One of the baby gifts that I received was a novel for me to read during free time on my mat leave. “What a thoughtful gift!” I said. I tucked it into my newborn survival kit basket along with other useless items like my Sudoku book and journal. HAAAAAA! Want to know how much reading I have done in my “free time”? One page. Yes. A single page. One needs two free hands to read a book, and I am lucky if I have even one most times (I am typing this entire post with only my thumb while trapped under a cranky, sort-of napping baby, if you were wondering).
I really envisioned myself keeping up this blog at least on a weekly basis, entertaining with cute and meaningful anecdotes about our family adventures. Again, I say HA!
Before having Nahum, I pictured me serenely tending to his every cherubic whimper, avoiding crying fits due to my natural patience, which welled out of unending love. Surely those other frazzled moms didn’t appreciate their little miracles like I did. How hard could it be to keep one’s cool with a newborn? Well, let me tell you a thing or two about sleep deprivation. The reality is that I didn’t sleep for about 3 days straight, starting the day I went into labour. And that was just the beginning. Add in the breastfeeding agony I experienced, and a newborn that only wanted to sleep ON someone for about 5 weeks…let’s just say I was a wreck only a few days in. I distinctly remember calling my tiny, adorable, screaming human an “arsehole” during more than one middle of the night feed. Mom of the year, here!
Things I Would Never Do
I’m sure I could write a book on this point. I gave him a pacifier 3 nights in, I bed-shared for 2.5 months, I nearly abandoned breastfeeding because it almost killed me (prior to this, I thought formula was evil), I didn’t let Danny help in the early months because I thought there was a “right” way of doing everything (my way, of course), and I currently allow my baby to nap in my arms (and sometimes attached to my boob) for anywhere between 3-5 hours of every day because it is the only damn way he will sleep longer than 25-35 minutes, making him a cranky mess. I am sure the list of abandoned I-would-nevers will only continue to grow.
I thought I would be better at this, but I felt the need to be involved in every moment of Nahum’s day, especially near the start. It didn’t take me long to learn, though. Soon I was almost tossing my little cranky football into the hands of whoever came in the door. “Wanna hold a baby? Okay, good, here you go.” Bottom line: ACCEPT THE HELP. When you get as little of it as me, it is priceless.
I used to look at exhausted parents and wonder what the big deal was. It couldn’t be as bad as they thought it was. Yeahhhhh. Take it from a lifelong sufferer of insomnia, there is no exhaustion like that of new parenthood. Truly. With insomnia, you can still lay in bed, eyes closed, your body resting, even if that rest is incomplete. When you are breastfeeding an infant who struggles to latch, you have to be FULLY AWAKE every time that baby calls, which could be every hour (or less). I remember the first time I got a full two hours of sleep in a row; I was so happy! Same goes for the first dream I had a few weeks in; I had been sleeping such short stretches that I didn’t even dream for a while. Even now on good nights, I only get about 5 hours of very broken sleep since, now that the immediate exhaustion is gone, my motherflipping insomnia is back.
I thought it would be easier. It sounds naive but there it is. There is not one easy thing about parenting. I think if I had a baby who slept through the night, I would probably be much better at it all, but someone who is running on empty is, well, running on empty.
I left Nahum with Danny after bedtime last night for a few hours to spend time with friends. One of them was in shock that it was only the third time I had ever left Nahum for any length of time. The thing is, we have no family nearby, and most friends have their own kids to see to. How would I leave? And I swear our bedtime routine is the only reason Nahum sleeps at all at night, so we can’t just cart him around with us either. Between Danny working full time, a baby who only takes meaningful naps in my arms, and bedtime, I am housebound most of the time and that is hard! Friends say I shouldn’t worry so much about naps, but it is easy to say when it isn’t their baby who screams until they are purple when they are overtired. I digress…
Getting Things Done
This one is almost as funny as my expectations about free time. I guess I assumed babies just slept when they were tired. I really thought I would be keeping a tidy house and getting dinner on the table every day. Hi-lar-i-ous. Did I mention that my baby basically only naps in my arms? It’s not for lack of trying other things. Babywearing, the swing, the crib, the car…none of it works. I try every. single. day. On a great day, Nahum takes his first nap in his crib and I manage breakfast alone and get a chore started. On a bad day, which is most of them, I am trapped under a baby for literally hours, and only usually after a lot of nap-fighting, which boils down to screaming. Needless to say, the laundry is heaping, the kitchen is a mess, and everything is coated in dust. Today is a good day; I washed a load of clothing, swept the kitchen, and even managed to eat 3 meals between lap naps!
I came into this with rose coloured glasses, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. When I feel trapped and frustrated, one of Nahum’s big, gummy smiles has a way of making it all okay. These hard days are also precious; he’ll never need me as much as this again, and I dare say I will miss it soon enough.