It was Monday morning, and time for me to return to work after a particularly sleepless weekend. Sunday night was legendary; one of those nights when I was up nearly every hour, stumbling zombie-like between our three bedrooms. I was possibly hallucinating and woke up feeling like I had a hangover without any of the accompanying fun.
Despite the fact that I had prepared all our necessary items the night before (coffee made, camp clothes laid out, shinguards washed, lunchbox located) we still scrambled like idiots trying to get ready for our oldest daughter’s summer camp. During the previous week, we had misplaced an embarrassing number of household items and bungled nearly every single morning routine (hubby took my keys to work, carseat in wrong parent’s car, kids woke up at 5:30, blah blah blah.)
My husband and I raced back and forth, making Izzy’s lunch, searching for the sunscreen, failing to locate the appropriate footwear for soccer (later found in a plastic shopping cart in her bedroom) and attempting to interest the baby in some breakfast, an obvious exercise in futility. Flustered and frustrated, I consumed as much coffee as is appropriate for a nursing mother, and hopped in my car. I idly wondered if I should be driving; surely sleep-deprived driving is only a small step up from driving while intoxicated?
|Best Daddy Ever
|The napping in the swing days are long gone. (sigh)
Monday is my husband’s “day off”, meaning that instead of going to work he stays home with our infant for four hours and tries unsuccessfully to complete all the household chores we failed to accomplish over the weekend. After three energizing classes, I returned home, expecting to find that the break from my baby would have supplied me with a fresh wave of patience and selflessness. Instead, I was disheartened to hear that she had screamed on and off all morning, and was ready to nurse immediately to sleep.
“I guess I’ll have lunch another time, “I announced passive-aggressively, stalking upstairs with the baby. Trying to search for a silver lining,I gathered up my water bottle, kindle, pillows, and heating pad, nestling in for my own quiet time. Sophie can usually be counted on to nap for 2-3 hours during the afternoon, and it is common practice for me to fall asleep with her in my arms and nap for at least a half hour myself. On this particular occasion, I was all too aware of my husband busy at work with the laundry downstairs, and was unable to drift off.
After enjoying some quality facebook time, I decided to roll the baby off of me and attempt to fall asleep more comfortably. This is always a risky maneuver. First I had to unlatch her. This took several attempts, as she continued in her sleep to open her mouth frantically like a fish while I gently pushed her head away from me. She settled, and I precariously leaned to the side, deposited her on the bed, and perched over her without breathing. She stayed still. I carefully wriggled my arm out from under her, rolled deftly to the other side of the bed, and patted her bottom for a moment. Still nothing. I breathed a premature sigh of relief.
As though attached to a marionette string, Sophie eerily drifted upright, beaming at me. Seriously, it was creepy. Within a second, she was clambering to the bedrail, slapping it rhythmically and vocalizing with glee. It was all over. 40 minutes long. I stomped downstairs with my cheerful baby and thrust her into Shawn’s arms.
“Here, ” I snapped. “She didn’t nap worth a shit, and I didn’t get to fall asleep. And now I can’t get anything done that I wanted to do. ” My voice was rising dangerously. “But she’s so happy, ” he crooned, smiling at her. “I don’t care if she’s happy, I’m not happy, ” I growled. “I nursed her to sleep, she was completely asleep so I laid her down, and then all of a sudden she shot up like a reanimated corpse. ” At this point I was shouting. My husband did not look amused. Perhaps he didn’t appreciate hearing his daughter referred to as a “reanimated corpse.” “You need to find a better way to handle your stress, ” he said calmly.
This seemingly innocuous (though terribly unhelpful) suggestion put me over the edge, and suddenly I was in tears. I blubbered unintelligibly about my lack of sleep, constant nursing, inability to workout…meditate…socialize…do yoga…and how it was next to impossible for me to keep the house tidy or prepare meals that required any kind of effort. During my rant, I realized absently that I hadn’t showered since Saturday night.
In essence, I felt like a disorganized, irritable, lazy disaster whose efforts to “be prepared” are met with raucous laughter from the universe. “I don’t care if you aren’t keeping the house clean or planning meals, ” Shawn said honestly. “This stage isn’t going to last forever. You’re doing what’s most important. If you need an hour to take a nap, just tell me and I’ll take the girls somewhere. ” I looked at him with bewilderment.
How does he manage to stay so levelheaded with such little sleep, not to mention a raving lunatic hollering in his face about her joke of a to-do list? He took the baby to the grocery store, an errand I had planned to do myself, while I gratefully crawled back into bed to nap. Which of course, I couldn’t do, but the gift of time from my unimaginably generous husband was appreciated nonetheless.
Perhaps I am going out on a polarizing limb here, but it is my opinion that no matter how fantastic your husband is (and mine is clearly right up there) and no matter how much of an equal parenting partner he is, many (not all) daddies cannot quite grasp the entanglement mommies have with their babies’ sleeping needs. This could be attributed to the nursing-to-sleep thing I have going on with the baby, and that I feel personally responsible when she fails to take a good nap or have an easy bedtime.
Feeding the baby and helping her sleep are my two biggest jobs in the world right now, and when they don’t go smoothly, I feel (rationally or not) like a colossal failure. Not to mention the fact that when the baby sleeps, it is truly my only time to be off-duty. Even if she is sleeping in my arms, the moment she falls asleep I give myself permission to let go and focus on my own desires, be they sleep, meditation, or catching up on my emails.
|I know, I know…they are pretty great!
I have a good friend and fellow mommy who knowingly articulated my need for a periodic meltdown. “Sometimes even when you stick by the choices you’re making, and you wouldn’t have it any other way, you still just need to complain about it.”
I greatly appreciated her empathy and wisdom; so often when we complain about our atrocious bedtime routines, complicated naptime strategies, and less than desirable mornings, we receive a barrage of well-intended suggestions. “Have you tried just letting her cry? We always put our children to bed sleepy but awake…what you really need to do is wake up an hour earlier every day…” Sometimes I pick up a truly brilliant piece of advice, but usually I just feel surly when I am the recipient of parenting tips.
My sweet friend is right- sometimes we just need to vent, and it is so lovely to have certain people who understand this, eliminating the need for a disclaimer such as, “Of course I love my life and my kids mean the world to me, but…” or “I really stand by my decision to help my baby fall asleep each night, but…” Forget the disclaimer. Of course we all love our children. Of course we would choose having them in our lives over having the freedom we enjoyed as singletons. But for God’s sake, sometimes we just want a decent night of sleep,some time alone, and an unhurried happy hour with girlfriends!
My bad mood temporarily behind me, we settled in for dinner, bathtime, and a relatively smooth bedtime. With both girls in bed and me freshly showered,I sank into the couch with my husband and a pint of peanut butter cup ice cream. We turned on the Bachelorette and prepared to get a little bit stupider. “Freedom, “I cheered silently and breathed another premature sigh of relief. Sophie’s cry pierced through the baby monitor. And it begins again.