The High Need Baby: Unsatisfied

When I imagined being a mom, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect. Sure, I had some images floating through my mind of chasing after little ones on a summer day, cuddling sleepy children in front of the fireplace, and holding my peaceful baby while watching her sleep.

Granted, I knew these Hollywood versions of parenthood wouldn’t be the norm. From watching friends, I knew there would be tears and dirty diapers and less sleep than I was used to. But there was one thing I was sure of: I would always be able to soothe my baby and meet all her needs. After all, that’s what mothers do, right?

We had a good enough start. Livi came out crying but as soon as they put her in my arms, she calmed down. The nurses even commented how beautiful it was to witness. And I’m not going to lie, it felt amazing to be able to calm this tiny new person just by being there. Had I known what lay ahead, I would have savored that moment even more.

As a high need baby, Livi was miserable most of the time. She would cry no matter what we did. Nothing satisfied her and it was often impossible to soothe her.

After the initial hurdle of figuring out the whole breastfeeding business, it became the one and only thing that would calm her. But even that was short lived and soon enough her reflux would ruin even this last bit of calm and quiet we both were clinging to.

Already sleep deprived and exhausted, I almost gave up. But giving up was not really an option. We had to make it through, somehow. It didn’t matter that I was tired and didn’t know how to help her. What mattered was that I had to be there for my helpless little baby who felt even more miserable than me.

It was the hardest thing I ever did. It hurt to see my baby so unhappy and it hurt that I, her own mother, could not help her. I still haven’t recovered from that feeling of failure. I don’t know about you but for the longest time I thought an unhappy baby meant I was doing something wrong.

After all, all the other babies I had ever spent time with were much more content and calmed down easily. I didn’t know that some babies just have different temperaments and that sometimes no one could calm them down.

But I kept trying, every day looking for solutions, ways to calm her, stop the crying, make it all better.

Sometimes the things I tried made a difference and sometimes they didn’t. They would work one day but not the next. And so we moved on until she was 8 months old and things slowly started getting easier.

In the end, I didn’t make her better. She just needed longer than other babies to get used to this life. Even now as a toddler it is harder for her to be comfortable in many situations and to tolerate too much stimulation.

All I could do was to be there for her and give her my best. I tried everything I could think of to soothe her, I held her as much as she needed me to, I gave her my all. And I did it every day, even though it never seemed to be enough.

I still feel like I failed her. I still have days when I feel like I can’t give her what she needs.

But now, we also have hours of laughter and giggling. We go for walks and discover flowers and grass and leaves. We marvel over wild animals in her books and spent hours coloring with Crayons or building towns with Lego.

She now gives hugs and smiles and kisses. She comes running when she needs the comfort of our arms and in her eyes you can see her unconditional love and trust.

And at the end of the day, this is what makes it all worth it.

17 comments on “The High Need Baby: Unsatisfied

  1. Oh yes, we all feel like failures when it comes to our kids. I think it’s called “motherhood” – ha! But in all seriousness, I can tell from your posts that you really have done everything for your little girl, and I know for a fact that you shouldn’t feel like a failure. We all just try our best. What more can we do?

    I also feel like a failure sometimes. For me it was more in the first year where I wasn’t coping well and had such a short fuse. I just found I wasn’t patient enough, particularly when it came to getting my child to sleep. Why couldn’t I be laid back and easy going like the other moms I know? And was my child suffering because I wasn’t like that? But now here we are, 16 months later, and things are so different and every tear I shed and ounce of doubt I had were worth it. It’s the little things that make it so amazing. Like over the weekend when we were visiting friends. I had left the room to look at something, and when I came back I saw Bubby standing in the hallway. She didn’t see me straight away, but was obviously looking for me. And once she found me, the grin that broke out on her face was AMAZING. Such a shame they don’t come out doing that!!!

    It sounds like you have a lot of things figured out with Livi, and I am sure it will get much easier as she learns to talk and can start telling you what’s wrong and what she needs. In the meantime, keep up the good work as she is so obviously thriving with whatever it is you’re doing!

    • hnMom says:

      Moments like the one you described just make your heart melt, don’t they.
      Thank you so much for your sweet comments. I hope you don’t think I write these posts just so I can get comments like yours, although it’s wonderful to read them. I almost feel bad to post this as things are much better now. But I want to write for the parents who are just going through this and I want them to know that there are others who went through the same thing, that they are not alone, and that it will get better. So I am trying to be honest and sometimes it might sound like I am complaining a lot but that’s truly how it was and how I felt.
      Anyway, what I am trying to say is, thank you for your support, it means a lot. 🙂

      • I don’t think that at all! Have you seen the amount I complain on my blog?! I feel guilty about it too sometimes as I often feel like it makes it seem like I’m constantly annoyed, which isn’t the case. But I think everyone tends to focus more on the negatives – reading posts about how easy it was to put your baby to bed last night or how long it’s been since she’s cried would make for boring (and irritating!) reading material! 🙂

        I think it’s great that you are writing these posts to help other parents that are going through something similar feel less alone. I hadn’t really thought of starting a blog or reading other people’s blogs when my child was really small, but had I done so, all of this would’ve really helped me.

