Sunday, July 16, 2006

Forty Winks

Few things have shaken me to my very core as the early months of parenting. Now that we're firmly entrenched in The Life of Pi, I cringe a bit at how completely rocked and rattled I was by every. little. thing, but what really threw me for the biggest loop was, of course, the sleeping.

A brief history of Pi's slumbering habits, and how ineptly I handled them:

The first few nights at home, he nursed from 1:00 am - 4:00 am, non-stop. The only way I could get him to sleep was by swaddling him, propping him in a Boppy (horrified gasp) on the couch (double horrified gasp) and sitting up next to him with my head lolled on my arm, jerking myself awake every five minutes. Bad scene.

For the first few months he slept, well, like a baby. Very unpredictable, sometimes napping for three hours, sometimes for 20 minutes, awake every two hours during the night. Why does the "sleeping like a baby" cliche mean exactly the opposite of reality? Aren't cliches supposed to evolve from universal truths? I read all the books about how much sleep he was supposed to be getting and freaked right out. Someone should have locked all my books in a strongbox and buried them under Lake Michigan until I was able to think rationally. Those stupid books made me doubt, even more, every little thing I was doing, and convinced me that I was scarring him for life if I allowed him to fall asleep nursing, or rocking, or bouncing, or within 60 feet of the sound of my voice.

We finally got into a sort of routine - he had two naps during the day, always on my chest, and would sleep for almost two hours at each nap. At three months, he slept 10 hours straight through the night, and this utter bliss continued for exactly three weeks, and didn't return until he was 11 months old.

When I went back to work and Smitty took over as primary caregiver, Pi learned how to take naps in his crib. We co-slept at night, but we would put him down in the crib for the first evening stretch, and then bring him into bed after his first wake-up. Between three and 11 months, he usually only woke up once or twice a night, except when he was teething or when the stars were misaligned.

Now, he has one nap during the day, usually two - three hours, goes to bed at around 9:30 and sleeps till about 7:30. He hardly ever goes down for naps or nighttime when he's drowsy - we rock him and sing to him until he's asleep, and then we put him in the crib.

I just had to get all of this out of the way, because, like it or not, this is the conversation I had most often as a new mom. How is he sleeping? What about the sleeping? Are you getting any sleep? Is he a good sleeper? I try so hard not to bombard new parents with any of these ridiculous questions, but our American high-achievement instant-gratification lives are so consumed with this topic - it's so ingrained. All we have to do is look around at all of our adult friends to realize that no one needs to be rocked to sleep in their mother's arms anymore, and they are all perfectly capable of deciding for themselves that they are tired and need to go to bed, but new parents manage to convince themselves (and let everyone else's judgments and assvice convince them) that this will never happen for their children because of all the "bad habits" they've encouraged. I bought all of it hook, line, and sinker, and let myself get way too frustrated with Pi when he wouldn't go to sleep. Every time my worry got to an absolute fever pitch, when I was convinced that things would never change and he would always be taking naps on my chest or waking up at 2:00 am, he made a transition and things got better. He showed me.

I just put him down for his nap, rocking and singing his naptime lullabies, and when he wiggles into his comfortable position, and Velcroes his head into the nook between my shoulder and breast, sucking his thumb and holding his blankie, there is absolutely nothing sweeter. His baby smell (which is already changing from that just-baked, heady aroma he had when he was newborn), his cute little sleepy smiles, his playing with my hair and lips as we rocked - it just moved me to tears this morning. I wished it all away in the early months, and now I know that one day it will be gone and I'll yearn for it back.

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