Never before in my life have I been this exhausted and tired. When Livi was born, she took all the energy I had and then cried for more. She never seemed satisfied or content. Some days, I truly thought I could not go on any longer – yet somehow I did.
In the beginning, it was a constant mix of nursing and holding her, walking and rocking, singing and shushing, and finally tiptoeing through the house, only to start all over again a few minutes later.
Which is how many new parents would describe their new lives. The difference for us was that Livi would cry and fuss, unless we held her. And that this was going to last longer than six weeks or three months or even six months…
Putting her in her crib was simply impossible. The minute we moved her from our arms, she would wake up and scream all over again. We just could not put her down, not in a swing or bouncy chair or anywhere else. She even disliked being in a baby carrier or sling. All she wanted was to be held.
I spent many nights sitting in bed nursing her until she would fall asleep in my arms. Then I would sit as quietly as possible, hoping she would sleep for a little while so that my husband could get some rest as well. Thirty minutes to an hour later and she was up again. My husband would take over and walk around the house with her and I would try to get some sleep.
It was hard to keep going and stay positive. I feared the day my husband had to go back to work. How was I supposed to take care of her, and of me?
Many days during those first weeks and months my baby was not the only one crying. For me it was mostly exhaustion. The only way I could get a break was by letting Livi nap while I held her in the rocking chair. I could not do much this way but at least I could sit and watch some TV or read. I started stashing water bottles and snacks next to the rocking chair so I would get at least something to eat.
I was also frustrated. From other new moms I would hear how great their little ones were doing, some sleeping through the night at just a few weeks old, some sitting content in their swings while mom was cooking dinner for dad.
I felt inadequate and like a failure. What was I doing wrong? Had I already screwed up my child?
In the end, the only thing that helped me get through this stage was patience and time. I pretty much had to stick it out no matter how rough it was for all of us.
That, and learning all I could about high need babies once I knew what was going on.
It didn’t make her any less draining. But it did give me some perspective. I learned that there were others going through the same thing and that alone gave me so much hope and strength.
I also began to stop thinking that something was wrong with her and simply accepted that this was just the way she was. And once I truly accepted it, things got a lot easier.
I was finally able to focus on the good things in life, the moments that melt your heart. Her first smile, her content sigh when she would drift off to sleep in my arms, the first time she gave me one of her baby kisses, the first time she gave me a hug, the first time she said mama, …
How about you? Do you have a baby that leaves you running on empty? How do you cope?