Saturday, September 15, 2007

blast from my past

This week's New Yorker has an amazing piece by Jerome Groopman about colic (alas, not on line). Those of you who knew us when, know we went through a rather trying time in Mariah's first months on earth. She had colic, so we all did. She cried most of the time she was awake--but particularly in the evenings--for the first nine months of her life. She slept well at night from a fairly early age (our saving grace) but the colic, oh, it was relentless. We tried rocking, swaddling, "the colic hold," dietary changes (mine), schedule changes (hers), singing, dancing, changes in environment (for a brief period we tried taking her outside when she cried--sometimes the cold air seemed to change things), and everything else we could think of. Nothing worked, or at least nothing worked reliably. If swaddling worked one night, we tried it the next to no avail. Mostly I think we did what we did for us, to make us feel as if we were helping. She cried for no reason, and when she was done she was done, but we awaited the next bout in exhausted trepidation.

Our doctor, however, informed us that "colic is when the bell curve of parent irritability intersects the bell curve of baby irritability." I invited him to our apartment any evening to witness the ridiculousness of that statement, but he didn't take me up on it. It was something of a relief, then, to find that medical researchers now study colic--some of them must actually believe in it, even if our doctor didn't. It seems from the article that as many as 25% of babies may suffer from colic, which has, according to one expert cited in the article, "no known cause and no known treatment." Babies eventually outgrow it, of course, but to me the heartbreaking part of the article comes in the speculations about the long-term effects: sleep disorders, for example, seem more frequent in kids who have been colicky babies (check!). As for the effects on family life, well, let's just say Mariah's colic wasn't as bad as some documented in the article, but I have no problem believing that "the parents of colicky babies were found to be more dissatisfied with family life . . . than parents of children who had not had colic."

Colic is well in our past these days. We have two fabulous children who delight and astonish us daily. But reading this article put me right back in that place of helpless new parenting, when I first learned that I couldn't make everything right for my daughter no matter how much I wanted to, no matter how hard I tried. That's not a bad lesson to learn, of course--but reading this article reminded me of how hard it was to learn it so early, in quite that way.

6 comments:

Claudia said...

Oh yeah. We all suffered the colic of my first. She had colic AND reflux which was a lovely combination. THought I would lose my mind. I didn't and had another child. And THEN lost my mind when she wouldn't sleep more than 2 hours at a time for 15 months. If it's not one kind of small, worrying horror, it's another. The colic baby is now a bit of a sleepwalker and ends up in my bed more often than not.

kate said...

This was always my biggest fear, but so far we've been lucky in that respect. If we get a colic-prone baby this time around, though, my whole second semester will be a wash (not to mention the stress and family issues etc. you mention.) So I'm crossing my fingers! I'll have someone save me the article, though, just in case...

Karen said...

Hi Libby, googling this wonderful Groopman article I found your post and linked to it in mine. I share your perspective, although I think I've just nudged the needle past midlife.

Karen Maezen Miller

bella said...

I found you through Karen.
You captured it so well.
You move on but does anyone really recover?
Your honesty is needed and refreshing.
THank-you for your sharing.

Lilian said...

Wow, I cannot imagine how hard it must have been. I was lucky like Kate, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that she is lucky with her third baby as well.

And can you imagine how hard it must have been for Dawn (This Woman's Work) since Madison was also adopted and she felt guilty about this aspect of her parenting too?

kathryn said...

I found your post through Karen at Momma Zen. I read the article, and I happen to be walking through the fire at this moment. I have a five-week old daughter with colic. I could have done without reading the article, I suppose -- I certainly don't need to borrow trouble by speculating about the future. But it was an interesting read, and it's reassuring to know that it passes.