Having a high needs baby is hard in a lot of different ways. Like, A LOT of ways. Have I ever mentioned that the Kraken didn’t let us leave the house for months? Oh, I have? Frequently? Yeah, I think I’m still a little traumatized. It didn’t help that he nursed in short, frequent bursts, only slept for 2 hours at a time, and hated being left alone.
Or being with more than four people at once.
And he could tell if I wasn’t pouring 100% of my attention onto him. (Actually, he still can, but I’m pretty sure that’s normal for
demanding little tyrants three year olds) I dragged the two of us to a mommy-and-me group once a week, and would stare in shocked horror at these other mothers who could just lay their baby on a blanket with a toy, and then chat. One of them found time and energy to bake cookies. Meanwhile, mine began to lose it if I wasn’t looking directly at him at all times. Those other babies were so happily oblivious to everything; what the hell was going on with mine?!
That right there? That’s the thing. When a baby’s very soul is just difficult, when their demands are so much higher, and so much more intense, it’s invisible. When you don’t get the dopamine reward of a smile lighting up his face when he sees you, people assume it’s happening anyway. So if you’re drained and haggard on a whole different level, that’s just on you, man. You have to let your baby feel a little discomfort, put up with crying for a minute or two sometimes. You’re just being too sensitive.
My dad once insisted on taking us for a walk, that he would be able to withstand the crying better than me until the monster figured out that fresh air wasn’t actually burning his lungs. After all, every baby likes being outside, I was just being too protective to see that!
TWENTY MINUTES LATER, I finally convinced him that the steady increase in howling wasn’t going to end until we were back indoors. I know twenty minutes doesn’t sound like a lot; try having a newborn scream at you with the full force of an opera singer all day long, and you’ll understand.
I already looked it up, by the way. Opera singers make no money at all, so I won’t be able to put those talents to good use supporting me in my old age. Blast!
I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that basically no one believes you. If a baby is harder, it’s the parent’s fault. Or just all in your head, of course. Have you considered that this might just be hormones talking?
There’s no patronizing quite like judgey parent patronizing.
In retrospect, of course, I can see that things were actually harder for us, and that sometimes there were solutions to that, and sometimes there weren’t. Vampire baby just needed baby sunglasses, and he began to forgive the outside world for existing. A little bit. On the other hand, to this day he still wants me to be in constant physical contact with him at all times, and, short of some sort of horrifying science experiment involving a mannequin and permanent emotional scarring, I don’t really see any way around that.
But when you’re in the trenches, you can’t gain perspective. And your little cherub takes full advantage of that, flipping reality on its head, then letting you believe everything is normal. I’m not saying that the sacred bond between a mother and child is an abusive relationship, I’m just saying that in any other situation this behavior would be a big ‘ol red flag. My baby was gaslighting me, pure and simple. I genuinely thought I was the crazy one, that I just couldn’t handle life as well as other parents. That I was a failure.
It’s a long, hard road to get to the point where you can blame your newborn for your problems, that you can realize it’s a six month old’s fault and not yours.
Sometimes, the baby lies. Sometimes, the baby makes you think that everyone else is dealing with this level of sheer insanity. The baby will make you think it’s normal to earnestly look up Stockholm Syndrome and wonder if you’re developing it. The baby will make you think all the other moms are getting delighted claps when they sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider because they’re just better at this than you. The baby will make you think there’s something deeply wrong with you.
Don’t let the baby lie to you. You are an amazing, perfect, stupendous, unbelievably strong person. You are doing everything you can, everything possible, and that’s all anyone can do (there’s no such thing as “right”).
You just have a manipulative-ass baby, who’s playing you like a fiddle. And that’s okay. Because someday you’ll be past all this, and you can hide this experience away in the depths of your heart, hoping that, someday, your kid will grow up to spawn just like you did. And you’ll be able to secretly – just for a second – enjoy his pain.