Moms are held to an extremely high standard and, sometimes, rightfully so. After all, we want parents to raise good people. It's important to make a distinction between a necessary standard and just plain mom-shaming, though. A culture of shame prevents moms from reaching out for help when they need it, and help is essential when you're trying to raise good people. Sadly, one of these potential shaming situations is when your baby has colic. I know, because I've been there. I also know there are things every mom with a colicky baby thinks, but doesn't say out loud, and I have a sneaky suspicion that shame is a big reason why so many exhausted, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed mothers stay silent.
Nothing is easy when you have a colicky baby. Your ears are constantly besieged with eardrum crushing squeals. Your heart is breaking a million times a day because you can't comfort or calm your baby. You're so sleep deprived you likely can't even see straight, are probably having hallucinations on the regular, and have completely forgotten anything resembling social skills that would allow you to reach out for support. In the throes of newborn life with a colicky baby, I started questioning everything about myself, my worthiness (or lack thereof), and my choice to enter parenthood. After all, and as a mom, the one thing I was supposed to be able to do was comfort my baby. And I couldn't.
Colicky babies make parents question everything, but we're afraid we're the only ones experiencing such hopelessness. So, unfortunately, we keep quiet and keep our questions to ourselves. I say no longer. I'm breaking the silence to share what all of us think, but don't say, when we have a colicky baby:
"What The Hell Have I Gotten Myself Into?”
My colicky baby was my first baby. I wasn't around many babies prior to having one of my own, so I had no idea colic wasn't "normal." It was petrifying. I had so many scary thoughts that began with, "What the hell have I gotten myself into? Is this what babies are really like all the time? When does it end?"
“I Don’t Know If I Can Do This”
"If it doesn't get easier, I don't know if I can do this." About three months in to this new parenting gig I started wondering why the hell people keep having babies. I had experienced a similar moment when I was in labor, 100 percent positive that the horrendous, body-wrenching pain was my new forever and I was going to die.
With a colicky baby I imagined the forever screaming was my new normal. There was no turning back. I just had to get through it, but I was not entirely sure I could.
"I Don't Have The Magic Touch"
Mothers are supposed to have the magical touch that takes away pain, right? My mom used to kiss my boo-boos and how quickly my pain went away was nothing short of magical. I did not have that touch, though. I could not soothe my baby. I worried I was broken.
"I Must Be Doing Something Wrong"
Not only did I not have the magical mom touch, but I was pretty positive I was always doing something wrong. In fact, I thought I was the reason my baby was colicky. Even almost eight years later I'm still not sure I didn't contribute in some way. I wonder if that thought ever goes away, or if we just have to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn't know.
"Something Is Seriously Wrong With My Baby"
I had this constant, underlying paranoia that persisted with reckless abandon and despite the doctors' constant reassurances. I thought the doctors were missing something horrible and there was something seriously wrong with the baby.
"This Is Miserable"
It's miserable and I hate it. I hate this thing called parenthood. My baby's been screaming for three months straight.
"None Of These Sleep Tricks Work!"
I can't tell you how many so-called sleep tricks I tried when my baby was colicky. They didn't work at all. Nothing worked.
"I Hate Being A Mom"
If this is it, if this is what motherhood is — a screaming, not sleeping, barely eating, unable-to-be-soothed-infant forever — take it back. I hate it.
"What If I Don't Love My Baby?"
This is a hard one, guys. Of course I love my baby. Of course I always did. I'm sure there are many moms of colicky kids who would never admit to having this thought, and perhaps it never crossed their mind But like not saying Voldemort's name, not acknowledging these difficult thoughts only makes them stronger. And at 3:00 a.m. when the baby’s screams have been reverberating off the walls for six hours straight and you haven’t slept more than a couple hours at a time in weeks, the thought does flash through your mind. Or at least it flashed through my mind. And even though I know that it was normal given the circumstances (there’s a reason they use sleep deprivation as a torture tactic, guys) it's really hard to admit.
I didn't have the thought that I don't love my baby, but the thought of, "What if I don't love my baby?" Perhaps the scariest thing about saying this thought out loud at the time was that by admitting the thought even existed, I would've been admitting that all these other things were actually true, too. I'd have been a bad mom, a bad person, and someone who was in way over their head.
The light at the end of this dark tunnel of self-loathing is that in the eight years since I had all these silent thoughts, I've learned a bit about parenting. We're all scared that we don't know what we're doing. Sometimes we actually have no idea what we're doing. And that, my friends, is parenting in a nutshell. I've found great strength and community in just admitting the things that seem too scary to share. Once I share those things, you know what? I have never found myself alone.