A Trip as a Light at the End of the Tunnel

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When we had our first daughter 5 1/2 years ago our world flipped upside down somewhat unexpectedly.  In addition to the trial-by-fire welcome to parenthood initiation we had with her life flight and NICU stay, even after all of the dust settled, life was hard for months.  Much harder than we expected with a newborn, even though we certainly did expect it to have plenty of challenges and limited sleep.  Her fairly constant crying, and our feelings of helplessness, frustration, sadness, and exhaustion were tough.  It was tough being home by myself with her and the screaming for three months while on maternity leave from work, and it was hard for my husband to go to work and function on very limited sleep knowing he was coming home to the ‘Casa de Crying’ in the evenings.

Travel Kid Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico in 2010

One thing we had going for us while going through this with Little C was a planned trip.  We were going to a friend’s wedding in Puerto Rico when she was about five months old without her.  This was planned before she was born, and looking forward to three nights of quiet truly helped served as a light at the end of the tunnel.  I didn’t really care about the beach, pool, food, hotel, casino, or anything else that we would experience on that trip nearly as much as I just looked forward to rest and quiet.  I’m sure we would have all survived without having that to look forward to, but having that specific date to focus on when we thought the nights would never end really did serve as an unexpected life preserver when we felt like we were drowning.

While life obviously got much better and C went on to be a happy kid, those early months were so tough on us that we vowed to be “one and done” for a few years, and only after there were many years between those long days and nights and us did we consider having another child and potentially going through that again.  I never forgot how it was in those early months, I just internalized and accepted that it truly was temporary.

We were very excited when we made the decision to have a second kid and learned that she was on her way, but the fear of returning to the nights of screaming remained with me the whole time.  I didn’t really complain once about being nine months pregnant and swollen in the July Texas heat because I knew what was to come could be so much harder than just being physically uncomfortable while pregnant.  I didn’t care when I went over my due date because maybe that meant a stronger and happier baby when she came out.  I vowed to try and have her med-free since I didn’t want to potentially do anything to cause any additional issues for her.  While I tried to maintain positivity during my pregnancy, I was scared $#@&less about going through those isolating, frustrating, and exhaustion weeks and months that caring for a newborn can bring.

40 weeks pregnant is much easier than caring for a newborn!

40 weeks pregnant is much easier than caring for a newborn!

Then she was born (very much not naturally), and she was beautiful and wonderful and thankfully at least mostly healthy.  When she started spitting up within the first few hours I felt my heart drop a bit.  I had flashbacks to all that transpired with C leading to the life flight at four days old.  Luckily her spit-up didn’t spiral into a seemingly out-of-control medical emergency, but we have progressed to a similar situation I wasn’t looking forward to revisiting.

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Moments of peace

Six weeks in and we again find ourselves needing a life preserver.  We’ve hit a wall of sorts – even with all the help we’ve graciously gotten from family, friends, etc.  While Baby S isn’t exactly the same as C was, but there are strong parallels.  Namely, there is a whole bunch of fussing/crying if you can’t hold, bounce, and shush her (usually at the same time) around the clock.  There’s a “funny” YouTube video we should make showing how fast she wakes up and cries when you lay her down and how that stops when you pick her back up.  It sounds like an exaggeration to say a six week old can go days without more than a catnap during the day and still not sleep much at night, but it’s swear-on-my-stack-of-miles legit.  Of course then there’s still the five year old to take care of and all of life’s other normal tasks to complete…

Despite how it probably sounds, this isn’t a woe-is-me post.  I know we are very lucky to have two children who other than some reflux/colic type issues are mostly healthy, and hopefully one day happy and smiley.  But, you guys, this phase is hard.  It’s as hard as I feared it would be, but hoped against hope that it wouldn’t be.

The you-put-me-down face

The you-put-me-down face

One thing we don’t have yet on this go-round is a fixed point in time when we know we can get away to re-center and enjoy being with each other without the topic of conversation centering around “now your turn to try holding and shushing her”.  We do have family trips scheduled starting in a slightly terrifying couple of weeks, but so far we plan on bringing our wee one on all of those trips – largely because I am nursing her and that is the only feasible solution.

I don’t want to change my goals of nursing her as long as we can just because we need a break to getaway, but I do find myself yearning for that fixed point in time that we can exhale together for a few days…preferably somewhere with a nice beach and a cool drink.  We’ll see what the future brings, and I know it will all get easier, but right now we’re just treading water and trying to brainstorm up a life preserver while trying to savor the sweet moments that do happen in the middle of the chaos.

