play on the iPad. I felt so bad for her and I started feeling resentful toward the baby. It was all so hard.
When Mackenzie was three weeks old, we made our first big attempt at stopping the crying. We had a laser procedure done to correct her tongue and lip ties. Those are the little pieces of skin that can connect your tongue to the floor of you mouth and your upper lip to your gums. They can cause feeding issues, speech issues, and more. For ten days after the procedure, we had to "massage the wounds" 3 times a day to prevent the skin from reattaching. AKA I had to rub my fingers across the sores in her mouth. Of course she screamed when I did so and it made me feel awful. I didn't want her to think her mother was hurting her purpose. The procedure gave us some improvement in breastfeeding, but it was hard for her to un-learn the bad latch habits she had from her ties. We saw a lactation consultant and that was also helpful. But still, she cried. And cried and cried.
When she was two months old, I decided to cut dairy from my diet. A friend had suggested it and I initially rejected the idea because Mackenzie didn't have the same symptoms as Maddie, and honestly, it's a big hassle. Our pediatrician didn't recommend cutting dairy until I had actually seen blood in her stool. But I was getting desperate so I decided to give it a shot anyway. Low and behold, it made a big difference for Mackenzie. It took a few weeks, but gradually her tummy troubles resolved and her crying lessened.
At three months, she was no longer content to nap in the carrier all day (and I was exhausted from wearing her so much), but she wouldn't nap for longer than 30 mins anywhere else. After a short nap, she could only be awake for an hour before needing another nap. I felt like I spent the entire day trying to get her to sleep or stay asleep. And yet she was still so overtired and cranky. I was desperate again to try anything so we borrowed a swing from our friends. It was magical, absolutely magical. She loved the swing and would nap for 2+ hours in it. Truly, that swing saved my sanity. I was able to spend one-on-one time with Maddie, eat warm meals, and rest my weary body. It was the first ray of sunlight we'd seen in a few months of dark clouds.
And slowly, as we inched toward 4 months, Mackenzie began to cry less. She started smiling more. The tension level in our house decreased significantly. Ahhh, this is what it was supposed to be like, we thought. Maddie and Mackenzie started interacting. It was beautiful.
The day before Mackenzie turned 4 months old, I started a new bible study for moms. When a friend invited me and mentioned that childcare was included, I was like, sign me up! The real reason I joined is for Maddie (that's another topic for another day), but the thought of dropping Mackenzie in the nursery and leaving her for two hours sounded amazing. When the day actually came, I felt anxious leaving her. Not because I would miss her or because I worried about someone caring for her, but because I wasn't sure if she would nap in the nursery and I dreaded the grumpy afternoon that would follow. Less than an hour in, I got the call that Mackenzie was inconsolable. As I drudged back to the nursery, I felt frustrated and defeated. I opened the door to hear her screaming her little lungs out while the poor grandmother holding her tried to distract her by the window. As the nursery volunteer passed Mackenzie to me, she quieted immediately. She nestled into my shoulder and let out a big long sigh. My heart melted into a puddle on the floor. She does love me. The nursery volunteer commented about how amazing it is that little babies know exactly who their mothers are. In that moment, I was exactly what she needed. And it was exactly what I needed. I was everything to her and all she wanted. She doesn't hate me. I am enough. It was a special moment for me and it really helped me view my beautiful baby in a new light. After a few minutes of snuggles, she was sound asleep in my arms, right where she wanted to be.
I know we'll have other struggles through the years as Mackenzie gets older, but we are so glad to be out of the colic days. If you ever find yourself parenting a colicky baby, please reach out to me! I'm here to give hugs and lend an ear. It's seriously one of the hardest things I've been through and I would love to help you in any way possible.