In case you were unaware, for new parents, sleep is a BIG. DEAL.
Once you’ve had a baby, no one asks how you are anymore, they ask if you’re getting any sleep. And right after they coo over your baby, remarking on her plush lips and graciously ignoring her receding hairline they ask, “Is she sleeping?”
Even people without kids, who have no idea what they’re asking, ask, though I think in their case it’s more to gauge whether the rumours are true. One friend carefully scrutinized my face the first time I saw her post-baby, “You don’t look that tired” she said doubtfully. It was like she had come to see a train wreck and was disappointed by the scale of the crash, the width and breadth of the carnage.
Sleep also becomes the battleground for a bizarre pissing contest between parents themselves- who has a “good” (read: sleepy) baby. Who is slowly going insane from sleep deprivation. Without even being aware of doing so, I entered the fray last week by gloating in a facebook status, “Olive slept 6.5 hours in her crib, woke up to nurse, then slept 3 more!”
I soon found out that this is the mom-equivalent of posting a picture of your giant engagement ring, or a brag shot of the bouquet your partner bought you “just because”.
Nonetheless, it’s a topic of fascination, entirely avoidable amongst the parent-set. Are you sleeping? Is baby sleeping? Where? For how long? Has your baby slept through the night? Are you sleep training? Co-sleeping? Letting them CIO? Doing a dream feed? Does this sound like nonsense? Are you lost? WELCOME TO MY WORLD, friends!
But as ridiculous as it is, its also all I want to talk about. So indulge me for a moment, I am a new parent. Let’s talk about sleep.
It is true, Olive slept that lovely 6.5 hr + 3 hr stretch a week or so ago. Two nights ago she slept 7.5 hours straight. But these are the outliers, and are shared precisely because they are unusual, rare. And what I don’t typically mention is that right before the 7.5 hour sleep stretch she had one of her fussiest evenings yet, crying on and off for three hours straight, resulting in me frantically trying to bribe Adam to go to the drugstore to buy gripe water and offering him extra points if he secretly bought the alcoholic version.
The more typical scenario is that she will fall asleep around midnight, sleep until 4-4:30 wake up grunting and squeaking, I’ll feed her and then depending on the night she might fall asleep easily, or require a half hour or so of rocking to go back to sleep. She’ll then sleep another 2-3 hours or so, feed, rock to sleep, rinse and repeat.
This is working pretty well for me. Because I am superwoman now with my Gitelmans cured, I don’t mind the broken sleep, the wee-hour cuddling. Olive is a pretty happy baby and she doesn’t wake up crying, so even on those off nights when I have trouble putting her back to sleep she’s not unhappy, she’s just awake.
She’s all , “Hi Mom! What’s up? Let’s party!” and I’m all “Hey girl, you know I’m always down to party, but keep it down! We don’t want to wake your Dad” and then you better believe we party.
(For a newborn, partying involves the following: Helping her pass gas, doing secret one-handed 4 am chores, and dancing around the kitchen in the dark while I hum off-key)
One night last week, Adam’s dad was visiting and Olive obviously didn’t want to miss a second because she was awake for almost ten hours straight. She was sneaky too, because she’d fake you out by acting like she was falling asleep. Her eyelids would get heavy and then close, she’d start breathing deeply and then when you took your eyes off of her face for a second and looked back, you’d see this:
BAM! Hello! She was like, “Oh hey sucker, you thought that rocking me would work? Come on. Really?”
I haven’t put her on any sort of schedule yet, she pretty much just does what she wants. This is partially because I agree with the school of thought that says that the first three months of a baby’s life is the fourth trimester where everything is still developing, and you are in a very basic “meeting-needs” scenario. But it’s also because when you start looking into schedules for a baby you enter into a bizarre world of acronyms and systems and methods,sweet infant jesus the methods.
Every one is The One. Every one promises to have your baby eating and sleeping like clockwork, and if they’re not, you’re Doing It Wrong. And, of course, each one warns that if you use any other method your child will never ever sleep properly ever , you’ll be rocking/nursing them to sleep until they are fifteen, and they’ll probably be incapable of ever forming proper social/emotional bonds.
It goes without saying that they’d develop a rampant case of athletes foot, too.
So for now Olive just does what she wants. If she cries I feed her, when she looks sleepy I put her to sleep. And no, strictly speaking she didn’t want me to order her five ridiculous headbands, but sometimes mother really does know best.