Thursday, February 3, 2011

The C word.

This is a post I started over a month ago over FOUR months ago. Back when my crying baby wouldn't give me more than a few moments at a time to do any one thing. The reason I decided to go back and finish it now is because I'm sure I'm not the only one who's gone through a tough transition with a new baby and, well, misery loves company. So enjoy! And hang in there - it totally gets better.

Two months old.
How did we get here and why am I in this hand basket?

This story is a little tricky for me to tell. For one, I try to stay fairly glass half-full around here and most of this is a lot more, "Glass? What glass?! I just had a BABY for God's sake - get off my freakin' back about the glass!!
" It also involves
complaining about my child which is kind of awkward for a mother. It feels like telling yo mama jokes about your own mama. No matter how funny it is, that just ain't right.

But I'm sleep deprived and can't be held responsible for bad decision-making so...

"Yo baby's so fussy he's straight up got colic, yo!"

Yeah, I said it. The dreaded c-word. COLIC.

When Finny was about 5 or 6 weeks old, we were stumbling around the used bookstore zombie-style, waiting for Liam to pick out a few "new" books (he is especially into the Berenstain Bears and Dr. Seuss at the moment) when I looked up and found myself face-to-face with one of my old favorites, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I have bought and read this book several times, happily passing it on to friends at the first sight of a yawn or mention of a fussy baby. It's like the holy bible for sleep, a subject I had previously considered myself an expert on. But ever since sweet baby Finn came into the world, any of my supposed expertise had disappeared entirely. The baby wasn't sleeping well, I wasn't sleeping well, shoot even Liam wasn't sleeping well (why go to sleep when you have all these great books you can read to yourself?).
Our sleep situation was definitely in need of a little divine intervention so I brought home another copy of the bible and started in on
a re-read.

As soon as I started the book, I recognized our situation. Everything I read sounded like my son! Alright, not everything. Some bits didn't sound AT ALL like Finn: "Some babies develop regular sleep/wake rhythms quite early, say at about six to eight weeks. These babies tend to be very mild, cry very little, and sleep for long periods of time. Consider yourself blessed if you are one of these lucky parents." (That was baby Liam to a T - probably why I thought I was such an expert!) What was resonating with me now were things like, "Do you spend a total of more than three hours a day soothing your baby to prevent crying? Do you do this more than three days a week? Have you been doing this for more than three weeks?" (Yes, yes and YES!) "Then your baby has colic." (Damn.) Also, "The extremely fussy/colicky baby appears to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep even at only several days of age." (Cue me walking into the nursery at the hospital to get Finny after the pediatricians had rounds and finding him screaming, SCREAMING!, like someone had just ripped off his toenails.) And, "Twenty percent of babies have extreme fussiness/colic, and the parents of these babies are unlucky. These babies require a lot of parental soothing. They tend not to be self-soothing, and they often appear intense, agitated, and have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep." (Yep, that's us! Well, except for the unlucky part. I mean, really. How rude!)

The more I read, the more freaked out I became. There was something about seeing it spelled out in black and white that really hit home for me. Until I saw it in writing, I don't think I had any idea how difficult our situation had been. I was clearly exhausted and overwhelmed but almost to such a degree that I couldn't really see what was going on. When all of your energy and focus goes to keeping your head above water, you don't even notice that you're drowning. Once you realize what's really going on, that's when the panic sets in.

I called Bill at work and said, "Um...I think Finn has colic."


"Oh, um. Really?" I guess I was hoping he would tell me I was wrong. That maybe I was just tired and overreacting. That this whole miserable crying thing was just a fluke and soon enough Finny would be sleeping through the night and smiling during the day. But Bill was already two steps ahead of me. He said he had done some research and was going to pick up probiotics on his way home and make an appointment with a local chiropractor who specialized in infants and children. I started to protest - Dr. Weissbluth says those things are a waste of time and money! - but I was too tired to make a good argument. Plus, I had already exhausted every trick I knew and nothing I was reading or re-reading in the book seemed to be working. I was desperate. Bill could have suggested letting the baby spend the night in the car and I would have said okay.

