Beauty Sleep Be Gone

Obviously, I was eventually going to write about sleep.

When Marta went into labor two weeks ago and I wrote to one of my professors to say I’d be missing class, she wrote back and said “Say goodbye to a good night’s sleep for the next two years.”

People who have had children many years ago like to joke about sleepless nights with an infant in the same way war veterans talk about losing an ear in battle or walking through a jungle for seven days with just one canteen of water. They laugh and smile knowingly (also a little sadistically) and then say awful things like, “Yeah, I remember thinking I wouldn’t be able to make it.” or “You’re so delirious you want to die.”

For a little while there I was convinced that our first few nights after Nico had been born were the worst. This is ironic considering we were in the hospital and could ship her off to the nursery in-between feedings. But at that moment we were both so tired (Marta more so, of course) from the drama of the c-section and the surprise of it all, that we needed sleep. Also, neither of us had really experienced being woken up at regular three-hour intervals throughout the night. It took us about four days, but then we got used to it. Marta, of course, much more so than me.

I should stop and mention at this point that I am typing this blog post with a baby in my arms. Marta’s zonked in the other room. It’s 8 a.m., but she’s been up at least three times in the night, often for an hour or more at a time (really I have no idea how long cause I was sleeping), to feed Nico and then try to convince her she should go back to sleep. I took about two shifts, walking Nico up and down the hall at 1 a.m. and then 4:15 a.m while humming a song I only realized later was a Christmas carol: Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin?

Our truly horrid nights, though, happened a couple days ago. Nico, who had been the most angelic, frequently comatose (but in a good way), baby, suddenly got a bee in her bonnet. During the day, she was squirming around, arching her back and crying much more easily. She would only stop if held. Then at night, the agitation continued, but turned up full volume. She was inconsolable. She was wide awake.

And I had to sleep some because this is finals week and I had two papers to finish. So Marta stayed up with her most of the night. This happened first on Monday night and, then, to a much more frightening degree on Tuesday night. By Wednesday I was a mini-wreck and Marta was, well, a very grumpy zombie.

I called my dad. “Dad,” I said. “I’ve changed my mind about having a baby myself. After this, I think we’ll stick to just one.”

He laughed, of course, because that’s what veteran parents do. And then he said, “Remember what your grandma always said, ‘This too shall pass.'”

Obviously someone more famous than my grandmother said that first, someone like the Bible, but it was helpful to hear. If only for about thirty seconds.

Marta had just gotten back from a doctor’s visit with Nico at that time and she said they told her Nico might be colicky. I’d already read about colic. One night, when I was up with Nico, we sat on the couch and I began reading about sleep in the Dr. Spock book my mom got me at the thrift store. It was her bible when raising us, and she got it for me as a bit of a joke. But I’ve found Dr. Spock to be quite refreshing, especially in comparison to many of the web sites out there, which seem bent on scaring the shit out of new parents.

Dr. Spock, though, doesn’t mince words about colic. It could take two months to resolve, he writes. Elsewhere I had read that colicky babies sometimes cry unconsolably for three hours at a time, day after day. I worried for our sanity. For our relationship. For Nico.

But then, magically, that night Nico slept well. The gas pains she’d seem to be having had improved. Worried about Marta, I also jumped in to help more. When Nico got up, I swept her into my arms and we went to the computer to work on one of my papers. I’d type for about an hour, she’d fall back asleep and then I’d get some rest. When Marta woke the next morning (yesterday) she was herself again. Or almost herself.

We both felt hopeful.

Last night, of course, we lost that hope all over again. I remember one moment thinking that the true injustice in the world is that you can be tired but your baby isn’t. You love this little thing so much you feel that you and she should be in synch. But you’re totally not.

She’s still in stuck in womb-time, where she was awake at night because no one was walking around to rock her to sleep. And she was asleep during the day because of all that movement and white noise, i.e. voices. Babies have to adjust to being like us, I know.

And we formerly childless people have to adjust to being parents. That way one day, many many years from now, we can be the ones with the knowing smirks on our faces.

2 thoughts on “Beauty Sleep Be Gone

  1. Dr. Spock saved my sanity during many a long sleepless night — and on the occasion when of one of my children (at age one) fainted and collapsed in a heap on the floor after screams of frustration didn’t solve her problem. Sarah turned out just great, thanks to Dr. Spock!

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