Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Surviving Colic Part 1

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Surviving Colic: Part One
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev
I have not written much about my youngest son, who is now almost 11 months old. The truth is that I am not sure what to say about this latest hurricane that has turned my life upside down.

We were warned that two children meant more than twice the work. We are told that having two children "really" made you a family, in a different way than just being two parents and one child. We were told that we were now two against two, and we would be irrevocably turning the balance against ourselves.

I am a family therapist. I could (and do) lecture on sibling rivalry, and the natural regression older children experience when a younger sibling is added to a family. I understand the stress that affects couples when they are trying to manage the high needs of newborns. I understand the impact of coping with the inherent homophobia of adoption agencies and antiquated legal systems while building our queer family.

I thought I was prepared. I longed for a baby to hold and rock and cuddle. I was so hungry for another baby, a hunger that only those of us obsessed with wanting children can understand. I had waited a long time, and I thought I was prepared psychologically, financially and emotionally to open my arms and heart for this new child.

Then came the colic. Oh, I had heard about colic. I had read articles and books about the difficulties of managing colicky babies. I confess to having thought it all sounded a bit overdone. After all, babies cry, some babies cry a lot, right? I had read about how having a colicky baby can make new parents feel inadequate since the child is so difficult to comfort. I though that perhaps that was true for first time parents, but I had already been through infancy once with my older son and thought I was more confident than that. I had heard how sleep deprivation can make you so exhausted you begin to feel like you are losing your mind. I had thought, "been there, done that," the first time around. I had thought I was prepared, but oh, one is never prepared for colic.

There is no way to explain the daily exhaustion caused by a screaming child who will simply not be comforted. My plans with this little one to work from home for the first few months, as I had done with my older boy, became impossible. We hired a friend to "jiggle" the baby for a few hours a day, so I could attend to my work. My partner and I "shared" the night feedings and night pacing depending on who had more responsibility at work the next day. Someone recommended we lay him on towels on the washing machine and that the rocking would put him to sleep. We bought white noise machines and invested in homeopathic chamomile. The laundry piled up around us, as did the dishes. The Chinese take-out answered the phone, saying, "And how are you tonight?" Our older boy began to take off his socks at night and fold them neatly to wear the next day

Although on some level you know that others have survived this, the isolation is overwhelming and you become too exhausted to do anything other than survive.

Stay tuned for Part Two next week.