By the time my colicky daughter was one week old, I cherished belches. Colic, for you sheltered souls, results in painful gas. Babies cry incessantly and periodically empty their stomachs.
I read books and articles, consulted medical personnel, and coffee klatched. I found there are 4,000,552 possible causes. I could avoid seven. No cure! Everyone, even experts, agreed that burps are gold nuggets for which parents pan.
After I had fed and burped my daughter, her daddy put her in the carriage. The jiggling motion, we hoped, would soothe her and release trapped gas. Our daughter was quiet until daddy reach the farthest point in his walk. Then she screamed, swallowing large quantities of air, until they reached home. As daddy lifted her from the carriage, she released both air and stomach contents.
We thought it must be the carriage. We bought a frontal baby carrier. She screamed like a tortured spider as we negotiated her arms and legs through the holes. On the walk, at the halfway point, she began to howl. Daddy lost 15% hearing in his left ear. When he arrived home and untangled her, she vomited on cue, but with a bonus. The new target was daddy‘s hair.
Strategy number two was improving our burping techniques. We tried a dozen variations over the shoulder. Our daughter refined her skill into projectile vomiting. That meant nothing was safe. With the deadly accuracy of a trident missile, she white washed the house.
I laid her across my knees, shortening the attack distance. I laid her on the carpet with triple blankets underneath. I rubbed her back as I cupped her fat cheeks. I bent her like a Gumby doll. We have a treasured photograph of daddy carrying her in the colic position. She is lying a straight on his arm, head in his hands, as he paces. Baby is asleep. Daddy’s hair is grubby, there are bags under his bloodshot eyes, and he has lost all feeling in his arm. Although we managed to get window shaking belches from her tiny tummy, the miserable colic remained.
Strategy three involved machinery. I laid my daughter in her bassinet on top of the dryer and stood close by. The gentle vibrations and monotonous sounds were soothing but woe to mothers who run out of laundry. I washed sheets twice a week.
Car drives were suggested. I avoid traffic lights and slowly rolled through stop signs, unable to halt until she been had been asleep for 20 minutes. Arriving home, I had a choice: unbuckle her and wake the sleeping dragon or catch some rest in the driver’s seat. Because the tank was continually drained, gas attendants knew me by name.
When I reached the post zombie state and put ice cream in the cupboard and shoes in the refrigerator, a friend rescued us with the Swing O-Matic. My daughter slept in a cloth seat suspended from rods while we cranked it up. For 15 minutes, the gears clicked. Baby dropped off to sleep. But when the rocking stopped, she jerked awake and howled. If we wound up the noisy gears as the mechanism slowed, she would screech for quiet. We took turns cranking during the night providing each other with 30 whole minutes of rest.
As with most stages, colic past. Four months felt like four years. By age six my daughter had mastered stomach gas. At will, she could lose a belch loud enough to startle birds in flight. Generally though, she saved the good ones for wedding receptions and attending the ballet.
Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News
September 30, 1990