Ahhh the newborn phase. The life-altering, heart-exploding, sleep-deprived newborn phase. You’ve spent up to 9 long months waiting to welcome a precious new life into the world, and when your baby finally arrives, you’re over-the-moon in love with them. You’ve literally created a miracle, and you can no longer imagine what life was like before your baby became part of your family.
It is said that as time passes, the things we remember most as parents are the more idealistic moments. The sweet smell of a newborn baby. The precious snuggles of a baby who just fell asleep on your chest. The joy of celebrating many developmental milestones. Apparently, as time passes, the more challenging memories of parenting are supposed to fade, and the beautiful, more nostalgic moments are what stay with us. I recall my next door neighbour, who has four adult children, dropping off a meal to me when my son was only a week old, saying “I know you’re in the middle of the *really* hard part right now…but even after having four kids, I can’t exactly remember everything that made it so hard.” Even though she said this during a time when I was struggling the most, I completely believed her. The human mind has a fascinating way of forgetting challenges; if it didn’t, I don’t know how we would survive.
I believe, for the most part, that I do remember the more precious moments from when my babies were new. I haven’t forgotten the pain of labour or childbirth, but I can’t quite put a finger on the intensity of the pain. I haven’t forgotten how hard it was to try to breastfeed at first, but I do recall that eventually we fell into a groove and got the hang of it. One thing I’ll never forget, however, was how incredibly difficult it was to have two colicky babies. And as much as I miss my kids as babies, having gone through colic twice, I can say with certainty that I do *not* miss the newborn phase.
Colic, by definition on Wikipedia, is defined “as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child.” By this definition, my daughter far exceeded this criteria, and my son, who was born two years later, knocked it out of the park.
With my daughter, I remember the intense anxiety I felt every single night leading up to about 7:30 p.m., which I eventually referred to as “The Witching Hour.” The crying would start, for no apparent reason, and my daughter would typically scream until about midnight or 1 a.m. It was like clockwork, every single night, for almost three months straight. I couldn’t give her any relief unless I held her vertically, sat on a yoga ball, and bounced her up and down, often for hours. Every time I tried to lie down with her or provide any other form of comfort, she would scream.
On what was ultimately the hardest day with my daughter, I called my mom to ask for help. The screaming started early – around 10 a.m. Nothing I was doing was comforting her, and since my husband was out of town, my mom came to offer a second set of hands. By the time 10 p.m. arrived, my daughter was still screaming. My mom, who has seen a lot in her days of child-rearing, said she never saw anything like it with her three kids. We resorted to driving around the neighbourhood, hoping my daughter would fall asleep in her car seat – ANYTHING for her to stop crying. Eventually, my daughter fell asleep at 10:30 p.m. My mom went home for the evening, and I figured I was out of the woods for a few hours. Then, minutes later, my daughter woke up and screamed until 1 a.m. before I was finally able to put her down to sleep. My daughter had cried for nearly fifteen hours straight. I was utterly gutted, hopeless, exhausted, and felt like a failure. I tried all the solutions – baby probiotic drops, gentle gas relief drops, baby massage, altering the foods in my diet as I was nursing…you name it, I tried it. Nothing worked.
The colic phase turned a corner with my daughter when she was almost four months old, and able to hold her head up. My best guess is that because she was such a hearty eater, being able to hold her head up aided in gas relief. Gradually, slowly, surely, her bedtime began to move ahead to a more reasonable hour. Gradually, slowly, surely, she wasn’t crying and screaming as much. Once we were finally out of this phase, I was finally able to enjoy so many more of those happy moments with her that I was craving.
Fast forward to just under two years later, and nothing could have prepared me for the bout of colic my newborn son experienced. He wouldn’t stop screaming from the very first night in the hospital. I remember trying to comfort him at 3:30 a.m. on the day after he was born, and amidst the pain and exhaustion from my c-section, I pushed the little red button on my hospital bed and asked a nurse if she could help me. This nurse did absolutely everything she could, but it bought me only a few minutes of shut-eye. The first night in the hospital with my son was an accurate foreshadowing of what the months to come would look like.
My son often started crying early in the day. He slept in short intervals, but most of his awake moments were spent crying. Having experienced something similar with my daughter, I told myself for the first few weeks “I just have to make it to midnight – eventually he will be tired and will have to fall asleep for at least a couple of hours.” I wish I could say that was true, but my son would often cry until 3:30 a.m. My daughter, who was two at the time, would often wake up at 6:30 a.m. Again, I tried everything….all the solutions, all the remedies, all the suggestions. Nothing worked. I was running on fumes and tears. The only silver lining in all of this was that my daughter was typically able to sleep through most of my son’s screaming into the wee hours.
I also remember trying to do *anything* with my son that would help me leave the house, hoping the car seat drive would put him to sleep. The car seat drive occasionally helped my daughter, but at most, if this tactic worked with my son, I knew I had about a 10 minute window once I arrived somewhere before he would start screaming. One day, we went to a baby and toddler clothing store. As I wandered around trying to maximize that 10 minutes to grab the items we needed, the screaming started again. I held my son upright with one hand while trying to comfort him, and pushed his stroller with my other hand. Tears began welling up in my eyes as I fumbled my way to the checkout. I looked at the cashier and said “Has a new mom ever come totally undone in this store and had a complete and utter breakdown? Because today might be that day for me.”
Eventually, we figured out that my son had a bit of a lip tie, and though he gained weight at a healthy rate for the first couple of months, he struggled to gain weight between months 2 and 4. He was diagnosed as “Failure to Thrive” (which, incidentally, is the *worst* label for a baby), and I saw how much my milk supply was dwindling. After a couple months of formula supplementing, pumping around the clock, and hanging on to my last shred of sanity, my son was finally back on his weight growth curve, and finally was starting to cry less. In total, we were in the weeds for a solid six months before I felt like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
There were so many challenging feelings that I faced when my babies went through their bouts of colic. When they were crying, it was absolutely gut-wrenching to often not be able to comfort or soothe the tiny humans that I was so over-the-moon in love with, especially when I was supposed to be their safe, comforting space. The mental and emotional stress, frustration, and exhaustion are not feelings I will soon forget. On the flip-side of the hard feelings, were the beautiful moments. They didn’t cry 100% of the time, and those joyful moments were treasured. One of the most telling memories I have is of the time when my son finally smiled for the first time. It was an exhausting, relentless, sleep-deprived few weeks to get there, but in that moment, it provided the validation I needed that I was doing absolutely everything I could as a mother.
I wish awake, alert, patient me could go back into that window of time and enjoy the newborn phase more. I absolutely miss many of those precious newborn moments. I miss my babies as babies. I miss my babies’ milestones. I miss my babies’ newborn smell. I miss my babies’ soft skin. I miss being able to snuggle my babies. However, without a doubt, I can say with conviction and a clear conscience that because I had colicky babies, I do not miss the newborn phase.