Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

Confession: I Have A Case Of 'Easy Baby' Envy

It turns out I've got a bad case of 'good baby' envy, and I haven't been able to easily shake it. When I see my neighbour out with her infant and she is rocking a fantastic hairdo and a perfectly matched outfit, I feel envious. When my girlfriend tells me her sweet baby sleeps 12 hours through the night on a regular basis, I feel jealous. There is a part of me that thinks, 'I wish you could experience what I experienced!' and another part of me feels a sort of sadness that I didn't get to enjoy my boy's babyhood the same way mum's of 'easy babies' get to enjoy it. I know every baby requires a lot of work and parenting, even an easy baby can be a crabby pants from time to time! There is just a general difference that can be easily acknowledged. It goes like this, 'WAAAAAAAA' for eight hours in a row.

There is a wide spectrum when it comes to the temperaments of babies, and I know that as parents we get what we get in the baby personality department. Knowing this doesn't make me feel any less envious though, especially as I was given the super loud fussy baby as my first. Surprise! You just gave birth and get to go home with a newborn that will get progressively louder and more difficult to soothe! Congratulations!

Throughout the time I've been a mum, I've only had one girlfriend who has had a comparable fussy baby to mine. She wore her yoga clothing with pride and had the fussy baby dance down to a fine art form. She didn't go anywhere without a sling and was harried and frazzled and totally shattered from lack of sleep, and I loved her a bit more for that. She looked at me with tired eyes and said, "I totally get you".

When our boy came home from the hospital we knew he had a louder than normal cry, but we had no idea what we were in for! 4 months later, our next door neighbour moved out.

Jill, from the fabulous blog Baby Rabies, wrote an excellent blog post about giving herself more credit for surviving colic with her firstborn, who was a high needs fussy baby much like my beloved Benjamin.

I really appreciated her acknowledgement of her first experience in comparison to her second baby, who she happily reports to be an 'easy baby'. It was after the birth of her easy baby that she was able to look back and give herself the recognition that she deserved for parenting her first baby. Because, it is really night and day in the experience of parenthood.

The Different Experiences Of Parents In Regards To Baby Temperaments

Easy baby= cherishing sweet moments and never wanting them to grow out of their babyhood.

Hard baby= oh my god! When will you stop crying?!! Wishing away time because you heard that older babies are generally less fussy.

Easy Baby= chatting on the phone to your girlfriend while your baby is sleeping.

Hard Baby= unplugging the phone because if one more person disrupts your baby from falling asleep while strapped to you, you will also cry.

So tired! Husband wishing he could sleep standing up! Baby wearing was mandatory for parenting a fussy baby.

If I ever get the nerve to have a second baby, I hope that when they're born they will be a self declared easy baby. They will come out of me cooing and not screaming. I will relish their lovely quiet demeanour and be subtly boastful of their easy baby status. If this doesn't happen, you will all be hearing about it right here, and I will be that lady in the grocery shop crying while doing the fussy baby dance and managing a toddler with bribes of treats.

*In hopeful news to all those parents with current fussy babies: Ben is now 2.5 years old and very much a delightful toddler. He is sweet sensitive and has a quiet demeanour.


Amanda said...

Oh, I feel you, my friend!  DH wants a boy on our next go-round.  I don't care even the tiniest bit if we have a boy or a girl, but I'm PRAYING WITH EVERY FIBRE OF MY BEING that we get an easier temperament than we had with Lilah.  She had reflux, gas, and constipation, so she was like a colicky baby, but all day long and up until she was almost a year old.  And she ALWAYS cried for the first 5-10 minutes in a sling/carrier.  Oh, it was challenging!  It's probably why I look at people with kids even 2 years apart (which is pretty standard these days) like they are cRaZy!!!  I couldn't have fathomed trying to get pregnant again when Lilah was only 14 months old!

June 2, 2011 at 9:05 PM  
Ashley said...