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Comments

  1. Have you tried putting her in a bouncer on top of the dryer when you are drying clothes? That’s what my Mom did for colicky grand babies.

  2. 6 weeks is often when fussiness peaks for babies and then it starts to get better! You’re going over the hump right now! I teach The Happiest Baby on the Block techniques to parents and one thing I always tell them is that even at this age, many babies still need to be held and swung and shushed A LOT! Exhausting for sure, but I think it helps to know that it’s nothing anyone is doing “wrong”. Feel free to email me if you’d like some “life preserver” suggestions for how to get some more sleep at this stage. Hang in there mama!

    • Lori, I think we memorized the HBOTB techniques with #1 and have been using our skills again this time for sure. It is always helpful to know that the insanity is often normal-ish. More sleep is always good, so always open to suggestions!

  3. When my youngest was 18 months old and we went out of the country for the first time since our kids were born I cried like a baby. It wasn’t tears over leaving our kids, it was tears that I felt like myself again and that I would still be able to do things I wanted to do that where for me or just for us as a couple. My husband looked at me like I was crazy, but knew what it meant too.

  4. I feel this. Four girls are now 6, 9, 13, and 15. High-needs is crazy-making, but the end result is a very strong bond with a real smarty. You could not pay me to do it all over again! 😀

    • Carole, for sure. Once we are out of this stage for real no amount of $ would tempt me to repeat it…all worth it, but man…

  5. It sounds to me like we need to get married again! Instead we’re in the same two small children boat with no life preserver. Hoping for things to get easier soon!

  6. I work in infant child care and sympathize with you. I’m sure it is really hot in Texas right now but does being outdoors help her have longer peaceful periods? When we have a crying infant that we are unable to calm, we usually head outside and lay the baby on a cotton futon (beside us) where he or she can see trees, leaves, etc. Nature works miracles! I know you can’t do that all day but it may give you a break.

    • Alanea, she does love the outdoors and we are starting to try and do that as much as we can. Should be easier when it gets a bit cooler.

  7. 2 books: baby wise and Happiest Baby on the block. Babywise changed my life. Most people would rather suffer than try the techniques. I was at my wits end with number 1 and then a friend recommended the book cause her pediatrician had recommended it.

  8. Two daughters now grown, but infancy is still a blurry memory, and it is hard, even with the healthiest of babies!! (I never related to those women who wax nostalgic about the baby days). Have you tried the baby slings/packs? Maybe she would like to carried around by Dad or Mom all day, while you try to perform those day to day life activities. (She does look happy when you swaddled her). I found if I could do one thing, ( even as mundane as the laundry), then I felt some satisfaction at the end of the day. All I can say is hang in there, it does get better.
    Plus, I can’t tell you how impressed I am that you have been posting daily!! Kudos to you Summer.

    • We do wear her a few hours a day…til our backs hurt too much. 😉 Re: posting each day…I have done every day so far. We’ll see when that gives. Ha!

  9. I’m a huge advocate of the pacifier. And a blankee

    It’s all about offering up security and, for you, some well deserved piece of mind

  10. Sorry things are so difficult for you right now. 🙁 No nursing Mom ever wants to hear the “f” word I realize…….what about supplementing with it? Good luck and thanks for keeping us posted. Hope tomorrow is a brighter day.

  11. Been there! First daughter was a very relaxed kiddo. Second daughter screamed every second that she wasn’t held. And was very strong and squirmy and curious and holding her was exhausting!!! No hold the newborn in one hand and toss the salad with the other. Taking a shower, washing the dishes, doing the laundry-all felt like monumental tasks. It was a really difficult year. Unless you’ve experienced it (and I hadn’t with baby #1), you just can’t fathom how hard it is. I hope this phase ends soon!

  12. I’ve been there and remember how hard it was that I couldn’t “fix” the crying and make my child comfortable. For our third child, our pediatrician asked me to cut all dairy out of my diet, and that *really* made a huge difference with the crying and reflux. Wish I had known to try that for the first two! And since this is my first time commenting, thank you so much for all of your effort that goes into helping others in this hobby 🙂

    • Jean, dairy can be evil on those baby tummies for sure. We did that too after learning it w #1 and weeks in advance for #2. This time have added chocolate, too, since it seemed to cause increased chaos!

  13. I feel for you! My oldest had colic for close to 10 weeks, and he slept 45 minutes at a time, day or night. The second one had colic but it only last 6 weeks! The only thing that saved my back was sitting on an exercise ball to do the bouncing, because walking and bouncing gets old after awhile! I know everyone says it, but this too shall pass! Prayers!!!

