Monday, July 6, 2009

Trying to find the Zen in Exhaustion.

A new baby will tire you out. I probably don't need to say that, but some people have never HAD a new baby...or have but it's been awhile and mom/dadnesia has set in. So you may not know just HOW tiring it can be. And the answer to that question is...it can be VERY tiring.

Before Luca was born, people were all, "Get sleep NOW because when you have a baby you won't sleep at ALL!" and I was all, "Dude. Shut up. I get it." But I didn't get it, not really. And I also didn't benefit at all from 'getting sleep now' because, as it turns out, sleep cannot be saved up. The extra ice cream I ate while pregnant? In reserves. The extra sleep I got? No such luck.

Here's the thing. The newborn phase is a maddening cycle of baby waking every 2-3 hours to eat and be changed and need rocking or bouncing, followed by more eating and then some sleeping. And if you're lucky and can shut your mind and body down on a moment's notice, you too can nap throughout the day when baby does. If you are EXTRA lucky, you can do so with a sweet, snuggly, half-nekkid baby curled up in your arms all gooey and warm with a full, happy belly (co-sleeping being a hotbed of debate, let me say I realize there is data out there that would tell you not to do this for safety reasons, and obviously safety matters, but there is also data about the safety of co-sleeping and when you have a newborn and sleep it at a premium, you do what you have to do).

But if you're either not a napping kind of person (though I have a hard time imagining ANY new parent not suddenly becoming 'the napping type' when faced with the lack of sleep) OR you wish to have a life beyond baby (as in, you need to do dishes before they crust together into one large Super Dish in the sink, and you want to return some phone calls, and you need to shower before you start to REALLY smell, and maybe you have some Tivo to catch up on...) you may find yourself getting by on something close to 0-4 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. I'd say in a day, but the term 'day' becomes sort of moot when you have a new baby, as the little time-stealers have no real sense of silly things like 'days' and 'schedules'.

What eventually happens is that you adjust. You get used to not getting much sleep, to the point where your 5 a.m. wake up call from a hungry baby is commonplace and you find yourself starting stories with, "So on Saturday I got to sleep in until 6:15...". But what's even better - what happens in the midst of the maddness and crying (baby's, your's, etc.) and sleep deprivation - is that you find little moments to treasure. I call it trying to find the zen in exhaustion, because I do, indeed, still have to TRY. Please don't mistake me for someone who is upbeat and rosy at 3 a.m., on wake-up call #2 for the evening, with a baby crying while my dog and my husband compete for the title of World's Most Obnoxious Snorer. I've been known to throw down a silent temper tantrum (silent ONLY because I don't want to risk rousing the baby who I've been trying to bounce back to sleep for 23 minutes, not because of any sort of fatigued self-control). More than once I've whispered "Come OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON, buddy! PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE go back to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep?!?!" only to get a blank, wide eyed stare in return.

And then there was last night when I used the old standby, "I thought you CHANGED his diaper! FUCK! I'll DO IT. mumble mumble couldafuckintoldme mumble mumble jesus mumble 2inthefuckinmorning mumblemumble." while storming out of the room. (For the record, when I apologized this morning my husband had no memory of this outburst, having either fallen back asleep before I even got to 'diaper' OR having blocked it out for his own sanity). This, of course, was followed by me feeding, changing, and bouncing the baby, then gingerly setting him in his crib asleep, collapsing back into my SO comfortable bed, and then manically kicking my blanket off in a fit and whisper-shouting "You have GOT to be KIDDING ME! %&#^%&!!!!" as I heard him start to cry again on the monitor. Ah, the beauty of parenthood.