It's amazing to me how every baby is so different.  I mean I get the whole "I'm not the same as the chick sitting next to me in Starbucks (except our impecable taste of course)" thing means we must have been different as infants. But I guess I kind of thought a lot of it had to do with parenting.  Then I had my own kids.  My first came out a snuggle baby.  I wouldn't say she was a hard baby but she did cry a lot, she did wake at night a lot (until she was 3.5 I didn't sleep through the night once) but she was happy most days and did nap while I worked.  Then my second was born, she cried LOUD but not that often, she wanted to be snuggled on her own terms, she slept amazing and still does and nothing that soothed or upset her sister soothed or upset her.  It was like she'd been watching my first 2 child rearing years from afar and thought "Hey, I'll throw good ol' mom a curve ball and be TOTALLY DIFFERENT"  gah!  2 years later they are still night and day kids and I'm learning that apparently I know nothing about raising kids.

If you guys decide to have another baby, take heart that no matter what he/she comes out like, you'll survive!  And I think the second time around you get the chance to make up for the moments missed with your first because you get to cherish the person your oldest is becoming while loving the baby moments you know are all too fleeting with your second.  at least for me that's how it was. 

ps. Love the picture of your husband and Ben.  Such a classic - I can hardly stand up but if you cry one more second I'm going to cry too moment :)

June 2, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Kristin said...

That's tough to read.  I feel for you on this topic when you reflect on how your first months with Ben weren't the "ideal" picture.  That would have been tough to get through.  I have been so lucky to have got away fairly easy with my two girls.  I can imagine that there would be some anxiety around having to do that tough work (as parents of fussy baby) again.  Fortunately all babies are born with their own new personalities, and you or any other mom would likely find yourselves with more confidence when/if baby #2 were to come around - bullet proof baby!  

June 2, 2011 at 10:58 PM  

I think it would be way harder to have the 'easy' one first and then be blessed with a very challenging baby second. Somehow it gives me a bit of comfort to know that I have been through the battles of parenting a difficult baby. I now have an absolute knack at soothing any baby that is passed my way. Which is quite the talent to have!

June 2, 2011 at 11:07 PM  

This is so true Ashley. Each baby has their own little personality that they are born with...and we just experience it alongside them. I also think that if #2 comes along and is also a super fussy infant, at least I'll have the insight that it is only a phase. Something that is harder to realize when it is your first. Plus I'll have a big bag of soothing tricks right from the get go!

June 2, 2011 at 11:10 PM  

I once thought I was pregnant when Ben was about 8 months old and I cried. I was still only surviving each day and not enjoying much of it. When I found out it was a false alarm I amped up with birth control! It took until he was about 2 years old for me to even feel a little less traumatized from all the crying and pure fussiness that existed.

June 2, 2011 at 11:12 PM  

I could have written a similar piece about our son. The first 6 months of his life were by far the hardest most challenging thing I have ever put myself through. And I was a freak'n full-time athlete once upon a time!
The Moby Wrap, Ergo baby carrier and my Nespresso machine saved me. I would think about making a delicious Americano all night and once it hit 6am it was mine. My husband would take him out in the carrier for 2 hour stretches overnight so I could get a small taste of sleep. We did a lot of sea wall walking.
We now have a delightful 19 month old but I'm still too shell shocked from the newborn phase to plan on having another one. No guarantee the next one would be easier.

June 3, 2011 at 5:08 AM refreshing. You get me! I agree with you that being a mum to a fussy baby is one the most challenging things to go through. I can remember telling my sister a year early that crying babies didn't phase me at all. Then it was mine that was doing the crying and something goes off in your brain! We also had the major lack of sleep which I think makes for dealing with the constant soothing that much harder.

June 3, 2011 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Mom said...

I guess I currently have an easy baby but with nothing to compare it (like a previous fussy baby) I still find myself thinking, 'whoa is me'. While I can put her down wide awake and she falls asleep...I still am exhausted and tired. I still feel that constant 'on' mode of being a mom. Even when she is sleeping I can't fully relax.

June 3, 2011 at 7:37 AM  

As the mom of a hard baby and an easy baby, I know of what you speak. I'll say this - having had the hard baby first, anything my daughter throws at me is a total piece of cake.

June 3, 2011 at 2:28 PM  
Ncrang said...

A long with "easy baby" envy, I also still feel a bit of resentfulness. I am not sure who I am resentful towards, the very difficult moments, my daughter (who don't get me wrong I love to bits...even during her challenging 2 year old moments), my friends who had babies who slept for three hour periods or who fall asleep anywhere but the sling or myself for fooling myself that my first was "hard" when in fact I had no idea what I was in for with my second.
I remember saying "I can not wait until this first year is over!". My mom scolded me for wishing time away but you know I am happy it is over (that is how bad it was as you know). I relish being in the two's and not the screaming, frothing, exhausted newborn phase with my daughter. I always say if I survived her newborn fussiness, I deserve an "easy" third baby!

