Well, you’ve done it. You’ve made it to the other side of colic, though every day (or every minute) you swore you wouldn’t survive. You’re an incredible and resilient bish and you’re ready to leave the Colic Days behind you! But what happens when months or even years later, you still find yourself getting triggered every time your child cries?
Unpacking our triggers is one of the hardest parts about parenting. Sure we can skate by without doing the work, but we run the risk of having excessive reactions when our kids do something mildly annoying and developmentally appropriate that probably wouldn’t bother us if we didn’t have some kind of PTSD / trauma surrounding it. Sometimes these emotional reactions are even fuelled by our own negative experience being parented a certain way.
OBVIIIIII, therapy is the best route for us to work through our baggage but we don’t always have access to it when we need it, especially in countries that don’t have affordable health care. So where does a parent who identifies as a Colic Survivor even start?
I really don’t know, but I’ve thought a lot about it in the past six years. Like, daily, because that’s how often one of my children cries and triggers what I call my Colic Mama Trauma. I’m very much NOT a therapist, just a two-time colic mom who’s been through the wringer with crying kiddos, but if you’re in the same boat as I am and want a jumping-off point, I’d love to share the only thing that helps me, in the hope that it’ll help someone else. What I’ve found when I’m being triggered by post-colic crying is grounding myself in reality in as many ways as I am able to in that moment. Let’s get into what that looks like mentally and physically.
Mentally, this looks like reminding myself what is true rather than getting swept away by emotions that are not rooted in my current reality. I repeat truths to myself in my head as I hold my crying child and reassure them that they are safe and loved (sometimes this reassures me as well, ha). The truths I have to remind myself about are going to seem glaringly obvious to someone who doesn’t have a tendency to spiral, but this is just what helps me. Some favourites include:
“The colic is not coming back just because they’re crying in this moment.”
“They won’t be crying forever, this moment will pass.”
“They won’t be sick forever. Everything is just a phase. Nothing is permanent.”
“I am the best mother for my child.” (this is one I tell all colic parents)
Say whatever you need to say to yourself to bring your mind back to those truths. As you can probably tell, my colic PTSD tends to manifest as catastrophic thinking (“this is my life now! I’m going to have a crying child forever! I can’t do this! I’m a bad parent!”) so the grounding truths I have to tell myself might seem silly. Write out a few that you think will help you and put them somewhere you can find them again next time you’re feeling triggered by excessive crying.
Grounding myself in reality in the physical sense means getting myself outside in any way I possibly can. This advice is some of the first I received as a mother, back during the colic days with baby Hennie. I had become a total hermit, terrified of leaving the house in case my infant cried. She was a November baby and I stayed inside almost the entire winter, just bouncing on my yoga ball and crying. Finally I confided in a friend who encouraged me to go for short walks around the block every day. “It’ll make you feel good” she told me, “and if worse comes to worst, her cries won’t seem as loud if you’re outside.”
She was right, of course. I found that my colicky baby cried less when we were out walking around, and when she did cry I felt much less anxious about it. Being outside made me feel like a more capable first-time mom, even though they were very short walks at the start, and seeing other people going about their normal days offered perspective that I desperately needed and reminded me that the phase I was in wouldn’t last forever.
These days, in my post-colic, three-kids life, I still try to get outside every day and it still helps and offers much needed perspective. As I cart my whiny kids to the park around the corner or school drop-off or even just playing in the yard, I often find that their moods change and take on a lighter feel when they’re outdoors. And if they don’t, well, their whining doesn’t seem as loud when we’re outside. Thanks for the advice, Amber.
When all else fails I try for a Hard Reset. Sometimes it’s the kids who are being difficult but sometimes it’s me. When one of the kids is having a tough time I find it manageable but there are times when all three are struggling. When that happens I often wake up with an attitude of discouragement and defeat right off the bat, and that makes it pretty much impossible for any of us to get out of our slump (do you also find sometimes that parent’s attitudes set the tone for the day rather than the other way around?). When I find myself in that headspace I choose a high energy activity to do and decide it’ll be a hard reset for my attitude. Then I do it for as long as I need to to feel a little better. Sometimes this means doing a peloton ride while the kids watch a show or going for a solo run if my partner’s at home. If I have the kids and it’s not raining I’ll go for a fast, long walk and put a podcast on my headphones. If it’s pouring rain sometimes I’ll blast a killer playlist in the kitchen and bake/dance. For me, this helps me get out of my head and back into my body.
*Please note that the Hard Reset really only works for a bad day, not a deep dissatisfaction in general. I am absolutely not suggesting that dancing or going for a walk are going to solve your probs if you’re in a critical burn out stage of life or going through something exceedingly difficult. It’s just for when we wake up a little crabby and impatient and need to run it off.
Once again, I’m not a therapist and I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone how to live their life. But I’ve spent six years working through my Colic Mama Trauma and have developed a few coping tools that make my tough days just a tad easier for me. There are a lot of us Colic Parents out there, so I hope one of them helps you, even if it’s just a little.