Rhymes with frolic

Today was a bad day.

Maybe it wouldn’t have felt quite as miserable if the day before it had not been similar. Or if those two days hadn’t followed so many others just like them. Since the unhappiness of Max started a few weeks ago, I haven’t wanted it to be true, but the fact of the matter is: Max has colic.

Colic, that stupidly all-encompassing word that just means “crying a whole lot and for a long time.” It’s not an infection you can treat with medicine or drops to the ear. You can’t rub a salve on the part that hurts. No one really knows why some babies are fussy for weeks (or, oh god, months) on end. The theory is that maybe their systems just haven’t matured and so dealing with all the functions of existence are difficult: digesting, sleeping, feeling, etc. I get it. I do. It’s hard to be alive sometimes. Still, my sympathy is flagging.

As irrational and absurd as I know it is, there is part of me that worries we caused this somehow. Like we haven’t been chill enough as parents and so have passed on some anxieties to this sweet baby, who can’t handle the stress. And we perpetuate it with our frantic attempts to soothe him, day after day.

Also, it makes me sad. It makes me sad that the worst time of day for him is the exact time his big brother and sister get home and so dinner/bath/bedtime ends up being a grim march toward shuffling them off to their rooms so we can focus on the other kid who needs our attentions so acutely. And, what do they know of this new brother, except that he squalls? Most of the hours they spend with him, he is red-faced and squinched, making too much noise for them to want to hold him, or play with him, or hear their TV shows, or read bedtime stories, or tell us about their day. Not that we have much patience to listen. They deserve better than that, and so does Max. And frankly, so do L and I.

Not to mention that nothing can get done. NOTHING. The dishes teeter, caked with food, in the sink; the diapers overflow their bin; the emails go unanswered; the thank you notes remain unsent. Today for the second day in a row I did not shower, adding new sweat to dried sweat, hair greasy and stiff in places from some unidentifiable goo. Every time I passed by a mirror when pacing and pacing the house, Max in arms, I would see the bulges over the top of my waistband and feel disgust at myself for not looking better. At six weeks postpartum! And I know that’s crazy, but my ability to think rationally about things is the first thing to go at about minute 10 into the multiple wail-a-thons. At minute 20 I despair for things ever to be normal again. And at around an hour or so, my anger comes out.

Anger. At a baby. What kind of assholery is that? But it’s there all the same, and once you feel it, you hate yourself for it. More than once I’ve put Max down on our bed and simply walked out of the room, shaking with rage at the fact that I can’t make him calm. But hey, kettle: you can’t keep your own self calm. Why the resentment towards pot? Because, that’s why. And so we shed tears together in separate places.

And then I worry: what if no one wants to be around him? What if they just think of him as “that fussy baby” who disrupts the peace? People don’t ask to hold a crying child. Wailing infants are not passed around groups of friends so everyone can get their turn. How will anyone get to know him? How do we get to know him, either, when all of our energy is being spent trying to get him to be quiet, calm down, go to sleep? The periods of happy interaction seem too few and far between. They are there, but just not often enough to recharge my tired emotion muscles, sore from keeping it together for a baby who cannot keep it together.

Right now we are deep in the land of discontent, and it consumes my days, chewing me up and spitting me out, until I start feeling like this incredible blessing is a burden. But even so, I fall into to bed every night hopeful that the morning sun will burn away the fog, revealing the view I know is there, peeking through on the other side.


1 Ginnymom { 06.23.12 at 10:27 am }

Oh, none of you deserve this. Max especially. Prayers for all of you. Wish I could help more.

As I recall, my fussiest baby was the first one, no names need be mentioned. But I didn’t have two other children needing care…..

Just really sorry. I hope it is better today, or SOON.

2 Leigh Ann Laney { 06.23.12 at 12:19 pm }

Oh :( I am so sorry. I can’t even imagine how painful and frustrating that must be. But, I PROMISE you I will WANT to hold that fussy baby. Because I can. Because you need and deserve a physical, emotional, and auditory break. And I PROMISE you I will enjoy every second of holding that squirmy, fussing baby. Because I miss the feel and smell of a baby. And because he is the son of dear friends of mine, so I already love him. Hang in there.

3 Dorothy { 06.23.12 at 12:40 pm }

I was thinking EXACTLY what Leigh Ann said, she is on a roll with words today. First the anniversary fb post and now this. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this, especially with two other kids! Prayers for you and your family. I can’t wait to take my turn with Max. We can entertain noah and rosie while you love on Max, or we take Max so you can love on noah and rosie (or take a bath) we’ve got a big garden tub (no jets, but super comfy). Just 8 more days!

