*Note: When I refer to my son as “high need”, I’m referring to Dr. Sears’ description of a high need baby.
My first child was a really hard baby. I feel qualified to say that now because my second baby is significantly easier. In many ways, my laid-back second born has made me feel vindicated. I can now say, “See! I did know what I was talking about! I wasn’t just a hormone-crazed new mama grossly underprepared for motherhood (although I was)! It wasn’t my parenting, eating habits, or personality that made him that way! He was just plain hard.“
One of the mysteries of motherhood, however, is how fiercely in love I was with that colicky, high need baby. Even more mysterious is how that love still grows each day…how I think it always will. Beyond all the incredible love, however, I look back and truly am thankful that my first baby was high needs. Here are some reasons why:
He humbled me and revealed my heart. I came into motherhood with the idea that I had everything figured out. I knew what kind of mother I would be and why. I was prideful and, sadly, judgmental. Then my beautiful, screaming Miles entered this world and threw me for a loop. He wasn’t what a baby was supposed to be, and I quickly had to let go of all that I thought I knew about babies and about motherhood. He showed me how wrong I was.
I had to depend on God for my strength and wisdom. I always felt myself to be an intelligent, capable young woman. However, being Miles’ mom has often made me feel utterly incapable and weak. The beauty of it all is that when I couldn’t go on, God sustained me. When I didn’t know what to do, He led me. I simply couldn’t rely on myself, and instead learned to rely on Him.
I was forced to relinquish my need for control. I have control issues. I really do. While that’s something I’m still working on, I’ve gotten immeasurably better since Miles was born. I had to let go of scheduling anything or the idea that I could somehow control my baby’s behavior (because I really couldn’t). Most of all, I had to get over the idea that I could somehow manipulate my life to create the”perfect” family and “perfect” marriage.
I learned not to care what other people thought. I use to dread people asking me if Miles was a “good” baby or if he slept good. If I told them the truth, I was quickly given advice about how I could “fix” the problem. If I mentioned that Miles was “high needs”, I was often met with raised eyebrows and skepticism. I could tell that certain people thought that my parenting style was to blame. I held him too much. I didn’t schedule him. I didn’t let him cry it out. I was too clingy. I wasn’t persistent or resilient enough. I had to learn to brush off comments like these and be confident in my parenting.
I became less critical and more sympathetic towards other moms. Criticism from other people made me much more careful about the comments I made to other moms. Just as I had learned that my baby and I were both unique individuals, so I came to see that every baby and mom is, in fact, different. I could never know every circumstance of a person’s life and, therefore, I had no right to judge another mom. I began to look at the mom in the grocery store with a toddler way past due for a nap with sympathy, rather than judging her for shopping instead of getting her child a nap.
I learned to pay attention to him as a little person instead of treating him as a generic baby. Miles never went “by the book” as a baby. That used to drive me crazy. I am now thankful for it because it caused me to really learn about him and mother him accordingly. It taught me to be responsive to my children, instead of expecting them to fit into my parenting style.
He taught me how important it was to be proactive in my marriage. For awhile after Miles was born, Andy and I had a pretty strained relationship. Not that there was really anything wrong. It was just that, up until Miles’ birth, pretty much every night was a date night for us. Miles demanded so much of our attention that we spent most of our time tag teaming instead of doing things together. Our own relationship was put on the back burner, and we felt like two ships adrift at sea. Thankfully, we began to learn what was necessary in our marriage in order to keep the flame, and even the friendship, alive. This is something we’re still working on, and I’m sure always will be, but we’re much more on our guard now.
I got a glimpse into how God loves us. Miles wrecked my life. He left my nerves frazzled, my brain foggy, and my self-confidence lacking. Yet, somehow my fierce love for him only grew. Through it, I got a taste of God’s love for us. I began to see how unfathomable it was for Him to love us so indescribably, when we can never begin to reciprocate…when we forget Him and fail Him and betray Him.
I now get to watch him blossom into an intelligent, intuitive toddler. Miles was a hard baby and he’s definitely a challenging toddler. Yet he’s also so very sweet and fun. He loves to talk and is very communicative. He’s also very observant and intuitive. He quickly picks up on people’s emotions, whether they be his mama’s or a strangers. His hawk-like eyes miss nothing, and he’ll often bring up things later that I had already forgotten had happened. I love it, and I love him.
I’m enjoying having a more laid-back baby this time around…and getting more sleep. Yet, I wouldn’t trade Miles and his personality for anything. I firmly believe that I am a much better mother to Nora because of what I learned from Miles. God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew the children that I needed.