Wondering if you know the likelihood of having a second child with colic, if your first infant suffered from it? My husband and I always wanted two children, but after barely surviving our first child’s six months+ worth of colic (she is now two), we are seriously wondering if we could withstand that kind of situation again. It is one thing to withstand the judgment of friend and stranger alike, who think that we somehow caused the colic. I am not sure our marriage/job/life could survive another “‘hard baby.”‘ The little research I have done recently suggests that very little is really known about it (by the way – this kind of information is extremely frustrating to hear when you are actually going through it). We are wondering if it generally runs in families? Has anyone done any research that I can believe? I really would like another child, but cannot get over the fear. – The First Time was Hell on Earth
Dear First Time,
We wish we could give you some hard math to help you with your decision, but the data is just not there. You may have caught this thorough, if ultimately frustrating, 2007 New Yorker piece on the lack of understanding of colic — including any possible genetic element. Most of the literature on the topic tends to show extraordinary empathy for the parents but little relief in terms of an actual explanation or cure. Sorry to say, our advice does not stray for from that norm.
The cause of colic is still a mystery. Still, there are a few things we do know and possibly a little perspective we can try to offer. Take it or leave it. We know this is extremely hard. Surviving colic is no joke.
First off, all babies are different, even when they come from the same set of parents. It sounds obvious, but many parents find they compare their second baby to the first with a hint of surprise in their voices, as if they really did expect a clone. (Clearly, it’s hard not to let previous experience guide you, whether that experience was good or brutal and near marriage-wrecking.) Maybe a non-colicky temperament will be one of many distinguishing features of the sibling? Maybe not.
We don’t know if colic is hereditary but we do know that babies in general are less likely to have colic than to have it. The elusive condition known as colic affects about 20% of babies. You may also want to plug into the equation the widely circulated notion that second babies seem to be easier than first ones, at least according to anecdotal evidence. Of course, there are second babies who are complete hellstorms. There are no guarantees. Breeding is always a crap shoot.
Which brings us to a final data-pointless-point: All of us worry about how our babies will turn out, whether this is based on something we’ve (barely) lived through, or only heard about. Sometimes sucky things happen. And they’re not always the ones that kept us awake at night. Parenthood is all about living with the shadow of the “‘unpredictable outcome”‘ — we all find this condition more or less tormenting at various times. It’s all over us, and then it recedes. It never goes away. But, hey, it’s what makes us stronger! (Or at least tougher… and grouchier.)
One thing that struck us in your letter was the clarity with which you expressed your desire for two children. We know of lots of parents who’ve debated the pros and cons of a second child for months or years. Some, like you, have scars from colic or sleep problems or feeding drama or a hard pregnancy or traumatic birth. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as waiting it out a little more-letting amnesia work its wonders. The painful memories may linger, dissuading you from a dive back in. Or they may seem less scary as time goes on, and your urge for a second will eventually transcend. We don’t want to belittle the pain. But it may be worth remembering, as you hash it out together, that your firstborn’s stormy past is just one piece of this puzzle.
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