I won’t lie, things have still been rocky. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit just how completely off guard I’ve been taken by parenting a newborn again. Some days I feel like we got off on the wrong foot with this little guy and I want a do-over. Not only do I feel rusty but I underestimated the effect that the sleep deprivation would have. There have been other tear filled days since the episode last weekend because there have been other nights where I haven’t gotten
enough any sleep.
The good news is that my husband and I are communicating regularly and openly about parenting baby boy and acclimating to this new life. It has been hard on us both, with too little said for too long initially. But, we’re on a better path, now, cutting each other more slack, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, asking for help, etc.
I spent almost the whole day on Saturday out of the house. My older son and I had breakfast out, then I dropped him with my uncle so that I could get my hair done (YIPPEE). After picking him up and having lunch at home, I was an errand running queen, going hither and yon trying to get as many things crossed off my list as I could. My husband was home with baby boy and I took my older son with me. It felt like our new normal. I was relieved to get so much accomplished and enjoyed the sunshine in the land of the living.
My husband and the baby did great although when baby boy short-changed himself on an afternoon nap and my husband decided to feed him (instead of work to get him back down), it set in motion a chain of events that resulted in me being awake for 23 hours straight. The good news is that I got 7 hours of sleep the next night, in two blocks of time, so I managed much better. And, because my husband was off work yesterday, I’m was stressed and was feeling like even if I didn’t get enough sleep, he’d be here so that I could nap (not that I did).
There are so many practical differences with this baby than with our first son that have created some logistical problems that we didn’t have to consider with before. I share this on the off chance they will be helpful to someone else. This is not a parenting blog, per se, but I do follow some. The sunshine and roses aspect of parenting is rampant with writers seeming to fear ever chronicling just how hard it can sometimes be. There are plenty of things I wish others had shared about their experiences so that might have been better prepared myself. If you have read this space for any length of time, you know that I am a Type A, organized, resourceful over achiever. But, those things alone have not adequately prepared me for some functional challenges. And, I found that the rules from son #1 do not necessarily apply.
- This baby must be swaddled in order to sleep (first son loathed being swaddled) and swaddling requires more diligence than having a newborn that is not swaddled. We gave up using a blanket and have been using Swaddle Mes, Halo Sleepsack Swaddles, and Miracle Blankets for swaddling. All of them begin to ride up under and over his chin and sometimes toward his mouth. Once this starts happening he begins to struggle to get comfortable which usually wakes him. We have to keep an eye on the swaddle. And, it has to be tight enough that he cannot move his arms to his belly or chest. Once he does, he will struggle valiantly to free his hands, growing ever more frustrated. Doing so renders him completely unable to sleep and he must be re-swaddled. And, what no one tells you, is that, once swaddled, you can no longer harness your baby into whatever contraption you may be placing him in which also requires me to sleep with one eye open.
- This baby is a noisy sleeper. He is virtually quiet during his day time naps (I sometimes have to get very close to see the rise/fall of his chest or hear his breath). But, overnight? He is grunting and snorting and squeaking and farting. It makes sleeping near him impossible for me. First son slept quietly
- This baby must eat the minute he wakes. At almost 8 weeks this has improved slightly and I can hold him off a few minutes now without him completely going ape. He must have been famished in another life. With our firstborn, I had ample time to prepare to feed him, whether at the breast or with a bottle. He never got agitated over food.
- This baby needs things to be ‘just so’ in order to fall asleep. The lights have to be off (or he will stare at them), the swaddle has to be right (tight but not too tight, hands by his sides, room for his feet to kick (OMG, if he can’t kick his feet!), he has to be positioned correctly (he likes to be high up on the bouncer or in the swing), and there must be some motion (except during the rare times he sleeps in the crook of our arm and then he doesn’t need motion).
- We are feeding and sleeping on demand. I didn’t do that with my first son. The nurses at the hospital where I delivered him were very much about getting him on a schedule. And so I did, from the day he came home, feed him every three hours at 7-10-1-4-7-10-1-4. He adhered to that schedule his entire infancy which made naps predictable, too. Since we’re not doing that this time, it is a bit catch as catch can. I do track when he eats and sleeps just to see if a natural pattern emerges and one is. He, too, eats 8 times a day, but the timing can vary by as much as 2 hours depending on how long his naps are.
- This baby is sleeping in a bouncy seat (mostly) or swing. Our first son slept in a bassinet which was so convenient in that it could be wheeled from room to room. He hated the thin mattress and although it was a bit of a risk, we put a standard tempurpedic pillow in it and he slept like a dream. I wish I had tried that this time before giving away our bassinet.
- This baby uses a pacifier where our first son eschewed anything in his mouth that didn’t have food coming out of it. That is until he found his thumb at 3 months which was its own double edge sword (from what I can tell it is far easier to stop a pacifier addiction (especially if you do so early) than quit the habit of thumb sucking. Pacifiers come out, fall out, are spit out but needed again the very next minute. He only uses it for sleeping. Therein, the rub.
- This baby tends to wake frequently during naps and requires some help going back to sleep. I either need to turn the vibration on, or pop a pacifier in, or jiggle the bouncer, or make sure the birds on the swing are spinning. This means that I can never nap during the day because I am tending to him whilst he sleeps. With son #1, he’d sleep, I’d sleep. Easy, peasy.
There are other ways that things are different this time:
- We have an older child who is used to having his run of the house. At almost 6 he is, by nature, very noisy with his whistling, humming, stomping, drawer slamming, and continuous chattering. Sound is constantly emanating from him. We have, on many occasions, dared him to be quiet. He can’t hold out for even close to 30 seconds. Even with the promise of a prize. We have to live our lives, but it is abundantly better when baby gets sleep.
- The very thing we love about our new house –it’s open floor plan–does nothing to dampen noise. You can hear everything from everywhere. The good news is that what interior doors we do have are all dual pane so when they can be closed the room is fairly sound proof. And, until now we never noticed how much these hardwood floor creak, and in all the wrong places.
- I’ve had no help this time, nada, and only a handful of visitors early on. I have been isolated in every way, including not even having my car for a week at a time while it was in the shop for repairs. And, because he was born during the height of a very bad cold/flu season, I really have needed to sequester him indoors. My other son was born in March and while I was very careful that he not be exposed to germs that could make him sick, it wasn’t as difficult in the spring.
I finally reached a point where I decided to contact some local post partum doulas. All three that I contacted have responded to me. It makes me feel vulnerable and somewhat uneasy inviting a stranger to help me, but I just feel like it will make the world of difference if I pick the right person and she has experience to impart. In my career, I was all about training and empowering people with the tools they needed to do their jobs well, but having someone help me parent? Ugh. I will report back.
One thing is for absolute certain and beyond any doubt: I love this little boy in deep ways I never thought possible. I read somewhere that love does not divide, it expands and that is absolutely true. He knows I’m his mama, he smiles broad smiles at my noises and singing, he coos in heart melting ways. He has charmed me and I am smitten.