Accepting Dominic

By IMI blog contributor, Amanda Hammond

There is nothing quite like a baby’s cry.  It gets the blood pumping, sharpens the mind and activates the stress response.   Fight or flight?  Neither are options as new parents.

Dominic gave the impression he was going to be an easy baby for the first few weeks. Then the crying began and didn’t stop.  He cried and cried and cried some more.  He cried to the point where I felt jealous of parents who had “easy” babies and resentful of the doctors we saw who couldn’t help my son.  Many times I just did not accept him as he was.  I didn’t want to because that made it permanent.  So I stayed in solution-finding mode researching colic and crying on the internet.  I found some great resources and eventually was able to find techniques that eased his stress.  Unfortunately these were only temporary fixes that put him to sleep.   He, without fail, would return to his fussy self upon waking.  This involved tears, a scrunched face, flailing fists and a stiff body.  The sound was one of pain.  It was horrible for all of us.  Accepting that this was my son’s temperament rather than a medical condition was out of the question so we kept searching for an underlying problem.  He underwent a GI exam at 2 months old and was loosely diagnosed with having dairy sensitivity, possible reflux and/ or colic.  The truth was- no one knew what was wrong with Dominic and this was an awful and powerless feeling.  What parents want to feel powerless when it comes to the well-being of their children?

He had plenty of ear infections the first year which added to his already fragile temperament and some extra fluid in his brain that lead to a couple of MRIs before age one.  Overall, though, he was physically healthy.  The times where he wasn’t sick left me with no excuses for his sensitivity except that he was sensitive in general as a person. 

The biggest thing Chris and I were missing was support for us so that we could better support our son.  When stress was tightly wrapped around our house like a rubber band waiting to snap, we weren’t as nurturing to each other or Dominic.  It meant we weren’t taking things day by day and that we were wishing things were different… that Dominic was different. This was a disservice to our new family.  It took us many months to come to a place of acceptance with Dominic.  He was stressed easily, quick to cry and super happy when things were well.  We were even able to laugh about it occasionally.  Sometimes laughter was what kept us sane.  Eventually we realized that our job was to help him deal with his rollercoaster of feelings by acknowledging them rather than trying to squelch them.  He needed comfort and we did too.

Dr. Barry Lester runs the only colic clinic in our country- The Brown University Center for the Study of Children At Risk.  According to Dr. Lester infant colic and fussiness can cause parents to feel they are not capable parents.  I can attest to this.  It can throw a wrench into the parents’ bonding with baby as well because they may not feel that attachment that many parents do.  He feels the most important thing their clinic does is “let parents off the hook.”  Parents of colic or otherwise fussy babies need to know it is not their fault.  If they can truly believe this, they will be less likely to develop depression and resentment toward their babies. 

By accepting our babies as they are, fussiness and all, we are not admitting that we are bad parents.  We are admitting that we can’t change our babies.  For better or for worse, they are ours.  And I can tell you from experience that life gets easier at this point.  Just expect fussiness to happen.  Don’t fear it.  The most you can do is help your baby through it with soothing words and lots of compassion. Time will heal the rest.  High needs babies need less as they get older.  My son is almost two and is far happier than he used to be.  I am finally hearing compliments about how happy he is!  Those were few and far between before.  Does he still have a sensitive temperament?  Yes.  He’s a tender little guy who expresses his sadness, frustration and love very easily.  Temper tantrums aside, I like him that way!  Honestly, if your child isn’t comfortable expressing emotion- that isn’t good either.  “Easy” babies may not always be happy.  They might just be quiet.  It is important to keep that in perspective when feeling the need to do a baby swap. 

Wishing our babies were different isn’t helpful.  It is self-defeating and will keep us from fully loving and bonding with our children when they need it most.  Getting help from counselors, The Fussy Baby Site, and even talking to a friend will do wonders for our stress so we can be the parents we need to be.  We can’t change our babies.  However we can change our perceptions and expectations of our babies leading to a healthier parent-child bond.  Next time your baby screams in your ear while you are holding her try telling her how happy you are that she feels so comfortable expressing her feelings to you.  That is what she is doing after all.  You may not really feel this way at first but if you make it your mantra you will begin to believe you are blessed and that things will get better.

 

Sources

Providence Clinic Helps Parents Cope with Colic by Debbie Elliott, 2006, www.npr.com

 

About Amanda Hammond

Amanda Hammond, IMI blog contributor,  is the founder of Ready Or Not Baby Planning Services in Wisconsin.

http://www.readyornotbabyplanning.com/

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