Seeing Carly Flynn as she cradles her baby boy, her two-year-old daughter playing happily at her feet, you'd never know anything was amiss. But when the Target presenter took baby Jude home from hospital nine months ago, little did she and her husband Dave know they were about to embark on the toughest six months of their lives.
“Jude's birth was pretty normal – a two-hour labour, and out popped my baby with a full mop of hair, looking identical to his sister Tilly,” recalls Carly (34) as Jude gurgles nearby. “Then the screaming started. That first night he was fine, but the next day he started and it didn't stop – he screamed all day, every day, for six months. It was heartbreaking.”
Unlike many newborns who suffer intermittent tummy discomfort in the early weeks, there were no breaks in Jude's incessant screams. The midwives at the hospital were quick to come up with the usual suggestions – bathing, patting, swaddling and feeding – but it was clear early on all was not well with the tiny tot.
“I'd had to give him CPR after he was born because the fast birth meant his airways hadn't cleared in time, which was just horrible, but we knew that wasn't causing the problem,” remembers Carly.
“This was different. He'd sleep at night and only wake for feeds because he was so exhausted, but as soon as he woke up, he'd scream and scream until he was blue in the face. Nothing would soothe him – a bath would calm him for a few minutes, but it would soon start again.”
While Carly is quick to acknowledge all newborns bring their challenges, she knew this was different. “I had a 19-month-old – I was pretty well-versed in a new baby's needs and this wasn't right,” she says. “Nobody could believe how bad the screaming was – I remember ringing Mum in Taupo and telling her.
“She told me not to be silly, that he couldn't actually scream all day. Then she came to visit – and left two days later, completely shell-shocked.”
Carly and Dave soon realised they needed help and thus began a seemingly endless stream of appointments with doctors and specialists that cost them thousands of dollars – and solved nothing. “Appointments were the only places we ever went,” says Carly. “Dave and I both prefer holistic treatments to conventional ones as a rule, but we tried everything.”
Three GPs, two cranial osteopaths, two paediatricians, a chiropractor, a kinesiologist, Plunket, baby whisperer Dorothy Waide and a food intolerance specialist were all consulted. The couple were given a range of advice, including the frequent suggestion that Jude had colic and reflux that he'd soon grow out of.
Carly, who has breastfed Jude since birth, also switched her diet to avoid any foods that may have been the cause of her baby's agony. “At one point I was following so many lists of what I couldn't eat that if I'd stuck to them all I would have been eating is tuna,” she says.
“The problem with seeking so many opinions is you get so many different answers. But I couldn't leave it – I wasn't prepared to accept he was an unsettled baby.”
Although some treatments gave respite, nothing worked long-term. “Every now and again something would calm him and we'd dare to hope – and then it'd revert back. “The feeling of helplessness – that we couldn't help our little baby, who was obviously in pain – was just horrendous,” says Carly, tears welling as she recalls the awful time.
For five and a half months, Carly's life was on hold. “I couldn't go anywhere with him,” she says. “I didn't go to the supermarket, we didn't go to the park, to friends' houses. The only place I ever went was work, for a few hours a week.
“Target was my solace, where I'd brush my hair, put on nice clothes and leave the house, while my poor husband looked after Tilly and Jude. I'd have some adult conversations and fake that everything was okay, pretend things at home weren't a nightmare.”
But they were. “Dave's work had pretty much halted because home was too much for one person to cope with. We were so tired there was no time for anything apart from looking after the kids.”
Finally – exhausted, frustrated and terrified – Carly and Dave contacted a local acupuncturist Dorothy Waide recommended and their lives changed. “He was phenomenal,” says Carly. “We'd put so many doctors' fees on the credit card, and Dave was unsure about adding another one to the list, but I had to keep going.”
Carly was told her son had an inflamed liver and stomach, a fairly common condition that could be treated easily. “The change was instant,” says Carly, smiling at her boy, who now shows no sign of the tough start he had in life.
“While the paediatrician had said Jude would have to be on medication for weeks or months, in less than a fortnight, he was completely fine. “It's ironic, the man that stuck needles into my baby is the one that got the coos and gurgles!”
While Carly knows the treatment that worked for Jude isn't a cure-all for everybody, she is deeply grateful and relieved her baby is pain free.
“For months, I was a frazzled mum. It was really hard for all of us to cope. Now we can get on with being a normal family again,” she says. And Jude? “Completely repaired,” she smiles. “He's still a bit clingy because I had to hold him so much, and he cries, but he's a baby. That's just what they do.”