The last thing I ever expected in life was to have a high need baby. I already had 2 gorgeous girls who were unusually happy and content so when I became pregnant with our 3rd child, my little Zachary, I guess I just expected the same.
Early on in my pregnancy, I could already tell a bit of a difference. With my girls, I couldn’t feel them move or kick until I was almost halfway through the pregnancy, but with Zach, I felt him move at around 13 weeks! I kept telling myself that I could just detect the feeling better since I had experienced this all before.
As my pregnancy progressed, his movements seemed almost non-stop. I would lie awake in bed at night as he kicked away, keeping me up most of night. Even then, I chalked it up to him being a boy; maybe they were just more active.
34 weeks into my pregnancy, I began having very high blood pressure, and at 36 weeks, we had to deliver. Zachary’s lungs were just not developed enough and he had to be whisked away to the NICU. After being on life support, a feeding tube, and going through a round of antibiotics, 2 weeks later we were able to take our sweet baby home.
During the first few weeks, Zach was definitely not a good sleeper. He would be up every hour or hour and a half wanting to nurse. I thought the time in the NICU had probably been hard on him, and I tried everything to get him to sleep longer: co-sleeping, letting him cry for a few minutes to see if he would self soothe, nursing on demand, trying to set a schedule…nothing worked!
He wanted to be held constantly and would cry if I put him down. He would only fall asleep if I held him, but would wake up the second I got up to put him in his crib.
He was sensitive to loud noises and would cry if his sisters were too loud. He did NOT want to be held by anyone except me, and even my husband couldn’t soothe him. I held on the hope that it was just a newborn phase that he would very soon outgrow, and then things could return to normal.
But as the days and weeks went on, I knew that this was not a phase. I felt like a failure as a mom. I didn’t know what was wrong and I certainly didn’t know how to fix it. As a mother, that is the WORST feeling in the world. I wanted so badly to be able to soothe him and see that he was happy, but no matter what I did, we could just never get there.
I would try talking to my family and friends, but they just didn’t understand. They would offer advice as to what I should be doing. I heard a lot of
“You are just spoiling him“,
“Maybe you should just let him cry“, and
“He’s just a momma’s boy and you made him that way“.
As if I didn’t already blame myself, these comments made it worse! I was also told on several occasions that he was “annoying” and to please “get that kid to stop crying.” – like I had some kind of control over my infant.
I very quickly stopped talking about it, and I became withdrawn and depressed. At times I regretted even having him, which is a horrible thing for any mom to think, and then I would feel like a monster and get more depressed. It was a very sad cycle.
I didn’t even entertain the idea of leaving him with a babysitter. If I felt like even I couldn’t handle him, how was I supposed to think someone else could?
The older he got, the worse it became. He wanted to be held, but only if I was walking around with him. I couldn’t even sit and hold him. He wouldn’t play on the floor without being in my lap. I would need to do something like make a phone call, help one of my daughters, or go to the bathroom, and when I would put him down he would scream and scream. He would throw up if I left him for more than a couple of minutes like that.
I tried taking my friends advice and when he would start to fuss, I wouldn’t pick him up right away. Well, that was a mistake. Not only did he scream worse, but he would be in a bad mood for hours!
The stress took a toll on my marriage as well. I was too physically and emotionally drained by my son that I couldn’t even think about being a wife. Who feels beautiful and sexy when you haven’t been able to put your baby down long enough to shower and comb your hair? I started getting migraines, and because my son was so big, my back would hurt constantly from holding him. I spent hundreds of dollars going to the chiropractor.
I hurt. A lot.
Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically.
There were times that I wanted to run away. I felt alone. I just wanted someone, anyone, to understand and not to judge me or my son.
One night, about 7 months in, while cuddling in bed with my son, I was on my computer searching for yet another way to help him when I ran across an article about high need babies. There were 12 signs, and Zachary had all 12. It was like someone had hidden a camera in my house and had written an article about me and my son.
I read and read and searched more on high need children. I lay in bed that night and cried and cried. Finally, there was a name to what I was experiencing. I kept repeating over and over, ‘It’s not me. It’s not me’. I felt so much relief in that moment, and all the emotions that I had tried to smother came out. I cuddled my son a little tighter and fell asleep peacefully that night for the first time in months.
Over the course of the next few days, I read everything I could. I finally starting understanding my son, and while things could still be very stressful, I no longer felt alone. I found support groups online and was able to talk to other women going through the same thing. I was inspired by the stories of parents who had come through on the other side. I once again had hope that this too would pass.
Zachary is now 13 months old. He has slowly become more and more independent. He likes to crawl after his sisters and cuddle with his dad. For the last 2 months, I’ve even been able to leave him in our church nursery.
He still likes to have me hold him, but he is able to play on the floor without the constant need to be on my lap.
Our big moment came about 3 weeks ago. He was getting tired, and I knew he needed to go to bed. I laid him down in his own crib while he was still awake, and he didn’t even cry! He turned over and fell asleep ON HIS OWN! He might as well have won the Noble Peace Prize! I was so proud. I felt then that we had turned our corner.
The last 13 months have been a journey. There were so many times I felt like it would never end, but now that I’m on the other side, I am so grateful for my high need baby. (Believe me, I NEVER thought I’d ever come to a point that I would say that!).
I’ve learned so much about myself, about patience and love, and I feel like I am a stronger person today because of my son. He is truly the love of my life.
Looking back, I know now that I was so hard on myself because things weren’t perfect. I wasn’t a bad mom.
I was a mom who loved her child so fiercely that I couldn’t stand seeing him sad or in pain.
I had to learn to let go of the expectations that I had and accept the reality. It was then that I could learn to fully appreciate my son’s personality and see what a blessing it was to me.
I hope that this story can touch someone that is going through the same thing and offer some encouragement and let them know that they aren’t alone. It DOES get better. Hang in there!
Stop Crying, Calm Down, and Other Things We Tell Our High Need Kids
What Is A High Need Baby?
Is My Baby Colicky or High Needs?
Is There Really Such a Thing as a High Need Baby?
Amber’s Story: Feelings of Failure with a High Need Baby
Nadine’s Story: Accepting a High Need Baby