But...then again...there IS some beauty in all of this madness. I remember what happened once Luca was no longer waking at night to eat (which wasn't until she was 6 months old). On one hand, I kind of sort of totally relished in the solid chunk of sleep I was getting every night. I almost dared to call myself well-rested (Nevermind that Luca has always been an early riser and still demanded my full attention at 5:15 sharp each morning. Who the hell installed the internal alarm on that kid??). On the other hand, there was this kind of sadness to that chapter in her life closing. As insane as it sounds, those middle-of-the-night-or-is-this-early-morning wakings make up some of the sweetest memories of Luca's infancy, and I have no doubt I will someday feel the same about the time I spend awake and alone with Rohan.

There's something about a totally silent house, lit by just the dim yellow bulb of the stove vent and so enveloped in sleep not even the crickets are awake to sing. There is a sweetness to those moments spent in complete silence, with nothing to focus on except the hungry baby in your arms, drinking happily with eyes closed and a small hand wrapped around your finger as if he's silently reminding you to be in that moment and focus just on him. I've spent many nights in the past 2 years fading seamlessly in and out of sleep sitting up on a couch or a recliner, with a baby in my arms, ocassionally looking at the clock and being surprised that an hour passed since last I looked at it. I've also spent many nights trying to keep myself awake while nursing, the TV on some baby show I've seen 13 times before (spoiler: she ends up with a c-section) or an old episode of Cheaters (spoiler: he's cheating, and beating him/the other woman over the head with a shoe will just make you look stupid when the host does his voice-over update and says you took him back).

They're moments I sometimes bitch and moan through, and moments in which I wish for nothing more than my down pillow on my cheeks. And they are also moments I wouldn't trade for another 10 or 20 or even 100 minutes of sleep a night, because they are so fleeting.

Since returning to work a few weeks ago, Romo and I are struggling with breastfeeding. He's taken to the bottle like a champ...a bit too much so, to the point where he prefers it to nursing. I can't entirely blame him, as my supply has always been this side of abundant, and the bottle is instant gratification on an empty tummy. Add to the fact that I'm not there for him to nurse on demand from during the day and you get a baby who sometimes cries when I try to feed him. When it's 3 a.m. and the whole house is sleeping save for you and the hungry baby, you don't let him get to wailing. Instead, you pop a bottle of expressed milk in his greedy little mouth and wish you weren't so tired since now you know you have to pump after he's back in bed. It's been hard to deal with, emotionally, because of course I keep thinking "If only I was at home, this wouldn't be happening." But it's something we're working through.

And on the flip side of it, it has meant that my husband (who happens to be a STELLAR example of a Dad) has been helping out at night by running in to grab Romo and give him a bottle instead of me waking to attempt to nurse him or give him the bottle myself. He actually offered to do all the night feedings, since he's home with the kids for the summer (I wasn't being sarcastic before when I called him stellar), and I have to get up for work in the morning. And one would think this would THRILL me beyond belief because while he does that I get to slide deeper into the pillows and get back to dreaming.

Instead, I've found myself having an odd and unexpected reaction: I miss the 2 a.m. feedings. I miss sitting down with my nursing pillow and my hungry baby and watching him go from crying and grunting in hunger to drowsy and content as he fills his belly. I miss sitting on the yoga ball bouncing him, kissing his sweet cheeks and feeling his body relax as he drifts into baby dreamland. ::sigh::

You may be asking yourself, "What the hell is wrong with that girl?!?!" And, if Rohan wakes 3 times tonight like he's been doing lately, I may ask myself that very same question and come post a retraction to this sentimental hogwash. But for now I am focusing on the Zen in Exhaustion...because I know from experience that this phase in life will be over long before I want it to be, and that I'll be remembering it fondly in a few months' time. And rather than just remembering how sweet and magical those moments alone with baby were, I want to experience how sweet and magical they are, right here and now.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I know I've said this before, but sometimes even those of us who were born without that biological ticking clock can read this blog and thing "wow... having that kind of love for a baby sounds like something that's missing in my life" (then I later realize no... that's not it...) but it sounds so good when I read it here! You should write a book. I am captivated by your writing. Seriously. It's hard to keep my attention, but your blog always has.

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