(I should also probably mention that this conversation took place three days before we were meant to hop on a plane and fly to Reno to see family. It's one thing to spend all day and night with a screaming baby in the privacy of your own home. But on a plane? Filled with baby-hating strangers? All day? Desperate was an understatement.)

So we started Finn on probiotics and took him to the chiropractor.

The chiropractic visit was so gentle Finn probably would have slept right through it if he was the kind of baby who knew how to sleep. The doctor mostly did massage and taught me what to do for him at home (massage his tummy in clockwise half-circles to aid digestion, massage his low back near the descending colon, do some frog leg stretches and twists to loosen up his spine...). His main concern (aside from the tight spots in his neck and back which he was confident would respond really quickly to what we were doing) was his bowel function. Even though Finn was a totally breast-fed baby he was only pooping about once a week. And his gas...well, I've never met a baby who could clear a room like that. Not only did it smell bad, it HURT. We could feel his little tummy rumbling as
we rocked him to sleep (like a thousand times a night) and every so often (usually right about the time we thought we could finally lay him in his crib and sneak out), he'd wake with a jolt and start screaming. It SUCKED. And no amount of swaddling, shushing, rocking, nursing, white noise or regular bedtime routine seemed to help.

But the chiropractor and probiotics did! By the time we got on the plane we were amazed at how much happier our baby was. Without exaggeration, the flights out to Reno were AWESOME. Finn nursed and slept and hung out and didn't cry AT ALL. Bill and I didn't want to jinx anything but we couldn't help looking at each other every once in a while like, "What the hell?" and "I know!" We knew how bad it could have been and were so totally over-the-moon grateful that it wasn't.

The 10 days visiting with family went pretty well, too. I mean, considering I had a colicky two month old and a four year old mostly all to myself and we slept somewhere new every couple of days (so stupid). There was a lot of screaming (like the entire five hours we left Finn with Bill's parents and sister so we could go to a wedding), not nearly enough sleep (the logistics of sharing a bed with two children with different sleep patterns is completely beyond me) but enough quality time with family to (almost) make up for it.

Hanging with my sister at Lake Tahoe -
worth every sleepless moment.

When we got back to Nashville, we still had our work cut out for us. But it was so much better than it had been before that I almost enjoyed nursing Finn in the middle of the night and soothing him to sleep all evening (almost...). Where I used to feel hopeless (if anything), now I felt like I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. And it was getting brighter by the minute!

Most exciting though was how much better Finn felt physically. Where as before all we could see was how uncomfortable he was, now we could actually see him. And he was incredible! He wasn't the intense little sour puss we brought home from the hospital. That's just how uncomfortable he was. Colic is fussy; Finn is nothing but sweet. He's laid back, happy, curious, and totally content most of the time.

Four month check up -
four shots, two ear happy boy.

As soon as he hit four months old, all signs of colic were gone (just like Dr. Weissbluth said!). Finn soothes himself to sleep in his crib, never ever cries in the car (even when I pluck him out of his crib and stick him in his car seat in the middle of a nap), plays with his brother for long periods of time, hangs out in the exersaucer or on his play mat or in the Bumbo or, really, any place we stick him.

He's still not on any sort of a schedule, the last time he pooped was five days ago and depending on the night he still sometimes wakes up to nurse (once, twice, who's counting...). But who cares? He's a happy, healthy, growing boy. And while I'm sure I'm doing it all wrong according to the books, his sweet smile tells me that whatever we're doing is working out just fine.

Five months and counting...


Anonymous said...

such a sweet little guy! I can't wait to re-meet him!!

Anonymous said...

Your blog makes me smile. Love how you're honest when things aren't the greatest.

Anonymous said...

aww, and don't worry, some breastfed babies totally do the one-a-week poops, cuz breastmilk is very digestible and there's not a lot left to pass. I think Jack Newman has an article about it, if you google.