On any given night around 3 a.m. there are likely two people crying in my home. One of them is my newborn son. The other one is me. While we have tried to stay one step ahead of him and come up with a plan that allows maximum sleep for everyone, Nathan has something else in mind. Before we had kids, my husband would refer to babies as little terrorists.
“No!” I’d say, “they’re amazing!”
Now I know what he meant. In our particular situation, Nate holds sleep hostage. It’s as if he’s aware of how much he tortures us from one night to the next, between his constant desire for milk and his inability to lie flat on his back without snorting, choking or spitting up. I’m convinced that he has it out for us.
One night, or even a few nights of sleep deprivation, can certainly be tolerated. But when you haven’t had more than an hour of sleep at a time, over a period of a couple of months, the things your mind does are spectacular. Have you ever blanked on someone’s name, or forgotten what day it is? Imagine that being your status quo for every single moment in your life. You can’t remember the name of your sweet dog that you’ve had for over a decade (and who has been secretly plotting his revenge since the children were born). There’s no guarantee that your wallet will make it home with you after a trip to the store, so you begin to rely on the kindness of strangers to turn it in to lost and found. And never mind forgetting what day it is. I routinely blank on the month we’re in. All this because my baby hates me in the middle of the night. I can only imagine what his teenage years will be like.
During daylight hours, my second born is a sweetheart. At just two months old he’s snuggly and sweet and beautiful to stare at. We lock eyes after he nurses, and he looks at me as if to say, “Oh hey, I know you!” while he grins ear to ear. It’s enough to make me want to chew on those fat cheeks. But once I brush my teeth, put on my pajamas and hop into bed, he grows horns and a tail. I swear that in our dark bedroom, by the dim light of my iPhone, I’ve seen them.
Currently, I feed Nate right before heading to bed, and my husband (the night owl) stays up doing work and catching up on the sci-fi shows I refuse to watch with my few precious waking hours without my toddler hanging onto me. When Nate is ready to eat again in a few hours, both hubby and baby join me in the bedroom and the real fun begins. Here’s a small slice of it:
4:21 a.m. – 4:33 a.m. – Breastfeed
4:33 – 4:55 -Hold him upright so he can digest and won’t spit up.
4:55 – Put him in his bassinet.
5:35 – He wakes me with snorting, whining and spitting up. Repeatedly. I pick him up and his back is wet from all the milk he has so rudely spit out. I have visions of Rosemary’s Baby when I look at him, but surely that’s just my sleep deprivation playing tricks on me.
5:35-5:40 – I change him and put him on my chest and try to go back to sleep. But he is squirming, kicking my C-section incision, and whining. It sounds like he’s chirping, the way a bird would outside your window before the sun has even risen. Go to sleep! It’s unthinkable to rise before the sun!
5:42 – I pound his back to calm him and I literally, out loud, beg him to sleep. “Please sleep. Please. I’ll give you anything you want in the morning. You can nurse all day if you want to. PLEASE!”
5:43 – My husband wakes up and takes him and puts him on his chest. But the whines grow louder and more insistent. He’s hungry again. He ate 1.5 hours ago. I’ve gotten 40 min of sleep since then.
5:45 – I adjust my pillows, banging and throwing them into place to get into our feeding position. I’m actually angry with an infant. I start to cry. I’m not cut out for this. 7.5 weeks of this same dance every night, and he has broken me. I sit there sobbing. It’s not this moment that is hard. It’s all the moments piled on top of each other, which are all piled on top of me, that have reduced me to a puddle in pajamas.
5:46 – I put the baby on the boob and my husband is already snoring. Not a light, rhythmic snore but an obnoxious one, with a slow build up and an abrupt, loud burst like the starting of a chainsaw or lawnmower. I stare at him and want to punch him. I’m jealous. I love him, but god I’d love to hit him right now.
5:48 – The baby has eaten for two minutes and is fighting the breast. I burp him and he wants more. I put him back to it but he won’t latch. He’s fussy. “Do you want it or not?!” I demand, once again out loud. As if I’m expecting an answer. Though I don’t intend for my raised voice to wake my husband, I’m secretly annoyed that it hasn’t woken him up. Shouldn’t we both be suffering through this?
5:50 – Nate keeps fussing, then he spits up all over me again. And I start to cry again. Aren’t we supposed to have an understanding? I give you milk and you drink it! But at nearly 6 a.m. he’s breaking all the rules, and his two-year-old brother will be up in less than an hour.
My skin and pajamas are coated in a film of dried breast milk and I’m somehow offended. It’s like cooking someone a big meal and having them spit it out and throw it at you again and again. And then ask for more a minute later. It’s exhausting and unrelenting. (Not to mention a nightmare for an Italian mother whose instinct is to feed people.) And we will do it again tomorrow night.
In the morning, Nate looks at me and smiles with his big toothless grin. It’s like he doesn’t even know what kind of night we had.
Throughout the day I slowly fall back in love with him. By evening his round, pink cheeks and big eyes, like those of a puppy, draw me in. And his calm coos while he peacefully rocks back and forth in his swing belie the yelling, spitting, contorted red monster he becomes in the middle of the night. By bedtime, I’m hopeful that we’ll have a better night. But I dread what’s to come. My cautiously optimistic mind, no doubt influenced by my raging mommy hormones, stands in stark contrast to my exhausted body–depleted, drained, dizzy and desperate for a break.