Sunday, June 22, 2014

an inner monologue, or, of babies and sleep habits

Having a new baby to get to know is fun, challenging, overwhelming, wonderful... a cocktail of emotions.  Like most moms, I think, I find myself looking for connections and correlations, searching for what works and what doesn't, contrasting and comparing with what worked for my first baby, and sometimes, just throwing up my hands in an occasional moment of despair.

You know that great blog post over at HuffPo from Bunmi Laditan about five minutes in the head of a mother?  I totally resonated with that post, down to the details about having plastic storage bins full of laundry.  But here's something more frightening: I think I could fill pages and pages with an ongoing inner monologue about my children's sleep habits alone.  That's insane.  I need to get a life.  There are serious things in the world like human trafficking and politics and religion and world hunger and I'm spending this kind of mental energy thinking about my kids' sleeping and general contentment?  But perhaps other mamas can relate?

Or it could be that I'm the only person who second-guesses myself to this degree and lives in this kind of sleep-deprived brain fog.

* * *

Morning time!  I hear Nell on the monitor.  Time to go get her.  I'll just slip away from Ree, rolling off the bed ninja-style, and try to keep her asleep so I can spend a little time with Nell.  It worked!  She's still asleep.  No, she's awake.  Is she really awake, or just crying in her sleep? Does she want to sleep more?  I'll try tightening up that swaddle and see if she re-settles.  Yes, she will. No, she won't.  So much for that.  Okay, so she's up.  But yesterday when I got out of bed Ree slept on for another hour or more!  How did I make that happen?  Whatever I did, I should do it every day, because Nell needs some one-on-one time, too.  

I'll put Marie in the swing while I finish getting Nell her breakfast.  She hates the swing, so she'll cry, and I'll have to pick her right back up again.  Wait, she's not crying.  She's looking around.  She's so intelligent!  She looks particularly intelligent right now.  And she's staying calm for five whole minutes while I finish breakfast!  I should put her in the swing more often.  Why did I think she hated it?  Oh, she's screaming.  I was right; she hates it.  Why did I think I could put her in the swing?  Nell always hated the swing, too.  We should just give it away so it doesn't take up space.  But wait, she liked it a minute ago... or did I imagine that?

Ree only sleeps in the wrap, so why do I even bother trying to get her to sleep on her own at this age?  I enjoy all the snuggles, anyway, although of course it is hard to get things done around the house or take Nell outside when it's hot if I have a baby attached to me.  Okay, I'll try to get her to sleep and then transfer her.  No, transferring never works with Ree.  I'll just swaddle her and lay her down and see what happens.

It worked!  She fell asleep all by herself!  Hallelujah!  Nell never did this at this age, did she?  Maybe I never thought to try swaddling her.  I was such a bad mother.  I was a total fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mother.  Wait, that's not right, of course I tried swaddling... we swaddled her all the time!  I have pictures to prove it!  It just didn't help her sleep alone at that age yet.  Okay, not the world's worst mother, but not winning any awards, either.

I should read some parenting books.  Fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants parenting is just so embarrassing at this point, with a second baby.  I need to get with the program and read all those parenting books I've been meaning to read!  Or read any book, really, because I haven't read books in who knows how long and I can barely hold an intelligent conversation with normal members of society at this point.  I should start a book club.  No, that's too ambitious.  I should just read one or two parenting books.  But I don't have time to read parenting books, because I'm busy trying to parent, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style.  I read a lot of parenting articles and studies online, because I can read them on my phone, with one hand, while nursing.  Does that count for something?

Ree is still asleep in her swaddle!  But sometimes she fights the swaddle... does she hate it?  Or does she love it?  And what about those parenting experts who say you shouldn't swaddle babies because it restricts their gross motor skills developing or something?  Okay, but the baby not sleeping restricts my life skills in general.  So, swaddling.  It's working right now.  I need to remember that of course this works, and do this every day every time she's tired, because it's working so perfectly.  Wait, but it didn't work yesterday, remember?  Maybe I did something differently?  Maybe I wrapped from left to right instead of right to left?  I think maybe she really loves that patchwork crocheted blanket from Martha.  That's ridiculous; babies can't prefer one blanket over another.  And that blanket doesn't work for swaddling, anyway, but I still think maybe she likes to have it draped over her.  I'll keep trying it in case it's the magic sleep solution.

