Saturday, October 15, 2016

My High Needs Baby

Motherhood is hard. Just google "the forth trimester" and you'll understand. Or give birth.

It's eye opening. It's raw.

But there was something I didn't know.

All babies are different. Okay, I knew that. I mean, all adults are different. But I didn't know just HOW different they could be. And I didn't know that some could be high needs.

I mean, all babies have needs. But I'd never met a baby that would cry when they were put down. I'd never met a baby that didn't nap. I thought all babies went to bed early and slept at least for a few hours giving parents "adult time". I'd seen my friends Facebook status updates about this illusionary "adult time" that everyone else seemed to be having while my baby was still wide awake at 8...9...10pm. Every night.

I remember daily crying alone in the shower while my husband held our screaming infant downstairs, my soul aching for a few moments to myself while my heart broke over the sound of my son's upset wails.  This happened quite often in our house. He didn't nap. He didn't want to be apart from me. I felt like I never got to see my husband. It was stressful to think about cooking, much less attempt it. About the only thing Reuben did well was sleep at night: but only when attached to me and only from around 10pm to 3am. He had to be laying on my chest. I didn't even get to sleep alone.

Bed-sharing literally saved my life. Baby wearing allowed me to have a semblance of one.

I was shell shocked and alone. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn't my baby like everyone else? At four months he stopped napping completely during the day. I started having anxiety and panic attacks. This couldn't go on. I needed to be by myself somewhere and yet it seemed like my son needed me 24/7. Daddy tried to help, but the fact that Reuben seemed to want absolutely nothing to do with him probably didn't make him try very hard. At least, that is how I felt. I felt so utterly alone, so utterly shackled to this tiny human who would not nap--so desperate for some peace. His constant, never letting up need for me almost destroyed my marriage and my sanity. 

I now know I was the parent of a high needs baby.

At 9 and a half months, he finally started napping. I equate his high needs to his horrible food allergies--once we started solids at 6 months and were able to figure out what he was allergic to (eggs, dairy, avocados, banana, soy) and remove those things from his and my diet--that is when he started napping. His little tummy must have been in pain. Or maybe he was just high needs, but I do think that his life threatening allergies had something to do with it.

I've been around a lot of babies now, from friends and family alike. Some are high needs, some are not. My niece takes a three hour nap every day at the same time and puts herself to sleep after nursing since birth. She doesn't wake up crying, but smiling. The first time I witnessed this while babysitting said niece I was shocked. Was this real? Do babies like this exist? Did my sister know how lucky she was?

The truth is, I know, that all babies have a learning curve and all of them can be tough on us moms. But Reuben officially stumped me for many months and was the source of a lot of anxiety and confusion to boot. His learning curve was like an alpine climb! Some babies are hills. Some are mountains. And some are cliffs in three feet of snow.

At least I will be very prepared for my next baby, if God decides to grace me with another one.