Learning Curve

Oh, let’s not talk about the last few nights. Let’s just pretend they never happened. I owe Olive a big apology.

Despite my vow to not research and not schedule, everyone else around me seems to be doing just that. People are sleep training and implementing routines, talking about hours and ounces, setting times and limits, all citing this author or that doctor.

In the face of all of this I started to doubt myself. I thought, well, Olive is three and a half months old. Maybe it’s time.

So I started a bedtime routine. In the early evening I bathed her, gave her a baby massage with coconut oil, put her in her jammies, fed her and put her to bed. And then she got up an hour later. I rocked her and walked her and soothed her and bounced her and every time I put her down, her eyes would pop open and she would be awaaaake.

It was incredibly frustrating, I mean I had a PLAN! And she wasn’t going along with it! Suddenly nighttime had become a nightmare, and she’d be fractious the whole next day because she didn’t sleep very well after an evening of fussing.

After the second night of trying out this routine, when she didn’t go down for the night until midnight, I found myself venting to Adam the next morning, “Man, she just did NOT want to sleep last night. I don’t know what to do.”

At which point he looked at me like I was crazy, and said “Madeleine she slept for eight straight hours. What’s the problem?”

Oh hi, darling! The problem is me.

Somehow I forgot everything I knew about my daughter and replaced it with a theory and a system and a method that someone else kindly suggested, because it was working for them. But it didn’t work for us, and beyond that, why was I searching for a solution to a problem that didn’t exist?

All of these systems are in place trying to get babies to sleep through the night. Olive is already doing that – she’s done that since she was two months old. She set her own schedule, usually going to sleep around 11pm or midnight and waking up at 8-8:30am. But because all of the books and all of the other moms and the experts who know everything about everything say that babies should be going to sleep at 7pm, I felt like the routine she had established was wrong.

And dammit, I was going to fix it!

So for these two days and nights, these two horrible, horrible days and nights, her routine looked the same: Napping every hour and a half or so until she finally went down for the night at 11 ish- but MY nights became infuriating.

When I heard her wake up an hour after I put her down, instead thinking, “Oh, she’s done her nap!” and going to get her, playing with her, reading to her, etc., I would think “Shit! She woke up!” and I would rock her, bounce her and become increasingly annoyed as I tried in vain to put her to back to sleep – ignoring the fact that she wasn’t ready to sleep yet, DUH.

It’s mind boggling how this series of events: the timing and duration of sleep, the amount of wakefulness – even the amount of sleep we were each getting, all of it was exactly the same. But because I had it in my head that bedtime was 8pm, our nights suddenly looked ridiculous.

My mom always reminds me, “babies haven’t read the book”. Meaning, essentially, the books are sometimes bullshit. Or they don’t apply to your baby. Or they are detailing something that just doesn’t feel right. Or they’re labeling your nighttime routines as a problem when you have a three month old sleeping nine hours straight and suddenly that’s not good enough so you start acting like a crazy person.

I have a feeling that I am going to have to learn this lesson several times. To trust my gut and not mess with a good thing; to follow my intuition and pat unicorns and chase rainbows, etc. To acknowledge that some things might work for others but don’t work for me, for us, and that’s okay.

And to do it all without somehow feeling like I’m not doing it “right” (and guys, I so, SO want to be right. You know on Dr. Phil [not that I used to watch Dr. Phil…ok maybe once] when he leans in real close to a guest and says in that thick southern drawl, “Listen. Do y’all want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?” I would always secretly think to myself: “Well duh, I want to be right! And furthermore, I’d like to you to admit that I’m right, and THAT will make me happy!”)

I don’t know why this is so difficult, why it’s so hard to just listen to our babies and give them what they need. I don’t know why I feel like such a crazy hippie writing that either, worried that people will think I’m a pushover or too soft or something (but then I wonder, what’s wrong with being soft? Isn’t that what you are supposed to be for your baby? A soft place of comfort?)

There’s a reason an infant’s cries break your heart and make you physically uncomfortable, there’s a reason that they are comforted by being close to you, why they sleep best snuggled against your chest.

It’s unnerving to me how we have come to define a “good” baby as one that does the least to inconvenience our lives, one who demands the least from us.

A “good” baby sleeps when we do and doesn’t need to nurse too much, but also magically gains the right amount of weight. He never cries but also doesn’t need to be held all the time. He’s the baby that doesn’t have needs – and we all need that!

Ugh. I’m over it.

I’m sorry Olive. You just keep sticking with your awesome routine, you obviously know what you’re doing, and I’ll try to stop getting in your way.

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