This year I earned a new badge of parenting. I'm part of an elite club. I'm a mom of multiples. It's been quite a ride from the start of my twin pregnancy to where we are now. Our boys are almost 4 months old. We also have a toddler, a vivacious 3 year old girl. Our twins were also colicky, something we never experienced with our daughter. Life as we know it has changed drastically. The new normal is unlike anything I could have expected; it's amazing, unrelenting, exhausting, sometimes brutal, incredible, loving, beautiful, and above all blessed.
To tell you how we coped with colic, I want to start from the beginning:
I said so many times during my pregnancy that once the babies come it might be demanding but at least I wouldn't be pregnant with twins. Holy hell – this was a huge underestimation of what it would be like to parent twins with a toddler at home. Infants are hard no matter what – two infants, both of whom are colicky, have tested us to a new level as parents and humans. Twin pregnancy was like a warning of challenges ahead. I should have known it would be hard since from the first month of pregnancy to the brutal end I was completely hijacked. I had never been so tired for so many months on end and I'd never been in such pain for so long. My body was sacrificed to growing these two babies and every ounce of energy and nutrients I had were miraculously directed to the boys in utero. What does it feel like to be wholly depleted in this way? Like being run over by a Mac truck. By the end, I had sciatica down both legs and I could hardly walk my belly was so big and heavy.
When my water broke at 34 weeks 2 days, I was cheering on our way to the hospital – finally it was “go time”, finally the pregnancy was over and I was going to be the only occupant in my body. The twins were perfect, and though they were born a bit early they were in the NICU for only a couple weeks and were healthy and gorgeous. I delivered them vaginally (heck yeah I had the epidural – whoever created the epidural is in heaven holding hands with G-d), and I avoided a c-section and I'm grateful. Now I have earned a new badge as a super hero warrior who gave birth to twin babies like a boss. I am so fortunate to have had this outcome, made possible because I had an amazing doctor who was brilliant and completed a successful breach extraction of Baby B. It required tremendous skill – she is incredible (Dr. Misiak at Kaiser Permanente – shout out to you and your expertise)! However it happens, c-section, twin or single births, natural or epidural – all moms are superheros after delivering babies!
Within 2 weeks of bringing our baby boys home we were fully entrenched in the colic experience. For those who don't know, colic means that your baby cries for more than 3 hours, more than 3 days per week. We've averaged more like 5-8 hours of crying, both twins, 5-6 days per week. There is no exact science on why babies are colicky, but doctors believe it has to do with brain development — which is why it ends around 3-4 months — and digestion and gas are also believed to contribute. We're starting to see an end to this colic now, as I had heard we would, and I can actually stop to share some insights into handling it. We’ve used all the holistic remedies; gripe water, colic tabs, and probiotics. We are still using probiotics because it helped, and the holistic remedies sometimes took the edge off. I've gone online so many times to try to find out how to cope with colic, and what I've found is that nobody is writing about what has to be done to stay sane and what I believe is the best thing for the babies and our family…so for parents with really fussy babies, colicky babies, or who just need a briggity break, for the love of everything good and holy…PUT YOUR BABY DOWN.
Putting your baby down is the most loving thing you can do. Our doctor is amazing, and he helped us understand this so clearly. He said when babies are colicky, he worries most about the parents. No person is equipped to have a baby scream in your face for hours on end with no relief. Babies won't hurt themselves crying. Even the most gentle parents can lose their cool when faced with colic. The worst crying can do for your baby is cause hoarseness and spit up. But as parents, we feel terrible for our babies, and I can tell you I've never sweated as much and felt so helpless as I do operating on hardly any sleep due to 'round the clock feedings, while trying to soothe two screaming babies who cannot be comforted. Helpless doesn't even touch the feeling – it's like hopelessness, anger, fear, pain, and sickness, all wrapped up into one gruesome experience that goes on for months. It's freaking hard; the hardest thing my husband and I have ever done. I never had postpartum depression – thank goodness – but this was akin to it for sure, created not by hormones, but by sheer prolonged sleep deprivation and the stress of non-stop screaming babies.
We developed a strategy I’m hoping will help other families, and finally we feel like we're emerging from our cave of twin colic. Here’s what we do: Once we have cared for our colicky babies completely (fed, diapered, cuddled, and burped), we PUT THEM DOWN. We put them safely in their crib, in a dark room, with white noise, securely swaddled, baby monitor on, door closed. On the worst nights we wore earplugs that helped muffle the high pitched cry, because even though we know it's ok that they cry, it's jarring and it's heartbreaking. Check on your baby regularly to be sure they are still safe and ok, but let them cry and tucker themselves out, and fall asleep, for your own health and theirs. Our twins have never cried once put down for longer than 45 mins…which feels and sounds like an eternity, but they are FINE, and we survived too. We have to care for our toddler and do things like eat and clean and rest, so helping the babies learn to self-soothe is a must for all involved. If the babies don’t calm down, go get them and try to soothe them, feed them, change them…and if they still cry, back down they go. We started playing music in the house more, that helped too.
We know we have a journey ahead raising our daughter and twin boys, but nearly 4 months in we're seeing the fun of babies again: they’re sleeping better, and they are calm and able to be soothed! Their smiles and little happy feet kicking away are adorable and we love them. I want all parents who are going through the early months of raising twins, or if your babies are colicky, to feel secure knowing that putting them down will save you. They will cry, but they will soothe themselves, and you can take a deep breath and get it together again (and maybe have a glass of wine), which is priceless. This is just one family’s approach and I hope it helps yours.
Caroline Poland lives in San Francisco and works in the nonprofit sector as a youth educator. She is a proud M.O.M. of three beautiful littles – Sadie a happy toddler, and her 5 month old twins Sawyer, and Grayson. She and her husband have an interfaith family, and love to explore and develop new traditions with their growing family.