Having A Sensitive Child Is Like Handling A Grenade
My first child was a breeze in nearly every way. Besides the initial weeks where she suffered a pretty rough case of colic, she was so easy-going and sweet. She was happy just to hang out in her swing or lay on the floor in her baby gym for however long I needed her to so I could make a phone call or start dinner. Our days were uneventful in the best possible way- there was very little that could happen that would throw her off. It was when my son was born that I was introduced to the concept of the high-need baby/sensitive child. And that was when I learned that having a sensitive child is like handling a grenade. You have to be very careful or you might have a devastating explosion on your hands.
Don’t get me wrong- I fiercely love my son and even after all of the challenges he has put us through, I still would not change a hair on his head. His sensitive nature brings with it so many wonderful qualities that I am willing to put up with the hard parts with a smile on my face. Most of the time.
I first became aware of the term “high-need baby” when my son was just a few months old. He was so desperate for human contact at all times. I would no sooner lay him down, thinking he was asleep, and he would snap awake frantically bleating and clawing at the air. The only things that soothed him were my boobs and being held. My daughter was nothing like this and I thought I must be doing it wrong. I was plagued with self-doubt and constantly sleep-deprived. His first year was draining for me, to say the least.
He refused a bottle, refused to sleep independently and wouldn’t take a pacifier. I remember reading online about the features of high-need babies and figuring out that he had every single one. He was obviously intelligent and knew how to “upgrade his accommodations”, as Dr. Sear’s would say. He knew what was the most comfortable and wonderful thing- being carried in a sling all day, being in bed with momma and nursing on and off all night- so he would not settle for anything less. As my husband and I were reluctant co-sleepers, we never slept well with him in our bed. Even after taking every precaution and eliminating most bedding and our pillows, we still did not feel good about it. However, it was the only way he would settle in for the night so we cracked out of desperation.
All of the features that made him a difficult baby manifested in different ways as a toddler and child. He stopped nursing at around 18 months old but still had an extreme need for closeness and physical contact. It took maybe a year from that point before he could fall asleep without me beside him stroking his head- not my husband, me. It was like he wanted my scent or my touch- I don’t know. At first, it was greatly upsetting to me– I felt like I had no freedom and desperately wanted to have time to myself. I had nursed him for a long time (on an elimination diet no less, but that’s a whole other post) and I wanted my own body and life back very badly. Over time, I resigned myself to it and decided he was just a different kind of kid and I needed to adjust. I had to resist the urge to compare him to his easy-going sister and realize that he was normal, just nothing like her. He was his own brand of normal.