To The Mother Of The High Need Baby: You Are Not Alone
She is able to put her baby down in the crib at 1 p.m. every day, say, “Have a good nap, baby,” and walk out to enjoy two hours of well-deserved me time.
You are sitting in the chair in the corner of his room, scared to breathe let alone step on a creaky floorboard, because regardless of how deeply he seems to be sleeping, he will wake up as soon as he hears you leaving the room. He needs you near. So your me time involves falling asleep in the chair for 10 minutes and waking up with a stiff neck.
She puts her baby in the high chair and feeds her an easy lunch of scrambled eggs, cucumber slices, and some cheese. Her baby eats it all willingly.
What you would give to know that your baby would even entertain an “easy” meal. Scrambled eggs end up on the ceiling. You were standing in the kitchen the night before preparing chickpea, broccoli, and spinach patties because you would like her to be feeding herself by now, and even though you know she won’t eat it, you keep trying — trying to make things she might eat and trying to get nutrients into her, despite her defiance.
She is able to leave her baby to play for half an hour in the playroom while she prepares some food or tends to chores. For you, half an hour seems like an eternity. You can’t imagine the day where your baby might play on his own for half an hour while you tend to chores and cook — one less thing you’d have to do in the evening. But he won’t play on his own. He needs his mommy to be near. He needs to feel you.
She gives her baby a bottle and lays her in her crib at 7 p.m. sharp and says, “Night, night, baby,” and leaves the room. She proceeds to enjoy her evening, having dinner with her husband, her hair and makeup fully intact, followed by a couple of episodes of their favorite show. She takes herself to bed around 10:30 p.m., knowing she has until 7 a.m. to sleep.
You’re covered in sick and breast milk and remember you haven’t washed your hair for a week while you sit feeding your baby. You’re wishing beyond all wishing that he would sleep in his crib, but he wakes up as soon as you leave the room. You try again and again, but he just refuses. After an hour and a half of trying, you give up and lay him down in your bed. You want to get up once he falls asleep and enjoy dinner with your husband, but you are too exhausted to move. You fall asleep in bed with your baby, and your husband sleeps in the spare room. Sometimes you cry because despite how much you adore the closeness of having your baby next to you, being able to smell his sweet head and knowing he’s safe right there with you, you also miss pillow talk with your husband, being able to just be together.
She leaves her baby with her mother on a Saturday night every so often, so that she can enjoy a night out with her husband, followed by a Sunday morning sleep-in.
Your parents are wonderful, but they’ve helped all they can. They could not possibly have her overnight because she is just too much hard work, and they’ve done their share of sleepless nights. They just can’t manage it at their age. Once she’s “sleeping through,” they’ll take her with pleasure.
Let’s be honest: Not many moms have it as easy as “she” does, but when you’re the mother of a high need baby, it really feels as though everyone has it this easy. With every friend you speak to, you cry that little bit more because nap times, mealtimes, nighttimes, and the rest of the time just seem that little bit easier, that little bit more routine for them than it is for you.
She might need you to sit in the corner of the room or to keep making meals until you find something she likes. She might not be able to stay at Grandma’s, and she might have to sleep in your bed until she’s 3, but when your baby is older and able to articulate her gratitude, she will.
She will tell you how she turned into a secure, stable human being because you met all her needs, despite how absolutely life-altering it was for you. She will tell you how she trusts easily because she always trusted you’d be there when she woke, and you never broke her trust. She will show you that she has healthy relationships because of how her dad adapted so well to all the changes and how supportive he was of her mother’s choice to meet her baby’s needs before her own.
Maybe not in so many words, but I promise you she will tell you all this when she is old enough. And when you are past those days of exhaustion and can think straight, you will be eternally grateful that you listened to her and that you trusted your instincts.
It is not easy being the parent of a high need baby, but just hold on and keep trusting your instincts. You are amazing, and very much not alone.