Potholes and colic: a conversation

Person one: Your local Council, how can I help?

Person two: I’d like to report an issue with the road outside my house.

P1: I’m the road engineer for the district, what seems to be the problem?

P2: There is a pothole outside my house.

P1: Impossible.

P2: Impossible?

P1: Potholes don’t exist.

P2: Potholes don’t exist?

P1: Correct.

P2: Perhaps I do not understand you correctly. You’re saying potholes don’t occur.

P1: Exactly.

P2: We’re talking about a small round hole in the road, ummmm, you drive over it and it sometimes damages the rim of your wheel?

 P1: Oh! Those exist all right, but they aren’t potholes.

P2: Everyone calls them potholes.

P1: Everyone is wrong.

P2: Everyone is wrong?

P1: You’re talking about a wearing of the asphaltic surface?

P2: Maybe, if that is what a pothole is called.

P1: Hmmmm… Maybe it is an exposure of the concrete base. Or a ravelled edged depression following fatigue cracks. Were there fatigue cracks prior to the ravelled edged depression forming?

P2: Cracks? I’m not sure. Maybe.

P1: I mean the point here is that ‘pothole’ is an anachronistic term that people think they know what’s happening, except they don’t.

P2: Don’t potholes form when water washes a bit underneath the road so a little ‘pot’ sized hole –

P1: I’d say more kettle-sized

P2: – pot sized hole forms and gets worse as more cars drive over it.

P1: Yes, but no. Sometimes it can be the sun. Expanding and contracting the asphaltic surface – quite common here in Australia.

P2: Whatever. So what do we do next? I really would like you to repair the wearing of the asphaltic surface. Or fix the exposure of the concrete base? Is it different fixes for the different problems?

P1: No, pretty much whatever it is we just come out and fill it up with some more asphalt. Works about ninety percent of the time. If it reappears, call me and we’ll come and have a more detailed look.

P2: Now, don’t take this the wrong way, I mean, I love road engineers and roads are great and I’m happy knowing you guys know your stuff…

P1: Go on

P2: But wouldn’t this conversation have gone a lot quicker if I’d said, “I have a pothole outside my house” and then you have said, “OK, we’ll come fill it in?”

P1: That conversation could never have happened.

P2: Why not?

P1: Potholes don’t exist.

P2: …

P1: {YAWN}

P2: My, that was a big yawn! Tired?

P1: Yes, sorry, I was up all night with my newborn.

P2: I’m a paediatrician! Anything I can help with?

P1: My child has colic.

P2: Impossible.

P1: Impossible?

P2: Colic doesn’t exist.

P1: Colic doesn’t exist?

P2: Correct.

P1: Perhaps I do not understand you correctly. You’re saying colic doesn’t exist.

P2: Exactly.

P1: We’re talking about an inconsolable screaming baby, ummmm, very fussy and farty?

P2: Oh! That happens all right, but it isn’t colic.

P1: Everyone calls it colic.

P2: Everyone is wrong.

P1: Everyone is wrong?

P2: We’re talking about an irritable nervous system?

P1: Maybe, if that what colic is called.

P2: Hmmmm… Maybe it is fourth trimester issues? It could even be a normal part of your child’s development. Is your child developing normally?

P1: Oh, I’m not sure. I think so.

P2: I mean the point here is that ‘colic’ is an anachronistic term that people think they know what’s happening, except they don’t.

P1: Doesn’t an upset stomach –

P2: Upset gastrointestinal system.

P1: – upset stomach cause colic?

P2: Yes, but no. Perhaps it is reflux? An ear infection? Ear infections are quite common here in Australia.

P1: Whatever. So what do you suggest I do? I would really like to solve the irritable nervous system. Or the fourth trimester issue. Is it different fixes for the different problems?

P2: No, pretty much whatever it is you should just use soothing measures plus stomach massaging and maybe try changing your diet. In a pinch, some parents find sips of mint tea helps too. Works ninety percent of the time. If the child keeps it up for longer than three hours a day or for several days in a row, come and see us and we’ll have a more detailed look.

P1: Now, don’t take this the wrong way, I mean, I love paediatricians and infant health is really important to me and I’m happy knowing you guys know your stuff…

P2: Go on.

P1: But wouldn’t this conversation have gone a lot quicker if I’d said “I have a colicky baby” and then you have said, “OK, try stomach massaging and stop eating cabbage?”

P2: That conversation would never have happened.

P1: Why not?

P2: Colic doesn’t exist.

OK, all jokes aside: someone tell me why it is so important to deny colic’s existence, given that colic is shorthand for a very upset baby.

24 thoughts on “Potholes and colic: a conversation

  1. And, again, you are my hero! I needed a laugh, mate…I mean REALLY needed a laugh. Thanks for delivering. Now go have a nap (preferably in a separate room to the gastro-intestinally disturbed baby).

  2. I’d like anyone who doesn’t believe in colic to come around to my place and see my obviously in pain, obviously distressed baby in the wee hours of the morning. It’s the same with the teething deniers! Although this conversation does make me nervous because I have to call the Council about a garbage truck that swiped the side of my car . . .