4 Samantha { 06.23.12 at 1:58 pm }

In the words of Mrs. Doubtfire: HELP IS ON THE WAY, DEAR!

I love all of you and I work in a liquor store. Basically, I got you, bro.

5 Karen { 06.23.12 at 5:13 pm }

So sorry to hear this, Rachel… it WILL GET BETTER. Hold onto that fact, and take some time for yourself too. Get a massage… and a mani/pedi. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is DEFINITELY not your fault. (((HUGS)))

6 Grammy { 06.23.12 at 8:22 pm }

And you have a Grammy here if you don’t want to take Max to the beach or out to dinner while you’re in SC :-)

7 Rachel D { 06.23.12 at 11:13 pm }

I’m sorry, it must be so frustrating not to know what’s wrong and not to be able to make it better. Just keep treading water and someday (soon I hope) it will get better. I wish we lived closer and could help!
Oh, and I think you are doing absolutely the right thing to take a break and leave the room when it gets to be too much.

8 stink { 06.24.12 at 12:55 pm }

I love you and Samantha!!!

9 libby { 06.26.12 at 5:11 pm }

oh hon. i’m sorry i didn’t read this sooner- i was in town this weekend and would have gladly held Senor Fusserstein for as long as was helpful.
i spent a few days with kelly fitzgerald and mike frandsen while emory had colic- it took all three of us reasonably well adjusted adults to handle a 7 wk old baby. you’re a rockstar. today and everyday.

10 Deb Sperry { 06.26.12 at 5:32 pm }

I wish I had a good answer or solution or something. But I don’t (and I doubt extra advice would be helpful anyway). But I do have prayer. So here is my prayer for you:

Dearest Lord,
Lover and giver of precious miracles and new life. I thank you for Max, for his life, and his health and the blessing that he is. I ask that you would calm his body and his spirit. Ease whatever might hurt or be uncomfortable. Be with Rachel and L, give them rest, give them strength, give them hope. Provide for them the right words, the right songs, the right touch, so that they may be empowered to calm their son, your son, exactly as he needs. Provide family and friends who offer support, care, and respite so they can get through the crazy days of young life. Be with Noah and Rosie to love their brother with all the gusto they love life and help him to shower them with giggles and smiles so they can connect easily and readily with the latest addition to their family. Lord, I trust that where we find only fatigue and frustration, you find answers. Please provide the perfect answer to this family now. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

11 Jill { 07.13.12 at 5:34 pm }

Oh Rachel and Luke, I wish I had known this sooner. I would not have minded one bit taking Max for a nice 2 hour walk in the evening, so you could have some time as a “quiet” family. Tucker was like that and he was my first, so, of course, I knew it was my bad mothering causing the colic. I know you are now in respite in Florida and then I will be out of town for a month. God forbid he still be in this state in mid August, I will be glad to give you some rest.

12 t-mom { 07.13.12 at 5:41 pm }

I had one of those fussy babies also. I had twins first and thought I was really good at the mother thing then I had baby # 3!! She was kicked out of the nursery at the hospital because they could not do anything for her and had other babies to care for. 24 hrs a day she cried for over 4 months until she got mobile when it seemed to ease up. I didn’t let others hold her because passing her around kept her up even more. Sensory overload!! or just her personality. Her baby calendar just has a line through weeks saying “bad week”.
Hang in there. It will get better. That fussy baby is getting married on September 22 and we all have great stories to tell at her wedding! If we hadn’t had to pace the floors every night how would we have known how many steps it took to circle the house!

13 Mandy { 07.15.12 at 6:40 pm }

Oh, goodness, girl. I feel for you. I was there seven years ago with my only child. His “witching hour” was right when I came home from work, and I was convinced (as crazy as it sounds) that he hated ME. He cried constantly, it seemed. We went to every doctor…tried every formula…tried everything I could to help ease it. Fortunately, I had a huge support system in my family and husband, or I truly think I would have lost my mind. It eased up around the time he was 4 or 5 months old. If I had it to do over again, I would have just held him without feeling so anxious, been a LOT easier on myself, and not tried to think I had to be a “perfect” mom. I had my expectations of mothering a newborn set way too high. Unfortunately, “time” was the only thing that helped us finally see the other side of colic. Hang in there and don’t feel ashamed for asking for help when you need it. I hope the little guy feels better soon.

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