        I’m so glad things are getting better! Funny how they reach a certain age and things that were once an issue are suddenly a thing of the past!

      • hnMom says:

        It is funny and such a relief, too.
        I was on the internet constantly, searching frantically, trying to find out what could be wrong with Livi. If others had similar issues with their babies, especially since I’d never seen a baby like her “in real life.”
        I couldn’t find a lot and that was discouraging, to say the least. Made me feel pretty lonely and worry even more.
        So, when things started getting a little easier and I had a few minutes, I thought why not share your experience so that others won’t feel the way I did. Anyway…

    • Steph says:

      “Why couldn’t I be laid back and easy going like the other moms I know? ” I have asked myself this many times and often felt guilty for not being more easy going.

      hnMom – I’m glad things are getting easier and I think just being there for your daughter through all the hard times speaks volumes to her little soul.

      • Glad I’m not the only one who isn’t laid back! I envy those women who can just go with the flow and not worry about things. Life must be so much easier that way!

      • hnMom says:

        Thank you for saying that, it really helps a lot to hear that. 🙂
        I struggle with being more easy going myself. But now that Livi is getting better and there is not as much to worry about, I’m learning that too, step by tiny step. 😉

  2. One Mother's Notes says:

    I have that mummy guilt too but i think it’s only because we want so much for them to be happy that we don’t realise that this in itself makes us a great mum! You sound amazing. I know a lot of mums that wouldn’t go to the lengths you have to figure your child out AND help others with your blog.

    • hnMom says:

      Thank you so much. You are right, all we really want is for them to be happy and healthy. That she wasn’t either as a baby, was really hard to accept and deal with.

  3. Nina says:

    I agree with a ton of the sentiments written in the comments already. I completely envied laid back moms who have the easy babies. I remember a cousin of mine went to an outlet shopping center with her baby who was the same age as mine. When I could barely take my kid to the mall for an hour or two, I was floored with the idea of taking a baby to an all-day shopping fest. And driving there too, wow! But then I realized that every baby is different, and mine wouldn’t have lasted long at an outlet center.

    And seriously, you’re doing an amazing job with your little girl. I think only in toddlerhood did being a mom actually seem doable for me 🙂

    • hnMom says:

      “I think only in toddlerhood did being a mom actually seem doable for me.”
      Livi is just at the beginning of toddlerhood but I think I know what you mean. Things have gotten much more manageable since her birthday.
      I’ve got to say, your cousin is really lucky. I keep hearing about these “easy” babies, but it’s hard to imagine. For the first 3 months or so, I was barely able to leave the house at all, sometimes I had to return within the first few minutes. As far as shopping, my husband had to do all the grocery shopping in the beginning. Going to a mall was pretty much impossible.

  4. 4eyedblonde says:

    Please don’t doubt for a second the content of your posts. You are such a wonderful writer that I think I would enjoy it if you wrote about how stars are formed just as much. Okay, maybe not. Ha! But as moms (and some dads) we can relate to everything you say. I am so glad things are starting to line up for you and Livi, even if only a little. But the first year after becoming a parent is so overwhelming, and even more so, it seems, with a high needs baby, it seems normal to me that you still want to share your experiences. They are still as vivid for you today as they were six months ago. I am glad you share them.
    Even though my son wasn’t a high need baby, I
    sure thought he was at the time. My whole world revolved around him and his needs that I felt so lost and frustrated for what seemed like forever. If there is a problem, you just want to fix it. But boy, it takes every ounce of determination (and spite) to keep pushing, doesn’t it? It’s as if your baby’s troubles are an opponent in a boxing ring and you are bound and determined to win the fight. That’s how I felt anyway. It’s exhausting. I have such respect and admiration for your perserverance. I hope Livi’s growth makes your life easier and you can look back on her infancy as a battle won for the both of you.

    • hnMom says:

      Thank you so much, your support means a lot. 🙂
      And wow, that’s pretty much exactly how it felt like. And it was beyond exhausting. Never in my life did I expect it to be that hard. I don’t regret a thing, but I am glad I waited until I was truly ready and really wanted to have children. Otherwise, I am not sure how I would have handled it all.

      • 4eyedblonde says:

        You don’t know how many times I’ve thought the same thing (…I’m glad I waited until I was truly ready…). I get so frustrated sometimes but yet I’m so grateful that I didn’t go through this when I was younger! I was a lot less tolerant then! Thank God for small blessings, right? 🙂

      • hnMom says:

        You are so right. Sometimes I worry that I waited too long to have children (and maybe I have). But I definitely would not have been as patient or forgiving when I was younger.

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