The Colic Outcasts
Hi! So I discovered your pregnancy calendar during my last pregnancy and through that found your advice column and now your columns and blog are some of the first places I go when I hit the interwebs. I have an 11 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. About a year ago my husband and I decided that now that our kids were getting old enough to do some really cool things with, it would be the perfect time to hit the reset button and have another one. So now here I am with a 3 month old son. I love him to pieces there is no doubt about that, but he’s not really a happy baby. He is really colicky and we’re not sure if he has a problem with milk protein so I’ve been on a strict no dairy diet to try and help ease his upset. He’s on Zantac, occasionally gets gripe water, and pretty much has to have gas relief drops at every feeding. Our doctor says to wait it out and around 3 or 4 months he will magically become this happy baby. Well, until then he’s a very sad baby. Lots of crying and sobbing in our house and it’s not all him!
Last night I learned that my parents and brother and sister-in-law have been meeting about once a week just to have dinner at one or the other’s house and my family never even gets a phone call. I feel like no one wants to be around us because my new one is hard to keep happy for more than 30 or so minutes at a time. I don’t know how to talk to any of them about this. I don’t want them to feel bad, but I don’t think I can do it without getting a little weepy. Having a baby that seems to be in pain for the majority of his waking hours is stressful and emotionally agonizing. I have tried so hard to fix him and I just can’t. I just have to wait it out and I could really use the support of my extended family it hurts to think they are avoiding me for the very reason I most need them right now.
I don’t know what I’m asking for here. I guess maybe how do I let them know it bothers me to be excluded like this without sounding like a petulant child?
OMG, you guys had a TACO night?
Ugh, I’m sorry! Intentional snub or otherwise, that’s some grade A asshat behavior. I admit I tend to overreach for the benefit of the doubt — maybe they assume you guys don’t even want to get together since it’s a hassle and interruption of your routine? Maybe this is a tradition that predates the new baby that you’re just now hearing about? Maybe they drink a ton of wine and play Cards Against Humanity all night so it’s no kids allowed, especially tweens?
Or maybe they are just being exclude-y boneheads who don’t understand how isolated and worn down you’re feeling right now. And that seekrit family taco nights are NOT HELPING.
Since you admit you aren’t sure what you’re asking for, let me ask you a question: What do you care most about here? Getting included and invited to the dinner gatherings, or expressing the fact that the exclusion thus far has bothered you?
If it’s the latter, and I were you, I would probably start with my mom, in private. And I wouldn’t worry too much about getting weepy. This is more than just the dinner nights, after all. Take a more confessional “Mom, I’m struggling here” approach to the convo rather than an accusatory “I KNOW WHAT U GUYS ATE LAST SUNDAY.” Share some of the other things you’ve shared here, especially if you have the tendency to put on a good strong Supermom face in front of others. Newborns are HARD. And your particular newborn has upped the difficulty level by a million percent. Colic is HARD. Reflux is HARD. Eliminating dairy is HARD. You understand that it sucks to be around a baby who cries all the time but dear lord, can she imagine what it’s been like for you? Tell her that you’re feeling really alone and isolated and so when you heard that they are hanging out with your sibling’s family on a regular basis you can’t help but take it super personally right now.
In a perfect world, she SHOULD feel sufficiently shamed and immediately vow to include you and/or toss in an offer to bring some earplugs over and babysit for an hour while you go get your nails done or stare into blissful space at a coffeehouse. If she gets defensive and insists that no, it wasn’t that you guys were being excluded, this is just a separate tradition/thing they do with your brother, it’ll be up to you how much you want to push back with your hurt feelings. (I personally know that tired, worn-to-a-nub emotional state you’re in right now, but sadly some people are just too far removed from the postpartum experience to have sufficient sympathy and will try to brush you off as being overly hormonal, like you’re just dealing with bad PMS.) At the very least, she should recognize that you’re desperate for time with other adults and need a social outlet. If not… well, I’d probably count my blessings to not have to hang out with a bunch of insensitive clods and stay home and watch more Netflix.
Now if you decide to forgo any confrontation over the past and simply want to re-insert yourself into the get-togethers, start with hosting one of your own. Make it a pot-luck. Or order in. Then you can be at home with all necessary baby gear and not feel like you’re obligated to leave the room every time he cries or wants to nurse. Even if the night doesn’t go perfectly, express your heartfelt gratitude to everybody for coming — God, you really needed this, you know? You’ve been going crazy feeling like a shut-in lately and are definitely ready for a change — and bring up ideas for future family togetherness. Maybe you can pump and your husband stays home while you and the other kids hang out with the grandparents. Maybe you could all try brunch or a morning farmer’s market if your baby’s crying/witching hours tend to be worse at night. Show them that you are willing and able to make the effort to not simply disappear down the new baby rabbit hole.
I’d also recommend finding other, non-family social outlets to help ease the isolation. A La Leche League or other breastfeeding support group would be an excellent, non-judging-of-crying-babies place to start. You’ll probably meet other moms there who went through colic and allergies and who can offer advice, a killer swaddle or just a sympathetic ear. By getting “out there” and finding a new tribe, you’ll hopefully feel less bruised by the perceived rejection of the old, non-newborn-friendly one.
I know it all seems bleak and endless and grind-y right now, but your baby WILL get easier. That little crying, fussy ham will shoot up into a delightful little person in no time and your family — who maybe just aren’t that into babies? maybe they take THEIR inability to help him/you too personally and worry you think they’re incompetent or something? — will come to love him and look forward to his presence. In the meantime, be honest with yourself about your needs and limitations and don’t feel ashamed to speak up and make those needs known.