Saturday, August 11, 2007

Good day

A very good day after a shitty, "merdique" night. This morning Le Petit took a lovely, long nap after being rocked to sleep in his cradle by my husband, and I got to catch up on some much-needed, morale-reparing sleep myself. He was calm, alert and happy in his cradle during breakfast and lunch, and the round-trip in the car to and from a walk in the forest this afternoon was uneventful. He even fell asleep on the way back, and may sleep through our dinner, giving us a quiet evening to ourselves for the first time in a while.

Does this mean he'll then wake up at midnight and stay stubbornly awake until an hour I dare not contemplate this morning? I try not to worry too far ahead. He'll be a month old tomorrow. We've survived the first month!

Of course, last night he woke up and started nursing -- sort of -- at two o'clock, kept me half-awake as he continued nursing and fussing until four. The conclusion is that he sleeps no better in our bed than in his own, and we've declared the co-sleeping experiment over. He's back to the bassinet next to the bed, which we tried (and it seemed to work last night and this morning at least) warming up with a hot water bottle on the theory that the "thermic shock" of being placed in his bed from our warm arms was what was waking him up. He finally fell asleep again last night at six am and slept until eight.

Tonight, whatever happens, my goal is to keep my cool (and that darn water bottle hot...). I'll put my iPod next to the bed to listen to calming music during potential marathon nursing/lulling back to sleep sessions.

Rester zen.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Boot camp

"Let the baby teach you," they told us before we left the hospital.

Le Petit has been putting us through boot camp. I was expecting him to fit into an adult world, to sleep peacefully for hours in his crib and let me catch up on sleep, if not housework and reading. The breastfeeding book said to expect him to nurse every two to three hours, so I couldn't imagine he'd be hungry more often than that.

He has been teaching us that he will sleep when he wants to, where he wants to, which is often in our arms or against me during our long walks together with him in the Baby Bjorn baby carrier. We have even given in and let him sleep temporarily in our bed, despite all our objections to co-sleeping, just to get a few decent nights' sleep. That way I can nurse Petit without moving him, and let him drift off to sleep without attemping a transfer to his bed. Although this situation is temporary: we're going to try and wean him quickly to a bassinet next to our bed!

He has been teaching us that after he's slept for three to four hours, he wants to eat every hour or so for the next four to catch up. He's taught us, too, that nursing comforts him more than anything else, and that other forms of comfort, like lullabies, cuddles, and rocking him in our arms take longer to establish.

I feel he's learning to trust us, and becoming more comfortable as we slowly learn to interpret his needs.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sleepwalking

Le Petit will not sleep through the night. This is not in and of itself a problem, as I tend to fall back asleep quite easily. I would gladly wake up at one, three, five o'clock in the morning to nurse Petit, if I could simply crawl back into bed afterwards to catch another hour or two of rest.

The problem is, once awake, Petit does not want to go back to sleep himself. Or, more accurately, he will rarely go back to sleep elsewhere than in my arms, where his shallow, quick breaths betray a persistent state of light sleep that will evaporate in tears soon after I put him back in his crib.

I've spent hours -- believe me, I've counted them -- in the chair beside his bed, holding him and listening to his breathing. When it starts to even out, I hold my own breath and wait for the right moment to attempt the delicate transfer from lap to bed. I place him gently on his mattress and watch. He squirms briefly. His flexes his legs, pulls his hands close to his face. Then he either slowly winds down to become calm and immobile, or continues to squirm absently as if in slow motion. He may open an eye or wrinkle his forehead. I have the strange feeling of watching not a tiny human but an automaton.

If he remains still, I creep outside the room, hopping over the floorboard I know creaks, and pull his door three-quarters closed behind me. I climb back into bed. Sometimes I watch the clock for twenty minutes and wait for him to pass the threshold of deep sleep, tense and ready to jump back up at the first cry. More recently I simply fall asleep, stealing what rest I can for however long he gives me. The cycle repeats itself ten, forty, or sixty minutes later, and often lasts until dawn.

Last night, a "nuit de merde" but unfortunately typical enough, he fell asleep at eleven-thirty, woke up at one-thirty, and finally fell back asleep in his crib at three-thirty only to wake up again at four. At four o'clock I gave in and took him to sleep with me on the futon-couch in the living room, a row of pillows on the floor below us in the unlikely event he should roll out. One protective arm around him, I slept for three hours, intermittently aware of his squirming between my own short, vivid dreams.

The hardest part is that I have no idea how long this will last. I don't want him to get used to sleeping next to me. I want him to be happy and able to calm himself, unafraid of sleep. I want my time in my own bed to be time for me to recharge and to nurture myself, alone with my husband. Everyone and every book gives contrary solutions: let him cry it out; go to him immediately to reassure him when he starts to fuss; sleep with him in your bed; whatever you do, leave him in his own room, where he's safe and will learn to be independent.

In the end, at four o'clock in the morning, the nth time I've been awake at four in the morning in the blur of the past three and a half weeks, I can only do what keeps me calm and gains me enough rest to be vaguely competent and emotionally together the next day. I feel like a gambler who's crazily borrowing against some future big win that never comes.

And it's only been three and a half weeks.

If anyone who's reading this blog -- and I know my readership limited -- has any advice, or can just reassure me with a similar story and a "this too shall pass," please, please, please leave a comment.

I've written this post with Le Petit sleeping not-so-soundly on my lap, intermittently nursing, and the laptop perched on my knees. I've a three-week old baby who is almost as attached to me as he was in the womb... day and night!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

What I've learned so far

Le Petit is three weeks and three days old. The learning curve is steep. So far I've discovered:

- I can survive on far less sleep than I'd imagined. Five hours a night is workable.

- Extreme sleep-deprivation leads to decreased verbal skills, including half-complete sentences and the inability to find vocabulary words in one's native language

- Never miss an opportunity: to sleep, to shower, to eat a meal with both hands.

- There are many things that can be eaten one-handed while nursing a small child. (It's best to think ahead and choose the left breast in order to have the right hand free.)

- That my husband really is ten times the man I fell in love with, with reserves of patience and kindness that even I, his greatest fan, didn't suspect.

- Everything you think you know one day, all the strategies that you've read in the shelf of books sent by well-meaning friends, can be completely and immediately thrown into question -- particularly at five o'clock in the morning when you've been up since one thirty.

- Cling to the small victories: the car trip that didn't end in uncontrollable crying, the half-hour of sleep at the end of the daily walk, the angelic, contented look on his face when you finally get him down to sleep after four hours awake in the middle of the night, the bright, alert gaze he gives you as he eats.

- That three weeks can last much, much longer than you'd ever imagined. And yet, in six months' time, I'm sure we'll be amazed at how quickly it all passed...