i have a "high need" child

Monday, April 6, 2009

"Exhausting babies go by various names: the fussy baby, the difficult baby, the colicky baby, and the demanding baby. As these babies grow older they acquire labels such as the "terrible twos," the hyperactive child, the strong-willed child... [The high need child is] a kinder term and it more appropriately expresses what these children are really like and the type of parenting they need....

You can spot these high need babies very early in infancy. These are the babies whose mothers just can't put them down. These are the babies who are inconsistently appeased; what works one day does not work the next. This is the child who continually challenges the ingenuity of the parents....

The high-need baby is intense, super-sensitive, often fussy and has prolonged periods of seemingly purposeless crying which interfere with sleep, feeding, and settling. He demands constant physical contact. He is often discontented and response inconsistently to the usual modes of comforting. He is a time-consuming, energy-draining baby who sometimes elicits negative feelings in his mother, puts a strain on his parents' marriage, and produces anxiety and fatigue in the whole family, including himself.

Studies have confirmed a correlation between infant temperament and sleep patterns. In these studies easy babies were defined as regular, adaptable, approachable, and positive in mood; difficult babies were irregular, low in adaptability and acceptance of an initial approach, intense, and negative. The researchers found that difficult babies slept about two hours less each night and one hour less during the day than the easy babies did.

- William Sears, M.D., Nighttime Parenting
Wow. Somebody GETS my baby. And what our life is like. And why I have so little reserve.

Pete and I read this section the other night and choke-laughed all the way through. We don't have a child who will "just cry it out." We don't have a child who lets us take time and space for ourselves. We have the SMART child with the low sensitivity threshold.

Somehow, seeing it here helped to make it better. It gives me something to work with. A sense that SOMEONE has been here before, and that it is normal for us to be exhausted by Piper's high-need personality, and forgivable, even, that I am even more exhausted because of my health issues.

This last weekend, I took some time to reevaluate things a little bit, trying to figure out where I can make some changes to make things a bit easier. I'm still formulating, but it's coming a little more clear. Piper feels more insecure as we're going through the weaning right now, so she's been quite a bit more demanding than usual. Poor Pete has been up with her almost every night for the last few weeks.

We don't want her to sleep in our bed with us (it's the ONLY space we get away from her!), so we're looking for some options to get her to feel more secure as she is adjusting to the whole no-nursing thing.

I'm trying to make adjustments during the day, and if we get to her quickly at night, she settles within a few minutes. Simply understanding that she is *like* this helps me.

Pete bought me that little piece of inscribed pottery this weekend. I'm going to keep it handy. I need the reminder that I have to stop and breathe, that I can't get everything done all the time.

Piper is so affectionate, so sweet sometimes - she has such a depth of passion already, and I know when she grows up, she's going to be so smart and strong. Right now, it seems a hopeless thing, but we're learning, and every moment is a new moment to try again.

Sometimes, I think God is speaking to me about myself through watching Piper react to life, trying to show me that what I think is what I want isn't always best for me. It's an uncomfortable lesson, yet the patience He shows for me lengthens my patience with her, because I see her little heart breaking, even though it doesn't have to break. It will be hard for her to trust, I think.

So often, His goodness doesn't look good... Maybe that's why it's so important that we remember that He IS good. It's part of His identity. When we trust a person, it's important that we know who the person is. We're not prone to trust people so much anymore. It's hard to know what is true with all the lies and fake that surround us.

Realizing that Pip is a "high-need" child is also helpful purely for the phrasing of it. I am essentially a high-need child. I have so many needs that can't be met, not by my parents, not by my siblings, not by my friends, not by my husband. When I first met Pete, God told me He was bringing Pete into my life to help meet some of my needs, not to replace Him, but to be a good and perfect gift.

I am going to mess this up, but God gave Piper to me as a good and perfect gift too, and me to her as her mom. Somehow, I need to trust Him to meet the needs she has that I can't meet because of my own limitations. Who knows - perhaps because of my limitations, she will come to know and trust and find Him meeting at a younger age than her mother...


||| laura frantz ||| said...

Wow. Before i even read the excerpt I read your post title and instantly thought, "Dr. Sears!" He has so many wonderful suggestions. I had two sling/backpack babies, I even learned to cook with two kids strapped to my body at once. So glad you found Dr. Sears!

PaperYarnGirl said...

Love Dr. Sears... he saved my sanity when Rachel was born - a very clingy baby (who is still a very affectionate nearly-14 year old), and when Katie came along - high need, very intense, and a HUGE temper! I learned a lot from her ;-)

Hang in there... you're not alone.

sunmamma said...

Oh I LOVE Dr. Sears!! I have had two "high needs babies' One much more then the other. And I wish I had his book with the first!! Would have helped me so much!! Hang in there hon!! It will get easier :)

Heidi said...

Yay! I'm glad something in the book is helping, even if only to understand the *why*. :)

Charity said...

Oh, this was so good to read! I read the book exerpt out loud to my hubby, as my own high-need child sat on the floor by my feet, grabbing my ankles and whining. As the fourth child in our family, we wondered what on earth happened when his little (big) personality quickly began to show (he was crying even before fully delivered!).

Nice to know we're not alone in this stressed, sleep deprived world. :o)

Vicky said...

And when Piper grows into toddlerhood please consider the "Raising Your Spirited Child" books by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Great tips for high need/sensitive temperament babies who grow into high need/sensitive toddlers and beyond :)

My son has been a great teacher to me and I know why he was given to me by God. He is a wonderful gift, but I've had to dig deep at times. Piper is so lucky to have you :)

Carol said...

When Dr. Sears first started writing, it was a breath of fresh air to me....validating all I'd thought and done. I love, love, love his perspective. It's so great to have authors we can look to, to figure out that our children are not the only ones who do this or that, and that parents from time memorial have struggled to get enough sleep and to figure out how to deal with all the various baby situations.

I have to say, that as much time and years as I spent awake at night, I have so many fond memories of rocking and singing to a baby in the still of the night. I wouldn't trade those memories for any amount of sleep!

Hang in there. When babies get to be about 3 years old, they are so independent and can do so much, that you wish you could go back to babyland!

dancebythelight said...

It's so hard to know the "right" thing to do for your child, and even harder when you can't think clearly in the midst of it and you just want to survive it! I'll be praying for you, for sure.

Like I said, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child" was the book that helped me the most, as it had all sorts of ideas (not just "one" way--although the author has his own view) no matter what your ideology is. And talking to other mother's, especially ones that had several children and were no longer new moms.

But I'm glad you have the perspective that "God gave Piper to me as a good and perfect gift too, and me to her as her mom." So true. You're the perfect mom for her, and she's the perfect child for you, no matter what you do right or mess up. :)

ellen said...

I think I'm just going to be repeating everyone, but when I read this I thought of what I've been studying about David. He was called to lead a very high-need child: the Isrealites. God hand-picked him for them and them for him. It is comforting to rest in this, that God chose me for my children. He chose for me something that requires me to come to the end of myself over and over again so that He could be my glory. And my children's too someday, prayerfully.

Esther said...

Love the last paragraph...God did give Piper to you....on purpose, not just a random selection.

So glad you've found some peace in this.

erin said...

oh sweet.. it is so encouraging to me, for you to share this... i don't have a babe yet-but i'm waiting for the day he or she comes to me. and knowing the strength that you have, the love that pulls you through those tough days and rough nights. well, you are such a warrior mama. and your babe is teaching you so many lessons on this journey. :) xoxo

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