What it’s like surviving acid reflux or colic:
Imagine someone hands you your precious newborn baby, and then imagine she NEVER. STOPS. CRYING. One may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. For a while, before meds, Elizabeth (“E” for short) would either be sleeping or crying. I will never forget the looks from other Moms, that, “What is wrong with that baby?” look. I rarely left the house for the first six weeks for fear of a full-on, blood-curdling, unstoppable juggernaut, purple-faced, screaming fit. Every day, my husband John and I felt like John McClane at the end of Die Hard, exhausted, filthy (from spit-up), sweaty (no lie), wounded, and hobbling around broken glass barefooted to get Elizabeth to stop crying.
It all started the day after we brought her home from the hospital. Up to this point, she had been the ideal newborn, sleeping most of the time, latching and eating normally, fussing now and then, but nothing crazy. My Mom was home with me. Elizabeth started crying. My mom handed her to me to see if the “Magical Mom Touch” would calm her down. NOPE! She continued to cry. I tried walking around, singing, burping her, pushing her legs to release lower gas pressure, breast feeding, distracting with toys, a pacifier, changing her diaper, changing her clothes, swaddling her; I took her temperature: normal, and still screaming. My mom and I just stood there staring at each other. Neither of us knew what to do. Finally, I ran the vacuum cleaner, and after about a minute (which seems like an eternity with a wailing infant), she fell asleep. This was the first of many crying attacks.
More worrisome than the frequent crying fits was that Elizabeth refused to eat; we later learned that it was just too painful for her (how heart-wrenching is that?). She would try to latch like she was starving, then pull away screaming, and then try to latch, and then scream, over and over. She wouldn’t touch a bottle. The only way we could get her to eat was with dream feeding, or feeding her when she had just drifted to sleep. John and I would see other parents just putting a bottle up to a baby in a stroller and the baby holding the bottle and drinking it like NBD, and we would look at each other and laugh maniacally (probably to keep from crying ourselves). Everyone else seemed to have it so easy! We knew something was wrong.
We finally visited E’s pediatrician, and she told us it sounded like acid reflux, and at first I didn’t really believe her when she said E needed medicine. I kind of felt panicked about giving my newborn acid-blockers (thanks to reading Internet horror stories — don’t do this!!!), but eventually, after E was not gaining as much weight as she should have, we started her on Axid. Thank God we did!
Of course, getting the correct prescription for Axid was a trip; it is the most difficult medicine possible! You have to get the name brand in order for it to taste good, you have to get the name brand compounded at specialty pharmacies across town, you have to refrigerate it, you have to keep it out of the light, you have to give the exact amount, and it has to be the perfect amount for the baby’s weight, which, as Moms know, fluctuates daily. But, it worked. Hallelujah, it worked…for a while.
Once Elizabeth started gaining weight, the medicine would stop working, so we’d have to get a new prescription and wait for it to start working again. So, during those in-between times, when the crying came back, we utilized the 5 S’s from The Happiest Baby on the Block, fervently: Swaddling, Sucking (pacifier), Shushing (loudly), and Swinging (vigorously) in a Side/Stomach position (Karp 89). We would do all of this in the warm laundry room with the light off and the dryer running for white noise. Remember what I said earlier about being sweaty? That was the 6th “S” apparently for us! It was a full-on workout to shush as forcefully as possible while swinging side to side, as in, doing deep knee bends while twisting left to right, almost like we were spinning before throwing a discus, all in a toasty laundry room. Top that, Cross-fit!
After a while, the Axid stopped working as well and it was time to see a specialist. We had to take tiny little E to Dell Children’s for an esophageal x-ray with barium solution. That wasn’t stressful at all to see my 12-week old in a hospital gown lying flat on a steel table with her arms and legs strapped down while this massive x-ray machine moved around her. Sure enough, the x-rays showed that she had reflux; we then got in with Dr. Easley, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Specially for Children in Round Rock. This wonderful doctor prescribed Prevacid, and what a difference it made! Elizabeth was eating. She was gaining weight. She was happy. I only wish we had just given her the medicine sooner!
At around 8 months or so, we were able to stop the medicine and E was fine without it, due to eating more solid foods and sitting upright. Oddly, when I think back on it, I remember the sweet moments more vividly than the difficult, like when E would fall asleep on my chest, when we finally figured out how to soothe her, when she took a bottle without any trouble, when she laughed and squealed at being tickled…funny how “Mom Memory” works. In fact, the journey may have made us love her even more, if that’s possible.
If you are struggling with acid reflux, I know you’re tired, you’re beaten down, you’re discouraged from pouring every ounce of love and energy in your being into your baby who doesn’t seem to respond as you’d hoped or imagined. Hang in there; and my advice: take the meds! TAKE THE MEDS! You will survive. We did. So, Yippee-Ki-yay, acid reflux. Yippee-Ki-yay!