Sophia is my first child, born July 27th, 2011, 1 day before her due date.
After trying to get pregnant for a year, my husband and I found out that we had done it! We were so excited. I have wanted children all of my life and finally at 31, I would be achieving that goal.
I had a very typical pregnancy…nausea, backaches, rib pain, exhaustion. We chose a birthing center with an awesome team of midwives about 25 miles from home to have deliver our baby.
We also opted for the 20 week ultrasound to determine the sex of our baby. That highly anticipated day quickly turned devastating. The results of the ultrasound, along with a quad screening blood test we decided to have based on the ultrasound, gave us a 1/12 odds for having a baby with Downs Syndrome.
Going through the emotions of this is a whole other story in itself. We spent the remainder of the pregnancy with these odds and this worry. And despite these odds, we chose to continue our pre-natal care with the Birth Center.
Then came D-day. And anyone who has given birth knows that this is as well, a whole story in itself. Labor and delivery was very textbook. Very long, but textbook. Almost 27 hours of labor and almost 3 hours of pushing, and out came Sophia. Finally! She was here; healthy, beautiful and screaming.
As long as mom and baby are doing well, the standard with our birth center is that you may go home about 4 hours after delivery. During that time there are a few routine protocols: any suturing needed is done, they want to see that baby can latch on and nurse, they like you to eat a meal, and if you and dad want to take a nap, this is also the time to do so.
The first hour for me was sutures, the rest of the time was trying to get Sophia to nurse. Every trick in the book was attempted. 2 midwives, 1 midwife in training, my mom (who has breastfed 4 children) and my sister (who has breastfed 2) all there assisting. No success.
We were given the option to stay and continue our efforts, or go home and continue there. We decided to go home. We were sent with a nipple shield and instruction to call first thing the next morning to let them know our progress. Sophia never did latch on, so the midwives came out to our home first thing the next morning. We were set up with a device that allowed us to feed her through a tube while at the breast.
Sophia continued to struggle immensely when it came to feeding and struggled to gain weight until she was 3 months old. Really, the issues with breastfeeding are as well, a very long story.
I bring all of this up, because through my recent research of high need babies, difficulties with breastfeeding seem to be common. I also bring up the concern we had for Downs Syndrome because I have also read theories of possible causes of high need behavior in babies; one being a stressful pregnancy.
Not only did we have the 1/12 chance for Downs, but I was working 50-55 hour work weeks in a very busy Ophthalmology practice up until my due date. I would say I wasn’t taking it easy
I have been wanting to tell my story for a long time now, but as all know with a high need baby, things are always changing. I was questioning whether or not Sophia really needed this label. Is she really high need? Or is she the same as every other baby, and I’m just a wimp?
As you spend day in and day out with a baby like this, it does become your normal. It’s when you are around other babies the same age that are sound asleep in their mother’s arms, or when your mom and sister and mother-in-law (who had 7 children) say “none of my babies….”; you again realize, I am dealing with something special here.
And then I decided to change my thinking. It’s not a label, but a way to help understand her and her needs. Getting real with the way SHE worked, helped me work WITH her.
Sophia is now 6 months old, and I can’t get over how far we have come. She is definitely full of spirit. Everyone who comes in contact with her notices she is different than most babies. So intense, so aware.
I do not mourn the first few months of her life, not for a second. But the horror of those months is slowly fading and I am thrilled to be the mother of a child with so much depth.
Lindsay lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and now 7 month old daughter Sophia. She is currently on maternity leave, which has lasted much longer than expected due to the challenges that accompany a high need baby.