High Needs Hell

***previously published on Harness Magazine: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/high-needs-hell/

High needs babies. Have you heard of them? If your child naps every day, sleeps in a crib or lets you go into the next room without an atomic meltdown, I’m guessing you have not. For the mothers and fathers that empathize with the above conundrums, I feel you. It is real.

Do not let anyone pressure you into thinking you’re doing everything wrong and all babies follow the same simplistic formula. That propaganda is detrimental to high need parents.

Our eyes are heavy, our clothes are dirty, and we are beyond touched out. I teetered on the edge of a mental breakdown with my first child before I stumbled across an article about high needs babies and subsequently found a book titled The Fussy Baby Book. As those words leapt off the page, a sliver of light greeted me in my dark lonely tunnel.

For the first time since my daughter’s birth, I felt competent enough to care for her needs and I had hope that things would improve. I’d be able to run to the bathroom without her clinging to my shirt and I could clean the house without the weight of my baby carrier. By the time she was one, I had a handle on her quirks.

And then I got pregnant. My son was born exactly forty weeks from her first birthday.

For those with high needs babies, you fear another high needs infant. It’s terrifying. Then, you weigh the odds and figure there’s probably no way you’ll land yourself another clinger. Statistically speaking, this can only get easier, right?

Enter my son. He’s off the charts for high needs. His clingy behavior is more than I could have imagined. He’s affectionate and giggly. He gives hugs like no other and blows kisses from across the room, but there is no escape.

My daughter liked to play with relatives and family outings were a small break in the monotony of my chaotic life. My son, on the other hand, digs his nails into my shoulders and squeezes for dear life. The mere thought of going to another adult causes crocodile tears and sobbing to the point of gagging.

Now, I understand that there’s nothing I can do short of exposure therapy or trial by fire. The only way I can get a break is to rip off the band-aid and apologize to whoever volunteers to watch him, but I can’t do that.

Mom guilt is fierce so I endure the endless touching and constant whining because I’m his mom. I’m their mom. The thought of him worrying himself into hysterics is too much and has deterred me from leaving up to this point.

I haven’t been shopping without either of them. I haven’t had my hair done in a salon in nearly two years. My husband and I haven’t had dinner without at least one of them in over three years. Oh, and yes my son still sleeps in our bed.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take a toll on us, but he’s on the same page as me. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving them, nor do we have babysitters that we trust won’t go off the deep end with their constant whining. I know what you’re thinking.

It can only get better, right?

That was my driving thought, but then I found out I was pregnant. It was never a serious thought. I only took the test to put my mind at ease because I had been nauseous for a couple of days.

Nope. Two lines. Two terrifying lines.

I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t devastated and I won’t pretend that I’m over the moon excited. At twelve weeks, I’m just now able to accept my fate and the possibility that my next will be just as needy.

Motherhood is hard. It’s heart-wrenching, exhausting, isolating, humiliating, and beautiful all at the same time. I know I’ll love this baby just as I love my two Velcro babies.

But I honestly don’t know how I’ll survive. I know I will, but the exact formula for making it through the next two years is unbeknownst to me. I’m bracing myself for the worst with as much optimism as I can muster.

This isn’t written in hopes of pity or words of encouragement. It’s simply thrown out there to let other women know they aren’t alone in feeling trapped by their all-consuming role as a mom.

I see you and I’m weathering this hurricane with you.