Things I Forgot About Having a Newborn

Coffee is life, especially with no night and day, no solid eight hours of zzz’s, and after waiting nine long months to fuel up with some serious synthetic energy.

coffee

Tiny new hands on my hands, on my chest, on my face and arms, and grasping my finger. Impossibly small (but damn – sharp) baby nails.

Running in to Target for nursing pads, diapers, ice cream, and Xmas cards for my four-year-old’s preschool teachers, when it just happens to drizzle. Hearing no less than five comments, with thinly veiled scorn: “Oh! A new baby out in rain!” She’s not a gremlin, folks. We’ll be fine.

The glory of four hours of sleep (they don’t even have to be consecutive hours).

The rock hard pain of six hours of sleep.

The stunned realization that some people are unaware that “baby weight” does not magically disappear on day one. The hospital tech who doesn’t believe, until a nurse backs me up, that I am not pregnant – that the baby directly in front of me is the one who just came from my body. The checker at CVS who says “oh, you’re just like me – takes awhile for the weight to come off”, when I’m ten days postpartum.

Walking middle of the night laps around the house with a baby who won’t be put down, and finding it perfectly justifiable to have a snack each time I pass through the kitchen.

Diaper. Blowouts.

Her sweet little “hold me” cry.

Her ear piercing, shrieking for hours, inconsolable cry. The one that makes me angry, then guilty about being angry, then makes me cry too. (Also the one my husband manages to sleep through.)

Being chained to a nursing schedule, yet having no real schedule at all.

Managing milk … Leaks. Sore, chewed up skin. Tricks for getting the best latch. Over-supply. Under-supply. Pumping. Remembering which side baby ended with last time. Big kids being too interested, too close, too needy during nursing. Knowing it will get easier with time, yet doubting my ability to keep it up for another day.

Baby eyes while nursing, staring straight into mine, or closed in contentment. Baby guzzling, gulping, and sweet little sighs. Nursing blisters on the lips of a milk drunk baby face.

Patting her back for hours trying to find a burp. Or the spit up that happens as soon as I give up.

All the questions, from all the people, about her birth. Having no possible answers that please anyone.

Never knowing if she’s dressed for the right temperature. I know the rule: “What you’re wearing, plus a layer”. But, between a barrage of hormones and body heat from chasing the big kids, I have serious temperature control issues. Consider me an unreliable source.

Cradle cap.

Babywearing through the witching hour.

Having absolutely not a single clue what she needs. Running endlessly through the list of possibilities and coming up short at every turn. Crying right along with her. Surviving it.

Intuitively knowing, with certainty, what she needs. Because she came from me, and also made me, and caring for this particular tiny human is what I have always and never known how to do.

Evie
Readers, meet Evelyn Jeanne. Evie, meet our readers. I will only mainly tell them good things about you.

Let’s Talk About Sleep, Baby

With less energy and more baby weight every minute, these days feel endless. By the time I shove gently lay my monsters sweet children in their beds, I am more than ready to sit in quiet and zone out on my phone for a few minutes. Unfortunately, this interlude between bedtime and chores has lately been taking place outside of their bedroom door, to keep Owen contained in his new toddler bed for long enough to fall asleep. Not so restful.

Please let my independent sleeper reappear soon.

He will; he always does. Mostly, I am appalled at how easily I can put him down for nap and bedtime: a big hug and kiss, binky and blankey in chubby hands, sound machine on, and it’s “night night, Owen”. Not a peep until he’s awake again. Each day we are a little closer to being back there. I just need a little extra patience for now (can I order some from Amazon?).

The saving grace in this current fiasco has been Addie, my other great sleeper. Now that they share a room, it could be a quick downhill shitshow if she joined in the fun when he protests, hopping out of bed 600 times a night. She amazes me – my wild child who rarely does anything I need – by staying quiet and sticking to her usual sleep-2-minutes-after-head-hits-pillow routine. Thank you preschool, for wearing her out.

I have now spent 4+ years, and counting, getting tired babies and kids to go the fuck to sleep. Over and over and over. Soon I will start over with Baby 3, learning her natural tendencies and working on healthy habits, while trying to stay sane.

The thing is, baby sleep (then toddler sleep, then kid sleep, which all lead to adult sleep) is EVERYTHING. No one, in this house at least, does well without it. As a natural insomniac, I try to prioritize lifelong, healthy relationships with sleep for all of our sake.

Secretly, I love the challenge. Sleep is one of my favorite kid projects. The individual and universal sleep needs of tiny people fascinate me. A sucker for schedules, routines, and tricks, I love researching this topic. I have learned a few things along the way (the details of which I would be happy to discuss with anyone, at any time). And when all the plans go awry, as they do, I like to rethink, change course, and fine-tune our habits. What a loser.

Of course, habits are only one half of the equation – every human has their own little ways. One baby fought me on sleep for his entire, insanity provoking, first year of life (and grew out of it). The other was born with the ease to sleep well, in predictable patterns, from only a few months old (not a thing about her since has been so smooth).

A and mom
Miss Dream Sleeper

Even before Adelaide was born, I began a slight obsession with baby sleep. It started with unrealistic anxiety over what she would sleep in as a newborn. There were far too many options: 6,000 bassinets, co-sleepers, pack n play, rock n play, a literal basket on my bed; the list is ridiculous. How is any new mom to know that you go with whatever burlap sack will get them to actually sleep?

When she was a few weeks old, I fell far down the baby sleep research rabbit hole. But I went by choice, diving happily into every book, blog, Facebook forum, and conversation with other parents and experts. My anxiety lessened with each new idea and insight – research usually does that for me. And I learned quickly to pick and choose what I wanted from each program about what babies and parents MUST do to get sleep. No drinking any one particular Kool-Aid here.

At Addie’s 6 month checkup, our beloved pediatrician said we were incredibly lucky for her solid two naps a day and single night waking. She informed us that Addie was cleared to sleep through the night, if we were interested in gentle sleep training. We were, we did, and it was the easiest thing ever. Kevin and I got used to the 7 pm bedtime, leaving evenings to work and wind down, and mostly sleeping through most nights. Even in regressions, teething, and illness she was barely thrown off and went back to good sleep within a few days. Blissful.

O and mom
Mr Only-Sleeps-on-Mama

By contrast, Owen – tortured and inconsolable– rejected sleep with a vengeance as a baby. He could not be set down, for the first four months or so, without screaming bloody murder and projectile spitting up in volcanic amounts. No habits emerged with which to work. Sleep training was a constant fail. Self-soothing seemed impossible. He is damn lucky to be the cutest, most loving human ever. Within days of his first birthday, everything in his life (including the ability to sleep) suddenly clicked into place. And he has been a dream ever since, until this current derailment.

What strange, fascinating, infuriating, and exhausting human behavior. Sleep. It is EVERYTHING. Between evenings camped outside the kids’ door, middle of the night pregnancy hunger and insomnia, and early mornings when Addie comes flailing in to my bed – I need more of it. At least I have enough experience, at this point, to know this is all temporary. Someday, when they become lazy teenagers, I will be dragging them out of bed in the mornings just to see their grumpy faces.

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