Molly has had a hard time sleeping for the past week or so. She reminds me of my other girls when they were babies. She falls asleep and then wakes up five minutes later for no apparent reason. Sometimes she wakes crying and it's obviously discomfort from needing to burp, but other times her eyelids just drift shut and then drift back open a couple of minutes later! Don't even think about trying to transfer her from the Ergo or ring sling to her little bedside cot or you'll give her a real reason to instantly wake and scream. She doesn't like the swing, can't stand to be laid on her back (she probably has some degree of reflux), generally doesn't like anyone else except Mama, and of course all this is coming about as she gets a little older right when Daddy is back to work full time, I have to start work again next week, and all the busy-ness of Holy Week and Easter is just around the corner.
In fairness to the sweet babe, she did sleep for 40 glorious minutes yesterday morning without being held, which was just long enough for me to run my aching face (I have a sinus infection) under hot water in the shower, get dressed, and start a load of laundry. Which maybe I'll be able to go put in the dryer in two or three days.
Life is a little crazy. The house sort of resembles the donation room at our favorite thrift store, with random piles of stuff everywhere. It occurs to me that if we were robbed and ransacked we might not notice for a long time. I can't seem to get anything done, truly not anything at all, and this ought not to surprise me since I've had two babies before and lived through this, but somehow I had actually convinced myself that this third time, now I would finally know what I was doing and be able to really manage everything at last.
Ha. Not so, as it turns out. And this reality is made harder to swallow by the fact that in the last month before Molly was born I was a productivity machine! I got so much accomplished! The house was tidy and getting more organized by the day!
* * *
After a frustrating morning yesterday trying so hard to help this tired baby girl sleep (with every failed attempt at a solid chunk of sleep she grew more overtired and thus harder to resettle again), we had finally made it through lunch time and it was quiet time. Hallelujah! I told the big girls they could have a "together rest," which means they can play together if they're quiet and stay in one of their bedrooms. It also means I get to go up to our attic master bedroom and attempt to rest if I can get the baby settled, knowing they'll be well within earshot and that they'll summon me if they have a problem.
Finally, after nursing, changing, bouncing, patting, bouncing and patting at the same time, nursing again, changing her diaper again, putting her on my chest, bouncing and patting some more, I got Molly to sleep on my shoulder and was able to slide her down to lay on my chest. I vaguely thought to myself all the things I've ever heard or read about the dangers of sleeping in such a fashion with a baby, not to mention the habits and precedents one might be setting. For about two seconds I thought about this, and then I leaned back against my big pillow and fell immediately to sleep.
Only to be awakened about ten minutes later by my two-year-old's voice:
"Mommy, I need to go potty!"
* * *
I whisper-yell down the stairs, "Nell, can you please help Ree go potty?"
There then begins a flurry of chatter between the two of them: apparently they both need to go potty simultaneously and this situation is difficult to work out. I advise, "Ree goes first because she's littler! Hurry!" -- but it is too late.
"Mommy I peein!!"
"Get on the potty! Hurry!"
"I can't! I can't get my overalls off!"
I mentally curse the invention of overalls. How could I have thought they were cute? How could Nathan have thought it was a good idea to dress her in them this morning? Does he hate me and want to ruin my life?
"Come upstairs very quietly. Molly is sleeping on my chest, but I'll be able to help you."
While it's clear as soon as I see her that we've missed the opportune moment for using the toilet, I unclasp her overalls and whispering, ask her to go put everything in the laundry, then get on the potty to see if she has any more, then get herself a dry pair of undies. In other words, probably way too many instructions for a two-year-old to be able to remember and execute.
Down the stairs she marches, and after several more yelled consultations from my four-year-old and whisper-yelling replies from me, Nell has successfully helped her sister go potty and wash her hands.
Now it's Nell's turn. And guess what she's wearing? And guess what she can't seem to get on again after using the bathroom?
Of course. Overalls.
While Nell is finding herself an alternate pair of pants that she can clothe herself in without help, I can hear Ree ascending the stairs to our attic master bedroom as quietly as a mouse. Nell, who has finally grasped the severity of my need for rest and quiet, begins to wail; she's literally weeping as she calls out, "No Mawie! You can't go up there! Mama and Molly are trying to rest and Mama is so tired and sad!"
Thank God someone understands the gravity of this situation!
Ree has reached the top of the stairs, very quietly indeed, and now turns and yells down the staircase to Nell, at the top of her lungs, "It's OK Nell! I came up quietly! I just wanted to see Mama!"
I know that someday this will be hilarious in retrospect.
I give Ree an encouraging smile (because I know a fierce look will get me nowhere and will only cause a loud meltdown) and whisper, "Go back downstairs sweetie! It's still quiet time! I'm resting and Molly is asleep. Go put those undies on!"
In a miraculous moment, she agrees and turns to go back down the staircase. Somehow I find myself thinking how cute that nude retreating tushie is, despite the fact that my brain is exploding from fatigue.
I hear the undies operation receiving advice from big sister until it is successfully completed. At this point, the two year old perches herself on the bottom stair, just a few feet beneath where Molly is sleeping on my chest, where I can hear every golden, dulcet sound. She begins singing loud improvisatory songs about ponies and donkeys, all while accompanying herself with the percussive sounds of banging Lincoln Logs on the metal stair rail.
* * *
If you can't imagine having all this potty drama unfold and not budging from your bed, you have never had a sad, overtired baby who struggled to sleep, and who you knew would immediately wake if you moved a muscle.
And if you can't imagine crying when first awakened after those glorious ten minutes of sleep, and then crying again when you realized that when all was said and done you wouldn't be going back to sleep today, you've never gone for almost four weeks with no more than three hours of sleep at one time.
And all this when you have a sinus infection and your eyes are burning and your teeth ache and your head hurts and ungodly stuff is draining out of your nose for days on end.
* * *
When all is said and done, some days the hardest part of having a newborn who struggles to sleep (and we've done this three times now!) isn't even the sleep deprivation for myself. It's the constant self doubt, the wondering what I'm doing wrong, the looking at other babies who sleep in their car seats or swings or cribs and wondering where I could have gone so wrong, the feeling that somehow despite my best efforts I am still a giant failure.
I just keep reminding myself that she's a tiny, brand new, sensitive little baby and we're still in the early stages of the "fourth trimester" and it's ok that she needs me this much. And I try to enjoy the snuggles knowing all too well that while the days feel long, this time will be short in retrospect.
* * *
While I can't grow another set of arms to manage to increase my productivity, my heart seems to have grown several sizes in the past month.
And now, I have a load of laundry that's been sitting in the washing machine for 24 hours calling my name.