June 3, 2011 at 4:25 PM  

This is what I hope happens to me. If you lived through the fire...then everything else is doable. You must've wondered a little bit if you #2 would come out and have a similar temperament as your first? How did you get over that worry? Or did you just suck it up?

June 3, 2011 at 7:48 PM  

Oh I hear you sister! In fact you are 'the friend' I was talking about. I remember meeting  your #2 and thinking...oh dear.. she sure is A LOT like Ben. I remember rocking her to sleep at your house and then sticking her down in your swing and a nano second later she roared like a little lion at me...just like Ben!

June 3, 2011 at 7:50 PM  
Ncrang said...

Ha ha I thought I was but wasn't sure. I like how we had the similar experience to discuss back then and now in our "post traumatic stress from fussy baby" period.

June 3, 2011 at 9:13 PM  

I knew I was going to do anything I could to give my children a sibling. It was critical that I do this in my mind, so I basically just sucked it up and got down to business. I'm lucky my second is different, but the thing is, kids always are. Go for it.

June 3, 2011 at 9:15 PM  
Jennaalphenaar said...

All I have to say is. "I get you"

June 5, 2011 at 9:39 PM  
Amanda Brown said...

This topic is so near and dear to my heart...both of our first two girls were (and are) HARD kids. Not colicky as infants, but still high-needs, poor sleepers, and then once they hit their first birthdays, they turn into CRAZY tantruming, challenging, tough little people for a phase that lasts a solid two years. YEARS. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am not exaggerating and will agree that Avelyn and Karenna are both a special breed of HARD. Then came Brinley, who has basically been smiling and laughing from day one, just so darn happy to be here. I am so happy to have experienced both sides of the personality coin, but I totally get bitter when there are moms out there who never have a hard kid and then smugly think that their superior parenting skills are the reason for their well-behaved children. If everyone could have a hard baby/kid, there would be much less artillery in the mommy wars. 

June 6, 2011 at 2:10 PM  

I agree with you on this Amanda, "... and then smugly think that their superior parenting skills are the reason for their well-behaved children." 
I know so many 'friends' who thought I must be doing something wrong or not doing something right with Ben as a baby. One thought it must be my breastfeeding..cause formula fed babies sleep better (this is not true!) another thought I was just too easy on him (frick! it's a baby!). on and on I could go :P Hate that part of being a parent. When things are tough, apparently everyone can do better than you. I do have to say, that I did have some REALLY helpful friends who were non judgemental and totally awesome. :)

June 6, 2011 at 3:35 PM  
Shannon B said...

Your post couldn't have come at a better time. I just clicked over here to remind myself at what age you said Ben slept through the night, since everyone I know in "real life" has no idea what I'm going through. My daughter is now 11 months old and is a classic high needs baby and we're just as tired now as we were when she was a newborn. She's up at least 4 times a night and each time it might take 30 minutes to 2 hours to get her back to sleep (most of that spent screaming). Never mind the countless hours trying to get her down for a nap.
I shoot murderous glances at people who say their baby sleeps through the night and has since the early days. I have to try really, really hard not to get mad when people offer me advice like "just get her on a routine" or " try putting her down awake". You think I haven't tried EVERYTHING and read every book I can????  I have serious easy baby envy, and as another person commented, I am resentful. For me, I'm resentful of the fact that my 11 months off were spent trying to get my baby to sleep, and maybe not enjoying her as much as I could have.I love the high spirit of my bright and active little girl. Now that she's older, she sparkles most of the time (except around sleep); when she's happy you can almost feel her vibrating. Her smile lights up the room and melts my heart. I am so thankful for these moments and how they help clear my memory of the previous hours spent screaming. I love my daughter to bits and can't wait to see the person she's going to turn into. I have a feeling that the next few years are going to be tough, though. 

