Looking back now, those early days of crying were a tell-tale indicator. However we had a few other distractions. Whilst breastfeeding was going well this time (because, lets be honest, when something with a tongue akin to a cat’s is sucking at and pulling your nipple in ways that defeat imagination, you’d never say its going brilliantly), I got mastitis the second week after bringing him home. Wow, when they say you know it’s mastitis when you get it, that there is no mistaking how quickly you feel incredibly sick, they aren’t kidding. So for a week I was death warmed up. Mainly due to that ‘wonderful’ predicament of being incredibly sick but only being allowed to take Panadol because I was breastfeeding… Panadol just doesn’t cut it. On top of that we were also juggling a very independent and stubborn toddler and get the final touches done to our house renovations.
I have heard said many times that God only gives you what you can handle… I used to believe that, but there are many days of late when I think he needs to re-evaluate what I can handle.
Those initial first few weeks of our little man crying almost every time he was awake, got worse. In hospital, the midwife in the nursery had even sent him back because they couldn’t settle him – again, should’ve given us a hint. The amount of sleep we were getting was steadily decaying with every passing day. By week five, my husband and I were really suffering. Our little man was averaging ten hours of sleep in each twenty four hour block, when he should’ve been closer to seventeen hours.
Then he broke out in a rash. The rash started on his face but after a couple of days was almost all over his body. It looked like someone had gone to town with tiny, red, pin pricks. Except that sometimes those tiny, red, pin pricks ganged up into angry red angry blotches. A visit to our local GP left us with a referral to a dermatologist, for suspected eczema, and a steroid cream which I was reluctant to apply to a baby so young. A few days later we went to another GP, as things were getting worse. No joy. Finally, after seeing the dermatologist, we have settled the rash down into ‘almost gone’. Although we still aren’t quite sure if its eczema or milia, so we have another appointment in six weeks. However the almost disappearance of the rash didn’t stop the crying. It didn’t stop the horrifying back arching while his face turned purple as his little body fought the burping. The burping which would often bring an onslaught of vomiting or a horrible gurgle sound in his throat which sounded like he’d drown on vomit that didn’t quite make it all the way up.
Not happy with the “I don’t need to ask you any questions because I can tell what’s wrong just by looking at him” paediatrician, otherwise known as the “I’m so arrogant I know everything and will tell you what your son has been doing so don’t need to talk to you” paediatrician, I went to our GP to ask for a referral to the peadeatrician I had for my daughter. The GP asked lots of questions. I told her about the constant crying until he was purple that would last on and off for hours, the back arching and refusal to burp, how his body would go as stiff as a board, how he would also throw up before, during and well after feeds – sometimes a lot but many times just into his mouth or throat, I told her how he would latch on, cry, pull off then latch back on ferociously… All these told me something was seriously amiss. Then she gave me that smile.
You know that smile. It’s the one you get when they are patronizing you. The “I’m the doctor and you’re the over paranoid parent,” smile. I was advised that things would get better in time. To wait. Now, at this point, if he’d been my first child I probably would’ve as she’d instructed, and waited. But I’m not a first time mum. I know crying. My daughter did it. We had shocker nights with her. But those nights weren’t EVERY night. She didn’t look in pain – purple faced, back arching, stiff as a board IN PAIN. So I stuck to my guns and got that referral. Now again, being a ‘second time around’ mum I had already made the paediatrician appointment over a week ago, knowing I could cancel it but yet if I wanted the appointment, it could take a while to get one.
I realise some of you seasoned mums out there have an inkling of what our problem is. Our paediatrician so knowingly said to us, unless you’ve had a baby with full-blown reflux, you don’t really understand how horrible it is. Our precious little man has gastroeasphiagal reflux, silent reflux, colic and a few other digestion issues. We suspected the reflux, my mother suspected the colic. Little did we know what an overachiever he was to master all three. But at least we now have answers as to why our little man was having such a horrid start to life, why it was taking over an hour to settle him down for a sleep that might only last twenty minutes, why he would only settle under the shower or lying upright on us or in our carrier. But most importantly, at week7 we had an action plan… which unfortunately involved half a pharmacy. But by that stage I would try most anything to relieve his pain and possibly gain us more than two to three hours of sleep at a time.
So if you see me out, please don’t say… “Oh my baby had reflux too,” because unless you existed on no sleep for months, had to prop their bassinet on bricks to elevate them, walked endlessly up and down hallways with a purple faced bub whose back is arched in pain, crying yourself because you can’t end their pain, crying because you’d do anything for some sleep… You haven’t truly experienced a bub with reflux. And so help the person who tells me, “Here, I’ll take your (screaming) baby. They’re not going to settle on you because you smell like milk/they can sense you’re stressed.” Like they have the magic cure. Like the problem was me…
Maybe I’ll manage to be a little more tolerant of these ‘helpful’ people when I get more than four hours of sleep.