Is it safe to swaddle a baby who ends up sleeping in bed with you almost every night, anyway?  I get nervous and undo her arms if she's snuggled against me.  I think all my mom-friends would hate me if I told them that my six-week-old has slept through the night twice already.  It's all thanks to co-sleeping.  Co-sleeping and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants parenting.  If I could lie in bed all day, this baby would sleep so perfectly all the time.  Do parenting books offer suggestions for staying in bed all day and teaching your two-year-old to take care of herself?

I think Ree might have a dairy sensitivity.  I'm pretty sure she does.  She just seemed uncomfortable all the time and so fussy and hard to settle for the first month, and I'm convinced that when I gave up nearly all dairy, it improved so much.  Well, maybe "convinced" is too strong a word.  Somewhat certain?  Slightly inclined to believe?  That's more like it.  There might be a correlation, at least.  I had ice cream the other night after virtually no dairy for two weeks, and the next day was so hard for Ree, I'm sure of it.  Well, maybe not sure.  Maybe there was no connection and I'm just imagining it.  Why can't I stop second-guessing myself?  I'm never certain about anything.  Still, it can't hurt to keep avoiding dairy, right?  Or maybe I should eliminate soy and eggs and citrus and caffeine and wheat, too, and subsist on... air?  Hey, that would help with this post-baby tummy I'm rocking, at least.

Every time I see those babies who sleep in their car seats everywhere I can barely wrap my mind around it.  Neither of my babies EVER slept in their car seats.  Well, I'm sure at some point Nell did, and she does now, but I don't remember what age that started.  Certainly when she was Ree's age she couldn't sleep in her car seat and she screamed every time she was in it.  Oh wait, but I have a picture of her sleeping in the car seat at one month old in a restaurant.  We used to go to restaurants?  We never do that anymore.  Okay, so at least one time she slept in her car seat and at least once we went to a restaurant.  But Ree never sleeps in her car seat.  Except the other night we were out to dinner with friends for a birthday celebration, and she did sleep in it!  The whole dinner!  I even overheard someone comment how jealous she was because her baby never slept in a car seat.  But MY baby never sleeps in her car seat... except that one time.  And I guess we did go out to dinner that one time, too.  

Usually we're eating dinner at home, of course, and either Nathan or I hold and bounce the baby, or I have her in the wrap, or I nurse her while I eat and try not to drop food on her.  When she's not nursing, she likes to be held like a football, along the length of my arm.  Or does she?  Was I imagining that this had worked just yesterday?  Now she only wants to be upright against my shoulder.  Yes, she loves this.  This is the sure-fire way to calm her down.  Upright, always upright.  If I just do this all the time, she'll be calm and happy and well-adjusted and probably go to Harvard someday.  Or Juilliard.  Okay, probably not Juilliard, because we've been too busy to play much music for her like we did for Nell at this age, so that's a pretty significant disadvantage right there.  Oops, she's crying again... try the football hold once more.  Yes, it's working!  She loves it.  Why did I think she liked being upright?  

I should really write down what works and what doesn't so I won't spend so much mental energy trying to figure it all out.  But maybe that's an exercise in futility, because babies change so quickly and I just need to go with the flow and do what works in the moment.  All while still looking for general patterns and recognizing her natural rhythms and schedule, of course, because that's what good mothers do.  But not "scheduling" her because she's still so little, and "scheduling" babies is practically a bad word in some parenting circles anyway.  I wish I had written down more of what Nell was like at each age, and what worked for her, and what her sleep habits were like.  No, why would I need that?  Marie is her own person, and what worked for Nell wouldn't necessarily work for Ree.  But still, there might have been things I could learn from.  I bet I did write things down on my blog.  I wish I had time to go back and see what I had written.  In any case, I'll write things down this time.  I'll be glad I did, in case we have more kids.

