I usually don’t blog about my life but this article–the first post on this blog for ten months!–will be an exception. If you’re already feeling a yawn (or an eye roll) coming, please jump into the review of The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood instead! No hard feelings! 😉
So, first and foremost, I apologize for the ten-month-long silence. A few words of explanation would have come a long way, but for almost a year now, I’ve been believing that I could get back to blogging the following month… and it took a tad longer.
I’ve decided to talk about my experience because 1) it’s cathartic 2) it is such an incredibly important part of my life that I just can’t not write about it and 3) it would have helped me tremendously to read something like this before it happened to me, even though it’s not the fairy tales most people would rather read.
Oh, I’m talking about having a baby by the way.
First of all, let me clarify something: I gave birth to the Eighth World Wonder. I love my son to bits, he was 100% planned, his Dad and I nested like a pair of obsessive squirrels. We didn’t expect this to be easy, either. So, this is not a blog post about being surprised that a baby means hard work (duh). With our son, we were way passed “hard work”.
It’s started 9 months before his birth. The “pregnant brain” isn’t a myth (please feel free to whack the head of anyone who says otherwise). I very basically went brain dead. I had the attention span of a retarded baboon and couldn’t read much more than a few pages at a time before it all looked like Sindarin to me. Writing was so tedious that books would turn to dust before I’d finished their review. I had accepted books to review and couldn’t do it. I had professional projects I couldn’t complete. It was stressful, but I thought it was a small price to pay for the joy-overload we would experience soon. And it would all be over after Baby’s birth, right?
Our lovely little boy was born in October. Nothing went the way we were hoping, especially the part where he wasn’t breathing at birth, but it’s not like we had time to mull on the trauma. I had this romantic notion of a baby peacefully sleeping in my arms while I would dive into some good parenting books. After all, I had read that newborns sleep up to 16 to 18h a day. 18 freaking hours. I don’t know who made those statistics, but they need to meet my son. Maybe feeding him red bull wasn’t such a grand idea after all. Just kidding.
Anyhow, he certainly wouldn’t sleep 18h a day. Nor half that. Nor half of that half. In his first days, our son never slept. What he did was cry. An awful lot. His father–the best father on Earth–and I were taking turn holding him around the clock. You need to go through this to understand the pain of failing to soothe your baby 24h a day. Not mentioning that you can forget about sleeping, eating, or meeting any of your basic needs in the meanwhile.
After figuring out a few issues (a poor latch which left him hungry, and colics), Baby did start to sleep a tiny bit at night. However, the fight for naps was on: our little boy would sleep 20 minutes sharp if you had it in you to spend 45 minutes of rocking, singing, shushing, you name it… while cursing whoever wrote “sleep when baby sleeps” for the first time.
Now, there is nothing like severe sleep deprivation. Or maybe there is: sleep deprivation associated with the constant crying of the person you love the most on Earth. We couldn’t put down Baby. He had to be held. Or else. Between breastfeeding every two hours and utter exhaustion, I certainly didn’t plan on partying but after a few weeks, I wouldn’t have minded a bit of fresh air. Except, how do you go out when your baby would cry in his stroller? Shriek in the car seat? Fuss and whine in your arms? A few times we tried to go out and went back as soon as possible because our son was simply losing it. One of those times, I was attempting to go the library. In the parking lot, I saw a women with two quiet babies in a stroller and I broke in tears.
Other mothers could do it. I couldn’t. That was my fault. I was an incompetent parent. What else? Everyone so generously offered the solution: white noise, swaddling, rocking baby this or that way, shush/patting, the “belly hold”, whispering or singing in baby’s ear, using a sling, breastfeeding to sleep, putting baby in a cradle, sleeping with baby, let him cry, stay in his sight at all time, playing music, letting the light on, making the room pitch black, running the vacuum cleaner near the crib, using this or that drug for colics, and so on… Many acquaintance would raise an eyebrow about our situation and pointed out that they never experienced something as such and how was it possible? A baby has to sleep eventually. Can’t cry all the time. Would definitely be happy in a stroller/swing/sling/car seat/etc.
Take note: unsolicited advices and incredulity don’t help one bit.
Like all parents, we did everything we hoped right. We worked hard (and are still working hard) to help our little man to thrive. We reached for medical help and it left us utterly confused with contradictory advices (I’d like our lactation consultant to meet our paediatrician some day), when it didn’t completely backfire (special thanks to the nurse who forced us to go the ER with a one week old baby just for nothing). We did our best, with no relatives around to help. And it was a nightmare.
Now for the good news, all nightmares have an end. It got better and is still getting better everyday. Baby is thriving: he’s all smile most of the day, he laughs his head off if you tickle him, he likes playing, he’s very curious and communicative. At six months, he started to sleep 5h straight at night, which means his father and I could recover, and turned out to be rather easy-going. At eight months and a half, he started to take a one to two hours nap and would entertain himself with a box filled with random object for 40 minutes straight! At 10 months, I can just sing a song, drop him in the crib and let him fall asleep with not a single tear. I take him everywhere. We have fun and I really, really enjoy being his mother. Proof that magic exists after all.
To parents who may have a baby similar to ours, I’d like to say: no, you’re not alone in this. Read about high-need babies. Reach for help. Ask anyone, anyone who could help in any regard (not just with baby; think of cooking, cleaning, laundry, pet care, groceries, errands…). It will definitely get better every week. But in the meantimes, do whatever you need (versus whatever you’re told is *Best*) to make it easier on yourself. I wish I had.
Thank you for reading this.
Now, let’s read.