Wins, Woes, and Screaming
Your stories for the week
Welcome back to Wins and Woes, a moment in the week when we step back from the data to share your stories about the ups and downs of pregnancy and parenting.
Today we have three stories, and a question from a reader who is desperately searching for solutions (and support) for her unsoothable child.
As always, this is your space, so please leave a comment for any of our readers and contribute your own story or question for a future newsletter here. We love to hear from you.
Every night, my 3-year-old goes to the fruit stand on our corner, where they give him Andes chocolates — let’s just say he’s charmed the neighborhood (and he does pay sometimes; he tried to buy 10 with $20 the other day). When we got home last night, he got very upset that I wouldn’t let him have all three. I sat down and drew him a happiness chart demonstrating how happy each chocolate would make him and how he would get less happiness from each chocolate if he ate them all at once. When I finished, he asked me to draw circles around the happy faces and then agreed to only have one and save the others. Economics 101 for the win!
[Emily’s note: What is being illustrated here is that having one makes you much happier than zero, but two is only a bit better than one (and so on). This is the lesson of “diminishing marginal returns.”]
Twins and a Toddler
As a mom of 4.5-month-old twins and a 2.5-year-old, I hear “bad mom” in my head more than I would like. There isn’t enough mom to go around. I recently realized my negative self-talk was a problem when my mom spent the week here and I heard her negative self-talk over and over. I realized that her voice became my voice. But I don’t want my voice to become my kids’ voice.
My biggest struggle lately has been with feeding. The twins are exclusively breastfed, but for the past couple weeks, I haven’t pumped as much as they are eating while I’m at work. Logically I know that to exclusively breastfeed twins for 4.5 months is a huge win, but I am my own biggest critic and can’t help but feel like a bad mom because my body is failing my babies.
Moms Supporting Moms (with Sushi)
Recently, a friend who is pregnant for the first time shared how much of a game-changer it was to have seen me eating sushi when I was pregnant. She’s a physician, and never knew what the causal literature (or lack thereof) suggested. It meant more than I expected to have unknowingly led by example for another soon-to-be mom, and I’m excited to have a community where we lift each other up, even with something as small as sushi.
Now it’s time for this week’s reader question:
Our 13-month-old came out of the womb screaming, and it feels like he has barely taken a breath since. The “colic” did not subside at six weeks, or 12, or even a year, when everyone said it would. We have had bouts of reprieve, but on the whole, our baby is extremely strong-willed and seems susceptible to what we would describe as panic attacks and working himself into an oblivion that he cannot soothe himself or be soothed out of (e.g. crying fits that last 3+ hours).
It feels like we have tried everything — probiotics, dietary changes, different formulas, solid food, craniosacral therapy, dermatologists, sleep training, gas drops, gripe water, different pediatricians, countless pediatrician visits, ER visits (stomach ultrasound revealed nothing sinister, likely gas), antidepressants (for Mom), therapy (for Mom). I have tried getting an early intervention appointment in case they could tell us something about our baby (to no avail, no referral). I just spent the morning googling alternative/shamanic healers in my area because I don’t know what else to do.
He presents as healthy, hitting his developmental milestones, and every time we go to the doctor he is of course fine and smiling. Thank goodness he is “healthy,” but it affords us zero help and makes me feel even more isolated. My partner and I are going crazy. It feels like we are on an island because we can’t quite describe the special hell the last year-plus has been to our friends with similar-age kids who all are seemingly happy and thriving. Can anyone relate? Does our baby just hate us? Does anyone have any suggestions? It devastates me to say this, but I’m at the point where I feel like someone else can do this better than we can.
—Desperately Seeking Solutions
This is a tough one. What do you think?
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Desperately Seeking Solutions - you asked if anyone can relate. Your note resonated with me so much I started sobbing at my desk, especially this part: "My partner and I are going crazy. It feels like we are on an island because we can’t quite describe the special hell the last year-plus has been to our friends with similar-age kids who all are seemingly happy and thriving."
Our 17M old's challenges are different than yours (a complete inability to sleep through the night despite reading every book, consulting with professionals etc and severe disinclination to eat to the point of flirting with a feeding tube). It's exhausting, I frequently feel like I must be incompetent and that I'm failing my child and that someone else could do it better. I look at my friends with more "normal" children and am jealous and infuriated that they are able to access the joy of parenting while I am just stuck in the awfulness every day with a child who refuses to do the two things that are most critical to his development - sleep and eat! Well meaning friends offer advice like, have you tried "x" (insert basic parenting technique) and I want to scream because, a) of course I have and b) do you really think I'm so dumb I haven't turned over at least the basic stones (and even the oddball ones?!).
What makes it harder is exactly what you cited - our child is technically healthy and significantly exceeding milestones and I feel tremendous guilt them for complaining when I know that others with sick children would trade my reality for theirs in a heartbeat. It's all just so hard.
We have seen glimmers of progress as he gets older and his communication skills get better and I just try to focus on that and on putting one foot ahead of the other. Dressing my child in cute outfits also helps me to access my love for him more easily when he's being particularly trying. (I know this sounds awful and judge away, but it helps me).
So I have no suggestions other than +1 to the person who said keeping a log helps identify patterns, video tape some of his worst episodes so that doctors cannot dismiss them (I find telling doctors my son doesn't eat isn't impactful but showing them video of him literally refusing to eat anything all day was much more convincing) and keep trying oddball things (the gluten one below was interesting). And hang in there, it will get easier as he can tell you what's wrong and that day is closer than you think. Keep working on language skills as much as you can to get there soon!
Desperately Seeking Solutions, I could've written your post. Chiropractor, gastroenterologist, allergist, we saw them all. For us, the answer ended up being gluten. Everyone looked at us like we're crazy when I told them my 15-month old was gluten free. You're a GREAT mom for looking for solutions. So many people just write off hard/screaming/colicky babies and say they'll grow out of it. Maybe they will, but it's absolute torture in the meantime. I cried almost daily for 15 months. I know you'll find the answer. Keep advocating for your child (and yourself). I'm really proud of you. One day you'll look back and understand how strong you are. Mine is 2.5 now and a happy little toddler (though has a flair for the drama and is highly sensitive, but nothing like that first year plus). I wish you the best.