She’s screaming again. She’s been screaming, one raging tantrum right into the next for the past three hours. Maybe longer. I lost count. It’s easier when Brian is here because we can trade off. We have this shared look that communicates our exasperation. A look that says I can’t take it anymore, and so we take over for each other. Trying to soothe, trying to understand, and never really succeeding.
We sleep with our running shoes on because that helps Gwen, holding this tiny baby up against our chests…and running. We jog around our house until the one who is jogging is about to die and then we trade places. If there weren’t two of us we couldn’t make it.
Besides running there are very few ways to soothe her, and believe me we try EVERYTHING; rockers, swings, strollers, about sixteen different baby carriers and she just keeps on screaming. To get her to stop crying we cradle her in our arms so our limbs form a loop around her little body and then we swing her as high and as low as we can without dumping her out on her head. We also bounce her on a yoga ball. And I’m not talking about little jiggly bounces. We bounce so high that our butts lift off the ball and then crash back down onto the thing, while we hope it hasn’t rolled out from under us. It happened once and it wasn’t pretty. So we keep running, swinging, and bouncing because these are the ONLY ways to get her to sleep. Needless to say, we are both skinny and exhausted.
Once she finally conks out she will only sleep when she is being held. So we sit holding her until our entire bodies ache and then tingle as our bums and limbs fall asleep. It’s hard to describe the feeling of holding an infant for two hours while she uses your body as a crib. This might sound like a sweet time to spend with a darling baby, but it stops being sweet when you have held that baby through every last wink of sleep for the past three months.
I mean, we just want the kid to sleep…and anywhere but on us. Sometimes if we are lucky she will sleep in her crib, but she has to be REALLY tired, to the point where she has nothing left to fight with. If we put her down she will only stay asleep for fifteen minutes or so, and the only sound loud enough and shrill enough to sooth her is the hairdryer. We burn out two of them letting them run on high in her bedroom.
Even though she loves to be held she can’t stand to be touched, strange, I know. Rubbing lotion on her is like torture unless we have her wrapped tight in a towel and only touch one body part at a time. We have to squeeze her fingernails almost to the point of exploding before trimming them, and she will only tolerate one or two being cut at a time, so she always has a hand full of long and scraggly nails that make her look like a tiny Edward Scissor Hands.
Baths probably make the neighbors think that we are killing her. She screams as though the water is a toxic chemical that is burning her skin off, and maybe that’s how she feels, so she never really gets good and clean. We just dip her in the sink or wipe her with a washcloth. She is starting to stink. Man the poor kid has it rough. We are the ones complaining when she is the screaming, stinky kid.
On top of all of this her little body is always rigid. She holds herself tight, like someone keeps poking her in the ribs. Her tiny nose is always clogged and she projectile vomits all over everything. We change her clothes at least eight or nine times a day, despite the rages that ensue from doing so. She hates having her diapers changed too and there is no way that we are ever putting her into anything frilly or tight. She will let us know when her clothing is uncomfortable by letting out a series of honking and aggressive wails that leave you scrambling to change her as fast as your bone tired hands will move. When I say honking, I mean HONKING. Her nickname isn’t Goose for nothing.
One night in particular she wakes up honking mad, and I change her soaking clothes and then feed her. I just get her back to sleep when she craps explosively all over herself like a poop bazooka. I seriously debate whether or not to just let her sleep covered in crap because it will take me over an hour to get her to go back to sleep. Of course I can’t do that to her, so I change her, waking her up again. (She always wakes up like someone has shot her full of adrenaline. There is no easing between states of consciousness. She is AWAKE or ASLEEP. Nothing in between.)
I jog her around the house for about another hour and just when she is finally asleep she pukes all over herself. I have been up for two hours and I see yet another hour of wakefulness looming in front of me if I dare to wake her up again. No…not just another hour awake, another hour of running. So I take a towel and dab it around her face and neck, soaking up most of the milk vomit. Then I stuff a Kleenex into her pajamas so she won’t feel the puke soaked clothes while she sleeps. I am also covered in various baby goo, but I can’t put her down or she will wake up yet again, so I crawl into bed and jiggle her to sleep for the rest of the night, trying not to wake her with my sobs, or with the tears that drip down my face and onto her head.
We take her to endless doctors grasping at any reason they can give to explain why she is so uncomfortable and so angry. We get a diagnosis of GERD (acid reflux) and we think, “This is it!” So we try medicine. Nothing. We try positioning. Nothing. We try diet changes. Nothing. We try a chiropractor. Nothing. I hope I am painting a picture here. We want it to be GERD. But it isn’t. Oh sure she has reflux, but that isn’t the real problem. The real problem is unfortunately much bigger.
We didn’t know about her diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder when she was an infant, but we probably should have. At least I should have, and I still feel terrible for not knowing because I have completed an entire training series in this area. I can spot another kid who is suffering from this disorder from about a mile away. So why couldn’t I see my own child’s suffering for what it actually was? I wish I wouldn’t have been so blind. But a parent is always too close to their own child to ever truly see all that they are. I just wanted to help my hurting, tired, and overwhelmed baby, but I didn’t know how.
If you are a parent of an infant diagnosed with colic, or GERD, or just have a baby that isn’t helped by conventional methods of soothing please consider that it might be sensory related. Current research is beginning to show that babies with severe colic may have SPD. If people tell you to wait it out, or give it time, DON’T. Get a referral to a pediatric occupational therapist. The best case scenario will include an evaluation that simply tells you that your child is fine. If your child does have SPD, at least you will know the cause and you will have a team of people who can help you. Feel free to message me through the contact page at www.onlynowiknow.com if you would like more information or even if you just want to talk to another parent who understands this unique struggle.