Whatever "challenges" our little peanut presented us with over the course of what we will affectionately call the "fourth trimester," I tried not to bitch about them too much, especially not to the other moms at my lactation group. Why? I knew that, regardless of the colicky times, reflux, etc., I had landed myself the holy grail of newborn: I had a kid that was sleeping through the night just a little past the 2 week mark. I don't mean "sleeping through the night" like they tell you at those groups either (4 or 5 hours at a stretch), I mean 7+ hours a night. Daphne was letting me get the kind of sleep that, every morning, I would snuggle her against me and say "If you keep letting me sleep like this at night, I can handle whatever you choose to throw at me all day." So the Baby Sleep Saga will chronicle my journey through the land of baby sleep: tricks, secret mojo, blind luck, scientific fact? I'll cover it all. Thus begins Part 1...
Perhaps the part about newborn care I was the most unprepared for was the overriding anxiety. No matter what this kid was doing at any moment, the thought that forever churned in my brain was "Oh s***, what is she going to do next? And HOW WILL I HANDLE IT?" If the kid was breastfeeding, I was worrying about my milk supply, her latch, was she sleeping or actually eating... Because of my delayed milk supply the kid would sit and breast feed for EASILY 90 minutes at a stretch (45 minutes felt like a snack). It's no wonder I was cracked and bleeding and cursing the day breastfeeding was declared "best." Beyond the worrying over the feeding itself, what about when she pops off? is she going to scream at me? Will I burp her enough to avoid her screaming at me over every tiny air bubble in her digestive system for the next 2 hours? (We didn't diagnose her reflux until about the 2 week PP mark, and we didn't really get the dosing straightened out and working properly until around the 8 week mark) Will she let me sit here and watch TV for a few minutes or am I going to have to orchestrate a 3 ring circus to keep her content? Will she give me 30 seconds to go empty my bladder? Will she scream at me when I have to change her diaper? Will she take less than thirty damn minutes to fall asleep so I can pretty please sleep too?
Sleep when the baby sleeps. It's what everybody tells you. Good luck actually doing it. I still remember the first few nights home: feed, burp, change, then we'd try to get her to fall asleep. It's what you're supposed to do with newborns who allegedly want to sleep all the time (harumph). My kid? I was lucky if I could get her to fall asleep in under an hour with dilligent arm rocking, swaddling, and shhhh'ing. The second the kid falls asleep you must now face the biggest fear of all: HOW LONG IS SHE GOING TO SLEEP? Will something wake her up too soon? Can I please sleep for more than 30 minutes?
There's also the truly biggest fear that every new parent has to live with: SIDS. Babies have strange and irregular breathing patterns in their sleep, and the husband and I would hold our breaths every time she did. She was also incredibly noisy in her sleep. She hmmmms and sighs and even barks like a little spider monkey. Every single sound she would make would wake me violently, wondering if she was going to start screaming to be fed again. Looking back there were probably some times when I assumed she was awake and needed to be fed that I probably could have let her alone, and she might have drifted back off, but I didn't know any better. Do you know the only reason my husband or I started to relax about going to sleep? Our dog, Charlotte.
From the moment we brought Daphne home, Charlotte (the far more flighty and less nurturing of our two dogs) STARED at Daphne. One time while Daphne was dozing at the foot of the bed, I was tryin to sneak by to go to the bathroom. I noticed Charlotte was sitting at the foot of our bed, leaning over the side with her nose in the cosleeper, STARING at Daphne while she slept. My husband said when he put his foot on Charlotte, he could feel her heartbeat lurch every time Daphne made the tiniest little sound. I'll be damned. I felt like Charlotte was our very own little SIDS detector: she watched the baby while we slept, she slept while the baby was awake. Bless her, I don't know if either of us would have fallen asleep in those first days if she hadn't been on the job.
So is it any wonder that I was a bawling and hysterical basket case 2 days home from the hospital, calling my mother, sobbing desperately, begging her to come stay with us?
There you have it. Part 1. Living in fear. But there was light at the end of the tunnel, read on for Part 2.