  14. Hi Summer,
    Deal Dad and I had a lifeline at 5 months with Deal Kid, booked at 10 days out: a cruise. Carnival (at the time) was the only cruise line that took infants in camp for a few hours a day, just enough for us to get some sleep and sun. We got a balcony cabin so the time in the room (and there was a LOT) at least had us with a nice view and room service. (You know, this may deserve a post…)

    I know they’re not as easily hackable, but at the last minute and maybe from a Texas departure in low season you can find something pretty cheap. Little C could enjoy camp and a break, too. Columbus Day weekend isn’t that far off…

  15. Hang in there! I’ve got three little girls who all came with C-sections and rough breast feeding beginnings and I know how you’re feeling! Six weeks is the worst point and it is only going to get better from here! I also love Babywise and I think this is the point where the schedule will start to fall into place! You might be too exhausted to plan a trip right now but soon you will back in it. On the positive side, the feel of a newborn against my chest when we were both relaxing was as good a feeling as basking in the Hawaiian sun, and every bit as fleeting.

    • I agree completely! Those first 3 months are rough. Summer, hang in there. I wonder if this is harder for you because you know in your head that this could last much longer than 3 months and are dreading that turning out to be your reality again. It sounds like baby S is much more like the “normal” level of colicky, fussy, crying baby. My life changed dramatically around 3 or 4 mo of age for my second. I bought her a baby snowsuit that happened to catch the pacifier as it was falling out and she could suck it back in. Once she really got the hang of the pacifier we all were much happier.
      It sounds like you’ve got all the techniques down, but I’ve become convinced in retrospect that my crying-most -of-the-time baby was feeling as sleep deprived as me. She probably should’ve been swaddled enthusiastically, because the only time she would sleep more than about 30 minutes was when I wore her in the Moby wrap. Seriously stayed asleep for 4 hours in there once, but if I ever tried to put her down to sleep, I was lucky to get 30 minutes. I think that I should’ve worn her a lot more (since I knew that worked), and also swaddled her more. Maybe if she had also gotten a bit over her sleep deprivation life might’ve been better for all of us. As it was, she naturally grew out of it significantly by 4 mo. (PS, my mom used to affectionately, of course, call her “the screecher from the black lagoon”)

  16. I’m pretty new to the travel deals hobby, but was so happy to have found your site — your travel tips made it possible for me, my husband, and 3 yo to do a 6-week stay in Europe this past spring. Thank you!!
    I’m also compelled to post because I am so sorry that you’re going through this. The newborn days with my then-high need baby were SO hard; I’m only half-joking when I tell people that we have PTSD from it, and it’s the reason why we haven’t tried for a second child. Colic, reflux, constant nursing and slow weight gain bc of so much spitting up — all of that adds so many more layers of stress to an already-exhausting process of caring for a newborn and recovering from delivery. In my really tough times it would have been so helpful to read a post like yours just to know that it wasn’t me doing anything wrong; some babies are just more sensitive (and more alert!) than others. And thankfully you have a wonderful older child to remind you that this rough period DOES end, even though it feels like an eternity while you’re in it. Big hugs to you and your beautiful family!

  17. Mommy Points-

    I just read your post and had to send you a note. Your blogs have helped my family immensely in our travels. My daughter is almost 17 now, but I remember the days of colic and interrupted sleep very well. Things that worked to soothe her: 1) running something with white noise (e.g., a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner or static from a radio or white noise machine); 2) a small bouncer seat that included a battery that ran a vibrating mechanism–she hated swings or bouncers–but the vibrating aspect calmed her down each time; 3) walking outside; 4) a pacifier (which she rejected at 6 months so I didn’t worry about her getting too attached to it); and 5) Elmo– she liked hearing his voice. Thankfully, my fussy baby — who did not want to be held by anyone but her parents and who cried whenever we were anywhere loud or with bright lights (e.g., a restaurant) grew into a very calm, focused kid who was looking at books on her own by the time she was 4 and reading at 5. Very handy for long flights. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are all pulling for you.

  18. I really love and appreciate all of you who share similar experiences. Having a tough newborn experience is something that changes you and hopefully makes you more compassionate and helpful to those who go through that phase after you. I am thankful it is temporary and that we know from experience it doesn’t go on forever and good things await on the other end of the tunnel. I concur with the PTSD comment – we thought that after our first one, too! Thankfully this time around isn’t to that same level of intensity, but it is draining for sure. Appreciate the encouragement…and my baby only waking up twice last night!

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