June 7, 2011 at 10:41 AM  

Oh Shannon. I feel your pain! You are not alone in this sleeping issue. Take heart knowing that so many people go through the same thing. I found that taking the time, while it did seem painful, to really teach Ben how to fall asleep in a safe loving environment has helped him to continually be a great sleeper. We don't do CIO in our house and I see no validity in it as it truly does not 'teach' our babies anything about long term peaceful sleep. One day your baby girl will surprise you by having longer and longer stretches of sleep. Just keep 'teaching' her how great sleep is with everything that you are doing! It is a slow process but worth it in the end! Oh and Ben was 14 months when he did his longest stretch of sleep. I actually woke up at 5:30 AM and was so shocked that my boy was still sleeping peacefully! Your time will come!

June 7, 2011 at 2:55 PM  
Sheryl (quietbumblebee) said...

Oh my, my heart is full for each of the parents who have gone through this and come out the other side (and we do come out the other side, don't we, even when it doesn't feel like we will). 
I was there too,  bouncing on the exercise ball at 4am while holding my son with a white noise machine in one hand, while my husband massaged my knotted-up shoulders.  I walked for hours through the park each day carrying him in my sling because then he would actually nap.  I read book after book after book during middle-of-the-night nursing sessions hoping that the next one would be the one with the perfect piece of advice to help me climb out of the vortex.  In the end, it was attachment parenting that helped me cope and Dr Sears' Fussy Baby Book that encouraged me that having a high-needs baby might actually be ok. I highly recommend this book to parents of high-need babies (if you actually can find the time to read, which is another challenge).
My hard baby is not an easy preschooler, but he is a delightful one. As Dr Sears predicted, he is dynamic, energetic, strong-willed, expressive, and tender.
But I'm terrified of having another one, because though I feel like I know how to handle a high-needs baby, it must be so much harder with an older child around. I'm only just getting to the point where I feel like I could try it, and he is 3 now.  I think I'll probably wait until he is in school.
I always caution parents of high-need/fussy/hard babies though, that if your heart tells you that something is wrong physically with your baby and that is why they are hard to soothe, just go get it checked out.  We did this, and saw multiple health care providers (I'm a nurse), but it wasn't until he was 2 that we found out what the health issue was, and it was a real one that required corrective surgery.  Clearly this isn't the case for all fussy babies, but I wouldn't let anyone write you off as just "colicky" if you feel otherwise. My son will live with kidney disease for his whole life, and I'll always wonder if it would have been a lesser impact if they had diagnosed it earlier.

June 8, 2011 at 8:38 AM  
Shannon B said...

So glad to support about not doing CIO. Frankly, there is quite enough crying without having her cry it out!! We are parenting our child to sleep and because of this deal with frequent snide comments from others who swear she would sleep if we weren't "spoiling" her. For now, we drink wine and repeat "this too shall pass". 

June 8, 2011 at 9:53 PM  
H Fancott said...

I always felt total sympathy for parents with colicky babies as I was SO challenged with Theo who was IMO pretty average. Not a great sleeper, not a bad sleeper. Cried a lot at the beginning and then tapered off. That said, now that he's almost 2, he's on the high end of WILD by any standard. He brings new meaning to the word active. We are always always running, and he almost never listens to anything we say. He hits and tackles and is also exceptionally charming and friendly! I have the hardest time imaging another one like him. He is the child that makes you stop and think twice if only for total energy depletion. Anyway, everyone says the second is almost always so different than the first (Well in our case, that's almost guaranteed ;).

June 9, 2011 at 7:48 PM  
H Fancott said...

Sidenote: He's can sometimes sleep up to 9 hours in a row now but normally gets up once...

June 9, 2011 at 7:49 PM  

Sorry to hear about your boys health challenges Sheryl. So tough when it is your own child and not a patient....well it is still tough when your patients are little and sick! I know when Ben was a crier people always assumed he must be sick and I hadn't yet had it diagnosed. He wasn't. He was full on healthy and...thriving! I know that often people want to have a reason for upset. I totally agree that it does not hurt to have a check up and make sure your baby is just a fussy high needs baby and doesn't have some underlying reason.

June 10, 2011 at 8:59 AM  
Arieanna said...

Your little guy sounds exactly like my Aiden. He was uber fussy, except he wouldn't tolerate baby wearing past 3 months old. I was probably pretty close to going insane a few times, though things got better (for a short while) once we sleep trained him (the first time). Past 18 months, once he learned to talk a bit, he's been a gem. Quiet, loving, inquisitive and fantastic. It does get easier! I too wish I had the opportunity to cherish his younger months.

June 12, 2011 at 1:15 PM  

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