Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Needy Baby

Mimi Hecht is a stark contrast to the by-the-books, food pureeing, self-sacrificing supermom that many women feel pressured to live up to. Her articles like “The 10 Untruths about Motherhood” and “My Mama Manual” offer women an honest and humorous take on both the joys and hardships in trying to stay sane, stylish and spiritual in Motherland. Through her candor in addressing things like infertility, the high price of groceries or her mind-battle over circumcising her son, Mimi strives to inspire confidence in women and teach new moms to march to the beat of their own drum. To share her thoughts and celebrate all kinds of mothers, she started LADYMAMA a growing online community of modern-day Jewish women. 
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"If I look at him wrong, I get a reaction that makes me feel like the World’s Worst Mom."


When people used to tell me they had a “difficult” baby, I was full of judgments. I would think, “Oh, you must be uptight” and “I’m sure you're exaggerating.” After all, I had my own baby – so of course my opinions were warranted.

Little did I know that G-d would soon bless me with my own challenging bundle of joy and stress in the form of my second son.

When I delivered a boy the second time around, I experienced a funny sort of deja vu - like birthing the same baby all over again. The same gender, the same exact size, that same little pointy chin.

A million cries (both of ours) later, I have woken up to the fact that my second child is nothing like my first. I now am the proud mother of my very own “difficult baby.” Jokes on me.

I absolutely love our new handsome fella. And yes, I’m keeping him. But boy is he difficult. Everything is an issue. He insists on sleeping on his stomach in a very certain way. He needs to feed in absolute quiet, and even when he does he is fidgety and anxious. He hates his carseat, as if he’s sitting on pins and needles. And same thing with his stroller. He fights sleep with incredible prowess, so me and my husband get full-on workouts rocking him to sleep. Oh, and he has acid reflux - which comes with an abundance of specifications that set off even the most intuitive mother. I have started to call him, with a mix of adoration and stress, “my needy baby.”

The poor thing had to follow an unbelievable act. His older brother was a star baby. He loved nursing. He loved being flat on his back. Or on his stomach, or side – whatever I wanted! He loved being held and loved being put down. We could go on long road trips and, as long as he was fed normally, we only heard pleasurable gurgles from the backseat. He really just loved life. He was chilled out about everything. He never cried. I was even worried he couldn't! I brought it up to the doctor and he told me simply, “Just count your blessings.”

Fast forward a bit, and I am now realizing how incredibly lucky I really was. Because my firstborn’s early life was filled with so much ease, I have an overwhelmingly positive and simple connection with him. His entire babyhood, we literally just hung out and spoke. I was able to do anything and go anywhere with him. He was flexible. I was barely ever stressed. It was only adorableness – all the time. I felt like a champion.

In contrast, I feel bad for my new baby. I associate so much stress with him. The crying. The medicine for his acid reflux. The war every time I want to put him in his carseat or stroller. He’s just not a fun baby. If I look at him wrong, I get a reaction that makes me feel like the World’s Worst Mom. I have to work so hard at connecting positively with him, something I know is integral to his growth.

And so, the new kid on the block is forcing me to build an incredible selflessness I never knew I had. While my first child allowed me to do what I wanted, his younger brother has needs that mean making myself uncomfortable: giving up certain foods, forgoing that road trip that will be hell with his screaming, leaving the room when I have guests and need to feed him.

I am learning that in many ways, my firstborn was a great accessory – a wonderfully adorable sidekick. But with the help of my very fussy second child, I am actually becoming a parent.

You see, working hard on learning my baby’s needs has been the most maturing and gratifying bonding experience. The feeling of giving to the point of mental and physical exhaustion is like nothing I have ever felt. Just last night, I was rocking him to sleep. Back and forth and back and forth, feeling like my legs were going to give out. My visiting friend offered to take over. I knew she could also put him to sleep, but I declined. This is my needy baby. And I need him. Because making him happy and giving him comfort, even with all his difficult demands, is a feeling I have never known – like reaching the top of a tall, icy mountain.

Even though my baby will likely continue to be difficult and embarrass me in the streets with his dramatic cries, I am a champion. I have cried right along with him, frustrated when nothing works...but I still keep going. I have built an ability to grow more committed with each frustration, to display positive love throughout each challenge and to transform each difficulty into an opportunity. So much efforts goes into his every smile. And when I get one, I must admit, it’s worth a million of his older brothers grins.

Since my needy baby’s first days, I’ve discovered deep recesses within me where there exists an incredible strength to give, and I am exercising it every day. And even though I can’t understand why my son must be so difficult and I never really know what’s truly bothering him, I am thankful to him for allowing me to love him, and become someone new as a result.

At the risk of sounding like a total cheeseball, I have this message for other moms: If you’re dealing with a difficult baby, keep on giving until it hurts. Because after it stops hurting and a resilient love takes its place, the bond you’ve worked so hard to create will shine, and you’ll start to feel as if you wouldn’t change a thing.

I love you, my “difficult baby.” We’re going to be so close, you and I. Because with all your tears and tests, it is you – my needy, fussy, cranky and miraculous baby –  that has truly made me a mother.

6 LadyMama voices:

Fashion-isha said... [Reply to comment]

I remember those days! It's so hard! I used to hate when people said this to me but they grow up so fast...and lo and behold they do! My screaming and irritable second son (that I cried with too btw) is now a gorgeous 19 year old counselor at Camp Hasc! They can feel your love throughout it all!

Oksana, the Order Maven said... [Reply to comment]

Touching piece, Mimi! All three of my kiddies were so different as babies and are different now as teenagers and toddlers. Each one has his/her own needs and unique personalities. Hang in there through difficult patches. Love conquers all.


Elisheva said... [Reply to comment]

That was really moving and beautiful. I never had that experience, but you made me feel it!

Elisheva said... [Reply to comment]

That was so beautiful. Your writing is filled with such emotion, I couldn't help but feel it myself!

Rivki @ Life in the Married Lane said... [Reply to comment]

Oh, I loved this! Wonderfully written, and full of such reflection and wisdom. Your sons are lucky to have you! Hatzlacha rabah.

Chaya Estrin said... [Reply to comment]

Mimi, this is so true and well said! my 4th (ka"h) was and still is my most trying child at age one. Thank you for the perspective! Maybe we get share tips, laughs and tears when you are in town?