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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Story of Surviving Twins with Colic - Ten things I'd say to the mom of a colicky baby......



1) I understand completely, and I feel for you.....
Bringing home a newborn can be exhausting for anyone.  Adjusting to sleep deprivation and meeting the constant need of a newborn can suck the life right out of a person.  Take that times two, and you had our life a few months ago.  Our twins are the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to us, but taking care of them all day on my own completely drains me some days.

2) Nothing could prepare me for colic.......
We found out we were having twins nearly a year ago, and we were overjoyed with the news! Having multiples never frightened me.  I felt very prepared to make the transition to becoming a mommy of twins.  I felt like I already had some preparation for raising multiples from past experiences, and my ability to keep things organized was going to be a plus when it came to managing two babies.  After all, I paid my way through college by working at a daycare.  I spent the first two years working as a floater, primarily floating from the infant, toddler and two year old classrooms.  Back then the ratio for infants was one worker to four babies.  I figured if I could juggle four babies on my own ten years ago, then I could definitely handle being the mom of twins.  By the time I was 20, I was teaching in the three’s room, where the ratio was one teacher to ten children.  I had thirty children in my class, with two assistant teachers.  If I could handle 30 three year olds from 7am-6pm, then I could definitely handle being the mom of twins.  I went on to graduate college and teach 5th and 6th grade for three years.  You’d be surprised how much that age group can test your patience some days.  So if I could handle that, then I could handle being the mom of twins.  I left the classroom to take a nanny position when I was 25.  When I started, the girls were 18mo and 3yrs old.  I was one of their primary caregivers for nearly six years.  From waking them up every morning, to taking them to school, to making sure they were fed breakfast lunch and dinner, to driving them to gymnastics and dance classes….I could handle it.  When it was time to potty train, get rid of the pacifier and administer timeouts…..I could handle it.  From doing their grocery shopping, their laundry and just aiding in their basic home management.....I could handle it. From tantrums to “I Love You’s”....I could handle it.  So if I could handle being a caregiver to two girls for the past five years, I could handle being the mom of twins. I say all of that to say that becoming a mom to two babies wasn’t scary to me.  I felt very prepared for the chaos that was coming into our life.  I was more frightened about being pregnant with twins and giving birth to twins than I was about bringing home twins from the hospital and becoming a mom.  As prepared as I was, nothing could prepare me for what happened when the boys turned two weeks old. Matt had gone back to work and was getting into his routine.  My mother-in-law had gone back home and my mom wasn’t going to be able to come visit us until the boys were one month old.  All of that would have been fine, except that something happened that nothing could have prepared me for.  Nothing, not even all of my childcare experience from the previous ten years could prepare me for what I was going to experience the next six to eight weeks of our lives.  One word…COLIC….our babies were about to enter their colic phase, and it would last for two whole months!

3) Yes, colic sucks.  It sucks even more if you have multiples.
Classic colic is defined as a minimum of three hours of crying for at least three days a week.  Both of my babies easily fit into this category.  Classic colic crying fits usually start and end at the same time each day.  Again, both of my babies fit into this category.  The crying would usually start up in early afternoon, and they would cry until bed time.  And not just regular crying…..I’m talking unsoothable screaming.  You see, when your baby has colic, there is nothing you can do to soothe them.  As a parent, you want to fix everything and you just can’t fix it! Oh yes, I was familiar with “The Happiest Baby on the Block” method of doing things.  When your baby has colic the “Happiest Baby on the Block” method of doing things is just a load of crap!  I’d like to throw that book at someone….that’s what I’d like to do when someone would ask me if I had tried the book’s methods of the famous “Five S’s”: swaddling, side/stomach position, swinging, shushing and sucking.  Because when your baby, or in our case babies, are having what we would soon call “colic meltdowns”, the last thing our babies wanted was to be swaddled up like a cocoon, unable to move their arms and legs.  If we put them on their side or stomach, they would cry even louder, kicking their legs up in the air as they tried to balance on their belly.  And swinging them was a joke.  It didn’t matter if we were swinging them or if we tried using their baby swings, it just didn’t work!  They didn’t like their swings at all until they were three months old.  They only liked car rides, and even that didn't always stop their crying.  Shushing them only annoyed them.  I kid you not, our little Aaron would whack us in the face and push us away when we shushed at him.  And as much as our babies loved their pacifiers, they would often refuse pacifiers when they were having a screaming fit. 

4) There's not much you can do for colic, except wait it out.....
So if none of those things helped our colicky babies, what did help you ask?  I’m about to get real with you here.  Prepare yourself.  Honestly, NOTHING helped!  We just had to wait it out.  I know that if you are reading this and looking for some magical way to handle colic, that’s probably not what you want to hear, but it is true.  Our babies had colic from 2-10 weeks, and there was nothing we could do.  Just like the text books suggest, the colic peaked during weeks 5-7 and then slowly improved.  By the time the boys were three months old, colic was a thing of the past.

