Somewhere in the Universe, two storks were matching babies to mommies-to-be…
Manager: “Cindy Adams gets a blonde girl. Betty Jones gets twin boys. Bet she quits making fun of cankles now. Renae Rose….give her one of those new experimental models.”
Secretary: “The HN’s? They aren’t production ready! We can’t figure out how to stop the screaming feature. The sleep button is stuck in the never position and we’re pretty sure there’s no off switch!”
Manager: “Eh, what’s the worst that can happen?”
…and I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up with my high-need daughter, Emelyn (affectionately known, in certain circles, as “Gremelyn”).
From the moment she was born, she screamed every moment she wasn’t sleeping and the child never slept. It wasn’t that adorable, sleepy, singing cry either. I have heard animals being eaten on the Discovery Channel that protested less than my daughter did when she was upset. The list of things that offended her included: sleeping, not sleeping, hot, cold, temperate, stress, no stress, and days ending in Y. Of course, we drug Emelyn to the pediatrician convinced she had a twisted bowel/broken bone/demon possessing her. We were told that she had colic and reflux, was spoiled, and just “generally unhappy”…all of which were less than helpful.
One day while contemplating making a candy necklace out of Valium and licking it, I came across Dr. Sears’ 12 Features of a High Need Baby. He had plagiarized my child! There was a name for the kind of baby Emelyn was and other people had survived infanthood with babies like her with minimal PTSD. Just being able to point to a label gave me hope and a game plan and from that day forth, I gave in to the needs. I wore Emelyn, nursed her, and was around her, night and day, until she was two years old. I am not exaggerating when I say I didn’t take time off, but that’s what she needed. She would shriek and instead of hiding, I would take her out anyway. Gradually she began to enjoy our outings and balancing between the high need characteristics of “hyperactive” and “super sensitive.” Being worn exposed her to get much needed scenic variety and stimulation but also allowed her to turn into me when it was enough.
One of the most frustrating aspects of having a high need baby is the ignorance and outright hostility towards your child and life. “She’s just spoiled. She’ll never be independent if you wear her. You’re still nursing that baby?!” My one piece of advice is do not listen to the negative people. They would never deny an asthmatic child an inhaler and your support mechanisms for your baby are just as critical. What works for your and your child, WORKS and no justification is needed. For me, realizing that there was nothing wrong with Emelyn and that I just needed to make my world a little cuddlier for her was a huge breakthrough.
While I will talk about her needs as a toddler another time, I want to leave you with this story. This year she begged to do dance class, and the instructor told us three year olds inevitably lose their minds from separation the first few classes. I know my kid and was prepared for an epic meltdown. Instead she walked up to a crying girl and said, “It’s okay. Grown-ups come back” because every time she has needed someone, her needs have been met. For her, mommy will always come and that security is valuable for any child, especially one with high needs.
Lacking a hobby, Renae Rose has spent the last four years pregnant or nursing her daughter Emelyn and son Macallan. She is a full-time teacher at an online charter school. In her spare time, Renae enjoys laughing at her kids’ hijinks and alienating people on Facebook.