A Cry in the Night

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My daughter screamed bloody murder from the day she was born. 

What was I doing wrong?

At first I thought it was because my milk supply had not come in but then that was no longer a factor and still she did not stop.

She was well fed. I changed her diapers. I dressed her in adorable clothes. I cuddled her. I played with her. There was nothing wrong medically. 

What was I missing?

I went through everything I knew how to do everything they teach you in medical school and residency, all of the advice I always gave parents struggling with this. I scoured the internet like other desperate mothers. All worthless. Once she started screaming, I could not make her stop.

I was a failure but not just as a mom. I was a failure as a physician.

When I look at pictures of her early infancy now, I am ashamed. I missed out on so much of the joy and love I should have felt then. Instead, I used to wear earplugs just so I could be around her. 

What kind of mother DOES that?

The only thing that would calm her down was bouncing on an exercise ball. I bounced for hours. When it was her fussy time, God forbid I ever stopped bouncing…

Wails and wails and wails.

Which is worse? Sore thighs and butt from an exercise that never seemed to make them smaller or the painful high pitched unrelenting screech of an angry infant? In time I felt imprisoned by her. Trapped. I didn’t want to keep bouncing on that goddamn ball, I didn’t want to listen to her scream, either. Bouncing with anyone else was not cool by her.

I desperately wanted to send her back.

Eventually, after a few months, it did stop. Colic always does if you can just endure, and while the scars have dissipated to some degree now years later, they still remain. I never appreciated how disruptive it is, how much it wounds your heart, until I lived it. Colic robbed me of being the mother that I thought I was, the one that I wanted to be… doting on my beautiful baby girl.

So much for fairytales.

We survived. I love her. She loves me. She screams but not for hours and hours and when she does, I can now put her into time out until she cools off. Interestingly, I still find her to be terribly temperamental and prone to tantrums. But is that really the case? Or do I just judge more harshly because of our past? 

My heart still hurts when I remember and even today I don’t like to talk about it, but the advice I give to parents is much different now that I have lived it myself. 

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164 thoughts on “A Cry in the Night

  1. I had a very similar experience with my daughter – with an added twist. She cried with her mother and with me but she cried much louder and longer with me. I think in some ways that sowed the seeds of the end of our marriage. It took 20 years before the poisonous fruit finally ripened.

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  2. Your such a sweet and sensitive person. You’re only human, go easy on yourself. Being a parent isn’t easy. Don’t should on yourself, haha. At any rate at least you didn’t eat he like a meerkat or something.

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  4. OH my….my daughter had colic….back then I thought that was something horses got…LOL but everyday at the same time she would start crying/wailing in pain….my knew immediately what it was, so she taught me to wrap her tightly and rock and rock and rock some more until it passed….I felt so bad for her….and she is also temperamental to this day…..never thought it could be from having colic….but perhaps….Kat

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  5. Beautifully written. I felt like a complete failure when everyone was gushing over the newborn except me… it took me a few months to catch up. She’s 4 now and though we’ve recovered, I still have that same sense of regret when I recall my first few months as her mother.

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  6. We had two granddaughters in the same family who were just like you describe; however, not prone to tantrums. A nurse friend of ours commented, “If you can endure until they are grown, they probably will be intelligent and sensitive to others needs.”

    Sure enough, the first sister is now an IICU nurse in open-heart surgery (graduated at the top of her class) and the second sister is following fast in her steps. Take heart dear!

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  7. Nothing wrong with building your own experience into your recommendations, is there?
    1.5 month grandson is quite a brawler I must say. 🙂 We kept him most day yesterday, as MD daughter had to go the hospital to check on a few patients and fill in red tape. He normally is quite nice, but when a colic hits him, poor thing. So bounce and bounce… 😉
    You can look back at it this way: it is a funny scene… 😉

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  9. I’m a survivor of having a colicky baby also. I even went to a specialist for help and all I got was, “she’ll outgrow it,” when what I needed was a magical formula to stop the screaming. Thinking back, I even experienced dark thoughts. Lack of sleep and peace can do crazy things to you. She’s 25 now and did grow up to be an intelligent woman and sensitive to others’ needs after a difficult journey through teenage years.

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  10. Similar experience with my first born .
    And no bouncing balls back then 🙂 Only our quads to rely on to bounce up and down with the little squirming scarlet red creature … amazing the energy they can put behind all that crying … and totally maddening to us for not being able to calm them down .
    Turtle Hugs

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