In my last article, I wrote about how important it is to talk about what it's really like having a newborn -- the good, the bad and the ugly. It's not about being negative; it's about being honest. And helping others to know what's coming their way so that they can be prepared.
Some things though, you simply can't anticipate.
For my husband and me, the unimaginable was a completely inconsolable baby for the first two months of his life. He cried constantly, screamed every time he went to the bathroom and, starting at about six weeks, regularly had blood in his diaper.
The doctors -- and we went to many -- all said that nothing was wrong. Lucas had colic; Lucas's digestive system was developing and straightening out. Lucas was "learning how to poop."
That all may have been true. But we also knew -- we just knew -- that there was more to the story.
So we kept asking questions, which were increasingly met with irritation and odd looks. We came to expect eye rolls and even laughter. One pediatric gastrointestinal specialist went so far as to say -- and I'm not making this up -- that he would put a ball gag in my mouth the next time I came in.
Fortunately, we were undeterred. We knew something was wrong with our little one beyond "colic" and we were determined to figure out what it was.
Thanks to some wonderful mothers in our community, we learned that diet could be an issue beyond the dairy, wheat and soy I'd already given up in an effort to help Lucas. Yet how to determine the culprit?
Desperate for answers, and devastated by our son's pain, one night my husband and I decided to go for it; to strip down to bare bones and see if we couldn't get to the bottom of things ourselves... and quickly.
Starting the next day, I ate nothing but chicken, rice, apples and bananas. That's it. No spices, no cheating. And I did that for two months.
At the end of the first day, Lucas's crying and screaming started to subside. By day two, the blood was out of his diaper. By day three, he was a totally different child... happy, laughing and alert.
And he's been that way ever since.
Thankfully, I've been able to reintegrate many foods in the last couple of weeks, not including chocolate, dairy, and very unfortunately, coffee (which I fantasize about on a regular basis...).
Tough as the caffeine and sleep deprivation may be, I wouldn't trade the experience. Or more importantly, what I've learned from it:
1. Trust your instincts. Obviously, it's important to keep an open mind and to remember that as new moms, our emotions can prevent us from seeing things entirely objectively. That said, a mother's intuition is no joke. Listen when it speaks.
2. Take action. Be bold in your choices and brave in carrying them out. As with everything that truly matters to you, don't do them halfway. Some things are worth fighting for, no matter what other people might say or think. Your child is certainly one of them.
3. Be positive. Be willing to learn from your experiences rather that resentful of them. Thanksgiving could have been real bummer, but I was determined to be lighthearted about it. By then I'd been able to add avocado and sweet potato back into my diet, so my plate -- while perhaps not quite as tasty as everyone else's -- was certainly as colorful!
4. Keep your eyes on the prize. That's not to say it's been easy (I said be positive, not delusional!). I broke down in tears when my family's Chinese takeout arrived a few weeks ago. And watching other people eat cheese never fails to make my mouth water in embarrassing ways. Yet when the going gets particularly tough -- as it often did in the beginning -- I remember who I am doing this for... who I am fighting for, and why. That reminder not only gets me through every time, it has made me able to keep a smile on my face throughout (most of) the process.
At almost five months, we're still getting up twice a night, and my fantasies about coffee are starting to border on the obscene. That said, we also have the most happy and healthy little boy in the world. For that... for him... I would gladly do it all over again.
Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and psychotherapist specializing in technical and emotional issues that interfere with self-expression, and the author of The Art of Singing.