  3. Ok.. I feel like a fence-sitter…. Tbh, I think if this is a conversation you had with your pediatrician then that’s pretty poor form on their behalf. I can also understand why they might be doing that… It sounds to me like they’re trying to outlaw the use of a term that has particular connotations on it based on people’s prior perceptions. These connotations can be negative and in a sense, unhelpful to most. But maybe if they approached it more appropriately, they could do so without shutting you down, without interfering in your confidence as a parent. It seems to me it would be more appropriate to explain to you that they prefer not to label it as colic, and the reasons why. The medical world does this from time to time because of negativity that can be associated with a particular label or the treatment that can be implicitly indicated by such a label. Like for example the use of type 1 or type 2 diabetes…..
    That said, I am not yet up to the point in my training about colic and exactly what it is, so I won’t argue the point of it’s existence. Neither have I had a baby, colicky or not…. How can I say? What I can say is this…. I am furious at a pediatrician who undermines your confidence as a parent, and who undermines your instinct. This is not your first time as a parent and even if it were, you are one of the two people who are with these kids 24/7. YOU are the one’s who know what is going on with your kids!
    Also, mint tea can’t hurt. It is said to help an upset stomach for adults, so why couldn’t it make it’s way to bubba through the breast milk! All I can suggest for your little one’s is cuddles, and massages.

  4. Anyone who doesn’t think colic exists should have been at my house this morning. Also I love it when doctors tell you that teething doesn’t cause temperatures & rushes… yes yes yes it does!!!!

      1. I know that eating chillies doesn’t actually make you hotter. A chemical in the chilli tricks your senses into feeling intence heat, you feel hotter to the touch and your body reacts by desperately trying to cool you down (hence the sweating) but your actual temperature doesn’t shift.

        I guess it could be a similar scenario to teething but what I don’t get is even if the temperature doesn’t rise during teething, us parents can’t tell – the baby is reacting as if they have a high temperature – and we can’t ignore that, right? What is the difference, at onset, between a teething baby and one with an infection & temp? Nothing. The baby even feels hot to the touch, or at minimum, doesn’t feel ‘normal’.

        I guess one of the points of my blog is, parents are open to advice, but what’s with the smug negative responses, especially when the action to be taken remains exactly the same – with teething or with colic (be it “real” or not).

  5. They say colic doesn’t exist because they have no idea what colic actually *is* and therefore how to treat it. You summed it up in your last statement: ‘It’s shorthand for a very upset baby.’ But no one really knows what’s upsetting the baby and therefore how to help calm the baby. It’s one of those baby conundrums. Luckily, most babies grow out of *it* – whatever *it* may be!

  6. This is a classic! My second born had colic for 3 hideous weeks, until my sister (a paediatrician) took me aside and said “Don’t tell anyone i told you this, but try sleeping her on her front”. I know that’s a no-no, esp. for smaller babies (she was a whopping 9lb 1oz at birth- 36 weeks!), but it was nothing short of miraculous. Eased the pain in her tummy. Good luck!

  7. My eldest had “colic” for three long, miserable nights. On the last night we found it described in our ‘Babies’ book (by the author of ‘Toddler Taming’ whose name escapes me now…).

    Anyway, his description of colic fit our baby perfectly – hysterical screaming that has no apparent cause, comes on around 10 days of age, starts up in the late arvo/early evening, ends near dawn, stops spontaneously.

    Ever since then, when a mum-to-be asks for general ‘what to expect’ advice I mention the colic phenomenon! It saved my sanity simply to know that it existed and had a name (however imperfect).

  8. You crazy bastard. Nicely done. The skeptic society has put up 100,000 dollars to anyone who can demonstrate that colic exists (conditions apply). No one has claimed it yet!

  9. This must be a piece you prepared earlier. How can you possibly have time to write and be entertaining?

    Oh, I fixed your grammar in your tweet.

    Cause I’m good like that.

    Seriously, sent this straight to my sister in law in NZ whose wee girl hasn’t stopped screaming since she was born.

  10. Hiiarious! (And that’s from someone who has looked after both roads and babies. Thankfully at different times of my life.) But I feel a bit guilty laughing, cause I’m sure this piece was born out of some considerable distress. Hope its better soon.

  11. lol – I had friends once (a phd, and a phd/md – good gravy) – who told me they didn’t believe in teething.

    Yep. Apparently, teething doesn’t happen either!

    fwiw, when he was 20 days old my ds screamed for 3 hours straight and the emergency room doc said, “oh, that’s colic – he’ll probably do it every day until he’s three months old” and she was 100% right. Except, now I know it wasn’t colic. Glad you sorted that out for me…

    1. I think you’ll find no Doctor has ever said, outside an emergency situation “Can I help?”. Every second bastard would say “Yes, I’ve got a horrible rash on my testicles, can you have a look? Sorry about the ooze”.

  12. Idle, you’ve made my day. I think it’s a case of health professionals going a bit rabid to prove a point. They do it with breastfeeding too eg “breast is best”, and then repeat it ad infinitum no matter what problems you have. Luckily I have a GP who believes in both teething and colic, which seems to help a lot. Or take the advice a friend’s Nan gave me – a thimbleful, of scotch for the baby. Or not.

  13. I had a GP tell me my son had colic and to give him infants friend when he in fact had reflux.

    I wonder why mechanics have to do so many wheel alignments?

  14. Great post, nicely done sir.

    My first kid had colic, until I read “Happiest Baby on the Block” … 2nd & 3rd kids I used all I had learned from that book, PLUS they both slept on their tummies from day one (just don’t tell the midwives).

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