iphone shot showing hula’s print framed by our front door – it reads, “love always wins.”
my heart feels like it’s on extreme overload over here. it’s processing so many morsels of joy and healing and lessons and strength and sometimes it feels like i’m shattered into a million pieces as i try and make sure i’m aware and taking it all in and remembering and writing it down and letting it go and not letting it go. emotionally, i’m exhausted – even with major efforts to take good care of myself.all i can muster up for a mantra is love always wins. or nothing is wasted. or nothing is permanent. or brave in sadness, brave in love.
it’s been very very rough these last couple of weeks. i won’t lie. baby true has been suffering from infant acid reflux and it’s been a whammy to our little family. i’ve never felt desperation like this. my heart drops every single time he cries with discomfort, i can barely take it. there is no protection around my emotions, around my heart. his birth and simply being a new mama already had me feeling open in ways that made everything feel intense, but add in his pain and i’m a total mess. the protectiveness feels intense. the desperation to get him comfortable feels intense. the questioning of my instincts (when everything feels new) feels intense. the holding onto hope that this or that will help him (when most of it has not helped) has left us all feeling a little hope exhausted.
now that we are almost through the fire of this particular struggle, i’ve learned the invaluable lesson of claiming my mama instincts even when i’m up against what feels like the world telling me i’m wrong or that “all babies cry – it’s what they do.” i won’t ever knowingly make that mistake again. because i’m feeling passionate about this issue, i want to put our experience out there in hopes that it will help anyone who has a baby that has been labeled “colic” – a term i’ve come to seriously resent.
baby true was struggling with major sleep disturbances (only sleeping for an hour before waking up crying/screaming – day and night), major eating disturbances (taking well over an hour to feed, pulling from the nipple, crying during feeds), extremely uncomfortable with lots of crying and arching, coughing, constant hiccups, couldn’t sleep on his back, etc etc – all 24/7, starting at week 3 and getting worse and worse over the last couple of weeks. looking back and knowing what i know now, i believe some of this started from day one but week three seemed to be when it started to escalate.
because he wasn’t vomiting/spitting up a lot and losing weight, we were told it wasn’t reflux but rather he was just gassy or colicky and that we would have to wait it out a couple of months until his digestion system matured. this is the part that brought me to my knees. who wants to “wait out” their newborn’s pain? i have never known so much heartbreak as to watch baby true cry and suffer, sometimes for hours despite major efforts to soothe. with each day getting worse than the day before, i was in a full panic over how we were going to make it emotionally and physically. even with all the support and resources in the world, we were not getting any sleep and pretty much tending to an uncomfortable baby true around the clock with little break – totally exhausting both on our hearts and our physical selves, not to mention poor true. because i didn’t know much about reflux, i fully believed our doctors when they said he was gassy and colicky. i did a ton of research on “colic” and gassy babies and tried everything suggested: gas drops, positioning, swings, etc etc. at each turn and at each suggestion, i felt major hope and then a major fall when nothing worked.
in the meantime, we had read dr. sears, and the happiest baby on the block (both highly recommended). baby true is definitely a fourth trimester baby and responds to all the soothing efforts described in the happy baby book – but only if he’s not in pain. this is where being new parents and not having the experience really confused us. we couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on. we just knew that something wasn’t right, though we weren’t entirely sure. we were certainly wondering if all babies slept so little and cried so much. and let me just say that we decided from day one to respond immediately to his cries. we aren’t letting him cry it out, but even with all efforts, he would have major crying spells. we knew something must be wrong.
finally, i shared the truth of our last few weeks to some dear friends. totally spilled my heart out and confessed that this has been HARD – not just processing a traumatic birth, not just hormones, not just breastfeeding drama, not just normal newborn transition, but seriously physically and emotionally hard with a very very upset baby 24/7 (minus a day or two here and there). i explained the gassy/colic diagnosis, that we were told to wait it out, that yes it would be totally exhausting and heartbreaking but that we would get through it. i asked for prayers and comfort.
one of those friends overnighted a book to us called Colic Solved – written by a lead colic researcher in texas. it arrived one morning while true was uncomfortable and i was doing my best to soothe him. i read the book in one hour flat while walking up and down the stairs with baby true in a sling (one of the only ways we have been able to comfort him). in short, this book saved our and baby true’s suffering. the book describes our baby perfectly and opened our eyes to the fact that it’s not gas or colic, but is in fact infant reflux – a medical condition that explains all of his symptoms and if it goes untreated can lead to all sorts of oral and sleep aversions later in life (because who wants to sleep and eat if it’s painful?). my heart felt stronger with each page read – finally, i was getting confirmation and some answers. i couldn’t believe what i was reading and i was getting seriously fired up and upset with the docs that told us our baby was simply colicky and to let him sit with the pain for three months. why had they not pushed the examination and questioning further? why had they not asked specifics about his eating and sleeping habits that would have revealed more to the story – afterall, we’re new parents that didn’t know his behavior was abnormal – we rely on the MDs to make those calls.
needless to say we went back to the doctors office armed with detailed information about infant reflux, a list of his symptoms (in detail this time), a million questions (the book told us specifically what to ask of our doctors), and an insistence to try treatment vs waiting it out – we were confident that the gas/colic was a symptom of the underlying condition of reflux and that the reflux needed to be treated. all that tenderness that i’ve been feeling for weeks. all the uncertainty. all the emotions. it all just welled up into a determination and an anger i hadn’t yet felt before inside this new mama experience. we’ve been to the doctor a lot to see lactation consultants, doctors, etc etc and with each visit i’m usually bawling my eyes out in the exam room, but this visit was different. i found my mama bear and power and walked out of there feeling a new kind of confindence. my instincts were right and i finally knew it. i will say that later that night i bawled my eyes out from the sheer exhaustion and assurance that we finally found our answer. there is so much to learn in this journey, so much emotion, but i’m feeling stronger and stronger, tears and all.
all of this is to say that we started treatment that night and although he’s not entirely better, we are finally on the right track. finally. we’re told he’ll eventually grow out of it. i can sense and see his improvement and i can barely wait until the medication fully kicks in and he’s comfortable. once he’s comfortable, i think i can finally begin to loosen up, to not be on such high alert as i’ve been from the beginning, and to begin to celebrate a bit more with baby true. there has been no pain like this in my life – to be so in love with this little dear soul and then to see him suffering.
it’s been breaking my heart for nearly six weeks.
but even so, even with all the hard of these last many weeks, i wouldn’t take it back. as i’ve learned from jen, nothing is wasted. i know all the efforts of these last many weeks to fiercely tend and soothe and find answers will serve us as we move along in our story. i’ve also learned my own capacity for nurturing and loving a little soul who is new in the world. i now know that my heart can securely hold his heart and tend to it, nurture it, and love it just as his has been holding mine this whole time. we’re in it together. brave in sadness, brave in love.