5) Colic doesn't last forever.....
The most encouraging thing I can tell a parent who is dealing with colic is that it doesn't last forever.  This too shall pass.  I know you want me to tell you to do something or try something, but honestly, nothing we could do really helped.  All we could do was survive. Colic isn’t a disease. It’s usually a result of something else.  In our case, our pediatrician and we believed that the colic was from the boys having very sensitive tummies.  They had a really hard time with gas in the beginning.  We tried everything for their tummies, and nothing really worked.  I was cautious of my diet when I breastfed them.  We changed their formula to sensitive tummies.  Gas drops weren't very effective.  Over-the-counter “gripe water” didn't do anything.  We finally ordered Woodword’s gripe water from amazon.com.  The dill in it is supposed to help soothe baby tummies.  That was the most effective thing we found, but even that didn't make the colic go away.  I would highly recommend that product though.  For the first few days, we thought it was actually working, but it really didn't make the colic go away. However, we could get a few moments of peace when we gave the babies a dose of it and put a pacifier in their mouth. On the bright side, our babies are four months old now, and while they are occasionally fussy, they are nothing like they were those first two months. 

6) It's ok to walk away and take a break....
In all honesty, the best thing I could do some days was walk away.  If I was home alone, sometimes I just had to put them down safely in their cribs and let them scream for a few moments, while I walked away and cried.  Yes, I had a meltdown of my own a few times.  That’s what happens to you when you hear nothing but constant screaming for hours.  It wears on you, and that's ok. It's nothing to feel bad about.  You see, the biggest difference from my ten years of childcare experience to becoming a mom is that as a mom, I can't clock out at 6pm.  I'm a mom 24/7.  There is a baby constantly needing me, and when that baby has colic, it just multiplies the stress level.  I would live for 5:30 when Daddy came home.  Some days, I would meet him at the garage door and tell him I had to get out of the house for a few minutes, and that he was on his own for a little while.  It was still pretty cold outside when the boys were small, so sometimes that meant me just sitting in my car with the radio turned on while Daddy gave me a little break.  There was no place to escape the crying in the house.  The car was often my refuge.  If it was nice out, I would go out on the front porch for a few minutes and maybe call my mom and vent to her.  Sometimes, it meant that I just needed to drive down the road to the gas station and buy a polar pop.  I rarely drink pop, but some days a pop would taste so good when I was really stressed. My point is, is that you really do need to take a few moments and walk away when it becomes too much.  


7) Never take the frustration out on the baby....
The most important thing is that your frustrations never get taken out on the baby. I get it, colic can make even the most lovable parent feel like they are going crazy.  As miserable as it is being the parent of an unsoothable baby, I kept telling myself it had to be so much worse to be that unsoothable baby.  I tried to empathize with my little ones, wondering what it must be like to be the baby that can't be soothed.

8) If you have a support system, use it.
The nice thing about colic, is that it is usually not twenty-four hours of crying, seven days a week. I’m not minimizing the effects colic can have on a parent.  It might seem like it is 24/7, but there would certainly be some normal days in our house.  There were days where the boys would cry like normal babies, as in they wouldn't cry for hours and hours.  But even when they weren't having a colic meltdown, they were in general, fussy babies those first three months.  The fussiness just became my new normal.  Yes, people asked me all the time if they could do anything to help or if I wanted them to come over and give me a break.  I greatly appreciated those gestures of kindness and gladly accepted the meals and visits from friends, but 1) I could never tell when the babies were going to go into a screaming fit or when I would need a break, and 2) I'm not the kind of person who is going to ask for help.  I will say that if you are comfortable with taking help from support groups like church, neighbors or family, I highly recommend letting them help you.  I know when my mom would come to visit once a month, it was the best three days of the month.  I wish she lived down the street from me....better yet, let's just move her in! When I was on my own, I learned to just do my best to keep the babies happy when I could and survive them when I couldn't.  For me, I found that they were happiest when I was holding both of them in my arms at the same time.  So to keep things as quiet and calm as I could in our home, I could often be found in my bed holding two sleeping babies with a pillow propped up under my arm.  After several weeks, I was so over sitting in bed watching TV and holding babies. I longed for the day when they would enjoy their swings and vibrating chairs, so I could get up and do something without having them attached to me.  


9) They are only tiny once.....  
Now that the boys are a little over four months old, there is a part of me that misses those days.  I don't miss the screaming, but I certainly do miss having two tiny babies fit into my arms in a peaceful slumber of sleep.  On the days that I really wanted to get up and clean my house without having babies need me every moment of the day, I just tried to tell myself they were only going to be tiny for so long, and I would soon have more than enough time to clean my house or run errands for the family.  


10) As tiresome and frustrating as colic is, a baby is worth every bit of it!
Colic is now a thing of the past, and I have to tell you that my babies were worth every bit of the sleepless days and nights.....worth every bit of the hours of crying....worth everyone of my new-mom meltdowns.  Colic or no colic, I love my babies more than anything in the world, and I would relive the first few weeks all over again if I had to.  I wish this post was more encouraging, but this is just my story of surviving twins with colic. I think the only silver lining to having a baby who cries hour after hour is to know that somewhere out there is a woman who would do anything to have a baby like the one (or in our case the ones) you were given, but for whatever reason she hasn't been able to. She's desperate for a baby, even a screaming baby.  May we always be thankful for the gift of motherhood and never take it for granted. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have two screaming babies than not have a baby at all. 


The boys when they were six weeks old.



   

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