My heart feels heavy today as I think about the realities of life with a high need or "difficult" baby.
Every day I talk to parents who are desperately tired, emotionally and physically spent and unsure how they're going to face another day.
They feel like - and this is literal - they cannot do it anymore.
But you know what? As parents, we don't have a choice.
My kids are now 9 and 11. They can be challenging, and some days I too feel like I can't do it anymore. I feel like I can't take the whining, sibling fighting or preteen attitude for another minute.
But you know what's different about my situation? My kids are in school 6 hours a day. And they sleep through the night. And, when worst comes to worst, I can tell them to go watch a movie and leave me alone (and they'll happily comply).
Your baby has been screaming for 4 hours straight? Your toddler hasn't slept AT ALL in the past 20 hours?
Too bad! There is no escape, even when you feel like you have nothing, NOTHING left.
At the risk of using a terrible clichￃﾩ....you're adrift. Alone at sea, with no hope of reaching land anytime soon.
In moments like this, please use this blog post as your life raft. I know the feeling of wanting someone to just tell me what to do....to tell me what to do when I'm DONE.
Put aside your preconceptions and parenting style and (if you want to...that's the only criteria), go and do these things.
And, under NO circumstances, are you allowed to feel guilty about them!
1. Take a shower.
Some babies and toddlers cry a lot. Some even cry most of the time. Some cry even harder when you leave the room. This makes showering (alone) very difficult.
I know that no one wants to let their child cry. But we're talking about preserving your sanity here. Put your little one in the crib or another safe space, and take a long, hot shower. If you need to, put him in a seat or exersaucer in the bathroom so he can still see you.
Tell yourself: "Personal hygiene is nonnegotiable". You will emerge with clean hair and hopefully a sliver of determination to keep going.
2. Put on noise-cancelling headphones.
The cry of a colicky baby is like nothing else you've ever experienced. It's ear-splitting, headache-making, anxiety-and-panic-inducing madness.
Putting on headphones and blaring your favorite music won't stop the crying, but it will help reduce your physical arousal levels.
This means your body won't have to work quite as hard to cope, leaving you with slightly more energy to face the rest of the day.
3. Pay someone to take your child.
If you aren't lucky enough to have friends or family to watch your child, I give you permission to hire someone. Even if it's only a couple of hours a week, the anticipation of a break can help you get through the day.
If you're worried someone else can't handle your child, look for a qualified postpartum doula who has experience with colicky or high need babies.
If you can only afford a local teenager, set them up for success: Tell them to go for a long walk with a sling or stroller. Tell them your baby might cry the whole time, but that that's ok (Because it is. Really.)
4. For older babies, consider sleep training - even if you normally wouldn't.
I never push sleep training on parents, as I know it's a personal decision closely tied to parenting styles and values. But in the trenches, I urge you to consider venturing outside your current views. You are NOT a failure, or selfish, or lazy for needing sleep. Leave the discussions and debates about sleep training to parents who ARE coping; and then do what you have to do.
5. If you resent your child, it may be time to change your strategy.
A resentful parent isn't a healthy parent. Carrying around a burden of anger can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion; not to mention an increased risk of depression.
Dr. Sears writes, "If you are beginning to resent your style of parenting and your constant babytending and are feeling at the mercy of your baby's cries, take this as a signal that you need to make some changes. The key to surviving and thriving with the colicky baby is to keep working until you find a parenting style that meets the needs of your infant, but at the same time meets your needs and does not exceed your ability to give."
When parenting a difficult baby, throw the rules and "shoulds" out the window. These are desperate times, and your focus is on survival.
Clearly defining and being consistent in your parenting style is great, but this isn't the time. Right now you need to get through in one piece.
I give you permission to take care of yourself. Do what you have to do. Because YOU matter too.
Holly Klaassen is a freelance writer and founder of The Fussy Baby Site, a support site for parents of not-so-easy babies and toddlers. She is also the author of the free ebook, 6 Sleep Tips For High Need Babies & Toddlers. She lives just outside of Vancouver with her husband and two (formerly fussy) kids.