"The thought of being out in the world with an unhappy baby is very uncomfortable. What do people think? Do they judge us because we can't comfort our own baby? Are we upsetting everyone around us with her crying?"
Written by Kiki, mum of Vinter
The rough start
Vinter was born as a tiny little girl weighing just 2,685 grams. She quickly lost more weight than she should have, so we extended our two days in the labour ward to five. When she had gained enough weight on the fifth day, we were allowed to go home. Breastfeeding was challenging, she still wasn't gaining enough weight and was very unhappy. So we supplemented with more and more formula and after two months we ended up on formula only. We thought we would now have a happy and content baby because she was finally getting the food she needed.
But that didn't happen.
Vinter had many unhappy hours during the day. Afternoons and evenings were spent crying. Hysterical crying where she would lash out with her arms and legs and could barely contain herself. As first-time parents, we thought that maybe that's just what it's like to have a baby.
When we told people that she cried a lot, we were told that "that's what babies do" and that "no one promised that having small children would be easy". No thanks, we thought. It certainly isn't.
We spent our days and evenings rocking Vinter until she fell asleep. Many times it seemed like it was out of sheer exhaustion and not because we were comforting her. The health visitor came for many extra check-ups because of the weight but didn't really react to us telling her how grumpy a baby we had. Maybe it was the language we used to talk about it. Because grumpy doesn't sound as horrible as unhappy or hysterical.
Maternity is more at home than away
While other parents enjoy their shared maternity leave by going out to cafés or visiting friends and family, we spent a lot of time at home.
And we still are, actually. The thought of being out in the world with an unhappy baby is very daunting. What do people think? Do they judge us because we can't comfort our own baby? Are we upsetting everyone around us with her crying? Even when she's not crying, we're constantly on high alert to maybe nip it in the bud. In short, getting out is not rewarding. In fact, it's just hard.
Other mums I knew told me that their children hardly ever cried unless it was because they were hungry. The others had cosy moments with their babies when they were awake. They didn't swing their babies in their Sleep Carrier for hours on end because the movement made them finally relax. We did.
My husband could stand for hours and hours swinging it back and fort. She still only falls asleep in our arms, in the swinging Sleep Carrier, on bumpy dirt roads in the pram or in the baby hammock.
Kaniosacral and reflexology
In meeting other new mothers, I realised that what we were experiencing was not normal. I wrote to my aunt, who is a craniosacral and reflexologist. She now comes about once a week and the treatment seems to have made a difference for Vinter, who no longer cries hysterically from dinnertime to bedtime. However, we still have a baby who cries a lot during the day.
A mum I knew helped us and offered to let us have a baby hammock (without cradle bouncer), which, luckily for them, they had never needed. It works about half the time we can't comfort her by rocking her in our arms, singing or playing rock music loud enough for her to hear it over her own crying.
Was it colic?
I had heard about colic before we had Vinter, but hadn't considered that it could happen to us. Even though she cried for more than 3 hours, 3 days a week, I didn't feel like that's what was happening to us. We never went to the doctor to have it diagnosed. The health visitor never mentioned the possibility or did anything to investigate the cause of the crying. We simply didn't believe that this was what we were going through. That's probably why we didn't insist on getting help for a possible investigation.
Read more about colic right here.
"Sleep when baby sleeps". Yes, yes, when I manage to put her down without the crying starting all over again. When I don't have to squeeze in a bath when she's finally asleep on her own. When I have time to eat some real food before the cycle of crying, bottle and more crying starts all over again.
The sound of her crying can make my sweat break out and my heart pound like I've just run for the bus. It stretches my patience thin and makes my nervous system feel inflamed and sore. I constantly feel guilty for being frustrated with her, even though I know it's not her fault. She has it much worse than I do in this.
I feel cheated of the cosy maternity leave with café visits and snuggling on the play rug. I spend most days locked on the sofa with a crying or sleeping baby on top of me because I've rocked her to sleep and don't dare move her for fear of the whole mess starting all over again. The craddle bouncer is especially helpful here because we have a really stubborn baby who fights sleep. The constant movement can push her over the edge and into sleep. And we don't get tired arms from swinging the Sleep Carrier.
Relationship and teamwork
If people break up in the middle of something like this, I understand. If my husband and I weren't the team we are, I don't know what would have become of me or us. We have very few hours to be us. Of course, I know that's part of being parents. But the fact that the evenings are spent to the sound of crying and one of us constantly trying to comfort the other isn't exactly fertiliser for love. It's an extremely intense period in all three of our lives that we get through on pure love for each other and the hope that the future will be easier.
Hope for the future
It's an ambivalent feeling to look forward to your baby getting older. We dream that we'll be over the "colic age" by the time we reach five months. But there are no guarantees. We haven't even been diagnosed with colic yet.
The crying is much better now that she has turned 3 months.
We have awake periods where she smiles and babbles. We appreciate the waking hours when we have a happy baby. It's indescribable how it feels when she smiles all over her head at the silly noises and faces we make for her. She smiles super easily when she's happy. She is the most beautiful little Vinter and the future is looking brighter and brighter for all of us.