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  There is no such thing as a baby.  There is a baby and a someone.

                                                                                   –Dr. Donald Winnicott

High Needs

You may have picked up from some of my posts that parenting Cedar has kicked my butt.  If Norah was high needs then Cedar is “higher needs.”  How did I manage to have two of these wee blessings?  I’m starting to wonder if I create these babies somehow through my parenting.  My friends keep telling me that the third baby is always mellow.  Well, no thanks.  I think I’ll stick with two. 

IMG_c5066Dr. Sears describes 12 characteristics of the high needs baby:

  • Intense:  these babies do not clear their throat.  They bellow.  A few times I’ve worried that Cedar might have damaged my eardrum with her screams.
  • Hyperactive:  when she is awake her breathing is rapid and she seems almost nervous.  Her legs and arms are moving and her eyes are wide.  Think baby on caffeine.
  • Draining:  check
  • Feeds frequently:  Cedar only nurses for comfort at night.  So we don’t have this one so much.  She is all business when it comes to feeding during the day.
  • Demanding:  When she needs me, there is little warning or warm-up.  There is an urgency to high needs babies.  Of course, no baby should be ignored but I cannot imagine how one would ignore a high needs one.
  • Awakens frequently:  This one is true; however, because we co-sleep, I’m skin-to-skin with her and she does not cry at night.  She settles quickly.  We manage this one quite well. 
  • Unsatisfied:  I spent the first month utterly baffled by her cries.  She was fed, dry, rested.  I didn’t realize she was particular about how things need to go.
  • Unpredictable:  Yesterday she slept for 2 hours in the swing I borrowed from a friend.  Woo-hoo!  Has it happened again?  Nope.  So far, there has been only one tried and true soother and that is the wrap.  Well, and the bathtub but we can’t spend the whole day there.  And while I can’t imagine life without the wrap, it does limit what I can get accomplished.  My back is killing me by the end of the day.  Right now, I’m sitting on a birth ball bouncing while she sleeps snuggled to me.
  •  Super-Sensitive:  “acute awareness of environment” and “like walking on eggshells.”  Yep.
  • “Can’t Put Baby Down:”  I think I’ve mentioned that a time or two.
  • Not a Self-Soother:  No way, no how.  If that were the case, she would not scream the ENTIRE trip to the grocery store.  I’ve become almost a hermit because I hate the carseat crying.  If “cry-it-out” worked on high needs babies, she would have stopped crying in the carseat by now.   
  • Separation Sensitive:  This one is absolutely the most difficult.  Except for small 5 minute increments, she rarely permits anyone else to hold her.  Even Scott has to be careful about how he looks at her because of that pesky super-sensitive trait.  It is killing Scott because he isn’t able to soothe her or even bond with her much.  Remember he was a stay-at-home daddy with Norah at this age. 

I don’t want to sound negative.  And I don’t want to dramatize my experience.  Maybe if I parented differently, I would have a different baby.  I don’t know.  I’m fortunate that I am able to stay home with her and that my wonderful husband, family, and friends have helped so much with Norah.  And since Scott was himself a stay-at-home dad with Norah, he understands when we have a messy house or the same easy dinner over and over again. 

I hope that the highest needs of this high need wee one has peaked in the so-called fourth trimester.  She will be 12 weeks on Sunday.  Will we turn a corner?  Of course we will.  Of course.  Right?  More on my thoughts on the fourth trimester later.

Pregnancy, Power, and Parenting

I spoke yesterday at an Attachment Parenting Forum.  The topic was how choices in childbirth were related to the first AP Principle:  preparing for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.  I joined a forum with a midwife and two childbirth educators

In my classic style, I did not prepare at all.  I had no idea what I was going to say.  So I was pleasantly surprised when coherent words came out of my mouth.  And I was even happier that when I finished speaking, I agreed with what I had said.  Sounds schizophrenic, yes?  Welcome to my public speaking technique.    

I said that one of my primary roles as a doula is to guard power.  I don’t care what kind of birth my clients choose or end up having; my concern is that they retain their power throughout.  They are not bullied or undermined.  They have informed consent.  They understand and claim responsibility for their birth.  The power of pregnancy and birth springboard us into confident parenting.  When our friends and family question our AP methods or on a sleepless night 5 months postpartum, we question ourselves, we can draw on the strength and trust learned through birth. 

Parenting is not rocket science.  It is much harder.  It calls for something more than mere instruction manuals.  It demands an inner strength beyond anything else.  Those 9 months of pregnancy and however many hours of labor and birth can lay a firm foundation for our parenting; particularly when our choices are questioned at every turn.