More kids?!  Why am I thinking about this now, with a six-week-old?  Isn't it a little soon to be thinking about having more?

Maybe she's hungry and needs to nurse.  No, I just nursed her.  Oh, wait, it's already been two hours.  That felt like two minutes.  I'll definitely try nursing.  She's fighting it.  She doesn't want to nurse.  Isn't that weird?  Nell always wanted to nurse.  I don't remember doing anything at all for the first year of Nell's life except sitting around nursing.  Oh gee, poor Marie doesn't get enough cuddling and nursing time like that.  The lot in life for a second born baby.  What if she is never well-adjusted because I didn't nurse her enough?  Well, she doesn't want to nurse right now.  She wants to suck on my pinky finger.  I keep meaning to ask Nathan if we should introduce a pacifier.  Would that make us bad parents or good parents or just normal parents?  Is there any difference between a pinky and a paci, anyway?

She's asleep.  She never sleeps like this, just held loosely in my arms, resting on my chest while the two-year-old naps upstairs.  Never!  Well, just this one time it seems to be working for her.  She looks so peaceful, and I love to hear her breathing.  Her little arm draped over my elbow, her left fist flung across my chest.  Her head where I can bend and kiss that dark, dark hair.  I could hold her like this forever.  Of course we should have more babies someday!

Nell is waking up from her nap.  I'll try to transfer Ree off my chest into a swaddle.  It won't work, of course, but I may as well try.  Hey, it worked!  Like, really and truly worked!  I'll go get Nell.  She woke up crabby.  Can you swaddle a two-year-old?  She is really cranky and doesn't want a hug or a snack or a book or anything at all except to whine in long, drawn-out, generic vowels.  

Ugh, parenting is hard.  I should really read some parenting books.  Wasn't I just thinking that I should?  Why don't I?  I totally have time during all those times my kids are sleeping so angelically.  Was I just thinking we should have more babies?  But then they grow into crabby two-year-olds.  Wait, Nell just smiled at me.  And earlier today she was taking my cheeks in her hands and holding my face to give me kisses, remember that?  Okay, that more than makes up for the crabbiness.  Definitely have more babies someday.

Ree is awake already.  That successful transfer to the swaddle was short-lived.  I'll put her in the wrap.  That's the only thing that ever works, anyway.  Or maybe she wants to nurse.  Or be bounced.  No, she wants to be held upright.  And whatever I do, I must not sit down or even attempt to stop walking.

She's fussy this afternoon.  Fussier than usual, definitely.  Maybe not definitely.  Possibly fussier than usual, then.  But I haven't eaten dairy!  Maybe dairy was never even an issue in the first place.  Maybe I should eat some ice cream once the two-year-old is in bed tonight.  No, better not chance it.  Unless I can find some dairy-free, soy-free ice cream.   No, I shouldn't have ice cream.  But I should definitely spend my evening playing classical music for the baby so she's not disadvantaged for life.  While reading parenting books.  And doing whatever it takes in these specific moments to keep the baby quiet, contented, and getting her beauty sleep.

* * *

Contrary to the way this post may make things appear, I actually manage to go about much of my day calmly and happily caring for my two children.  We take things moment-by-moment.  We manage to go with the flow.  And my two-year-old is a pretty great sleeper.  But for goodness sake, babies are complex creatures with an array of emotions and needs to be met, and they're always growing and changing and what seems to be working once may not be what they want in the very next moment.

It's almost like they're real live human beings or something.


  1. Hey Sarah! I don't know if you remember me, but it's Christine from Sacramento Youth Orchestra. My baby girl is almost three weeks old and this is basically what runs through my head with regards to eating, sleeping, and nursing!! This was absolutely hilarious!

    1. Of course I remember you, Christine! Congratulations on your baby girl! It is so complicated to try to figure out these little people who come into our lives, and it can be pretty overwhelming sometimes! I'm sure you're doing an awesome job with your little one. :)

  2. this. is. awesome. Love it!