Tuesday, July 24, 2007

In good time

Theo has been sleeping through the night - ten or eleven hours at a stretch - for almost two weeks. I almost didn't tell you. But the adage that every superstitious parent follows - don't talk about the good stuff or it's bound to go bad - doesn't apply because in a few days, we will travel halfway around the world and thoroughly screw up his sleep patterns anyway.

I share this information as part of my "parenting doesn't suck" blogging philosophy. I read a bunch of sleep books before Theo was born and laughed along with everyone who advised me to catch up on my sleep before the baby arrived to steal it all away. And those people were totally right, Jeff and I walked around for the first few weeks of Theo's life like zombies. We were all right during the daytime, but at night it felt like someone had sent a little alien into our bedroom to conduct an experiment on sleep-deprived human beings. His schedule was predictable but it was difficult for us to figure out our own day- and night-time patterns; since we were getting up every couple of hours, we had to finally say to ourselves, OK, it's dark, I'd better put on my pajamas, or OK, the sun is up, I think I'll eat some cereal. And, of course, in the time it took to put on the pajamas or eat the cereal, he would have slept for his usual forty minutes and would be starving and want to eat and then, especially at about 1:30am, want to be rocked and jiggled for an hour or so before going back to sleep. Of course, the zombie moments were immediately counteracted by marathon photo sessions and hours when he slept snuggled up on my chest while I watched FoodTV.

So it was wonderful and difficult and there were lots of tears (not just Theo's). But I realize now that my anxiety had a lot to do with the books and advice, and little to do with my concern for our tiny baby. I wasn't worried that Theo was sick, or too hungry, or underweight, or turning yellow. With either my naivete or my new-mom-intuition, I could tell that he was all right. But I was terrified of becoming one of the case studies in the books, or the friends-of-friends, the ones who co-slept and couldn't get their ten-year-old out of the bed; who had to wear the baby around the house in a sling until he was five; the ones who had broken their babies' spirits by letting them cry too long or who said, "If only we'd done it right at first, we wouldn't have to call the SuperNanny now." All the useful information had become jumbled up in my sleep-deprived brain and it added up to the idea that if I didn't teach him what he needed to know from his first hours at home, our whole family would pay in the months and years ahead.

And then, one day, instead of reading a baby book in the bathtub, I cracked open a novel. And I decided to put the books away for a while. And I started to notice that the things I had read that I was going to have to teach him how to do along with much crying and patting and gnashing of the toothless gums, he was learning to do on his own.

I know so many parents who, like me, just want to be informed and "do" parenthood the right way. We freak out about preventing nipple confusion and sleep training and eating tuna while we're pregnant. But the one piece of advice that no one told me - or I just didn't hear - is that Theo, like most babies, would have only handful of the hundreds of problems and issues that I'd read and heard about and prepared for. And the rest of the time, he would eat and sleep and grow and change and do what most babies do without anyone teaching him how. And even when I try to teach him, he usually does everything in his own time anyway.

We've had our moments (The Nap Wars) and I know we have a long road ahead (I don't even want to think about the day we take away the binky) but I've started to assume that he's doing what he needs to do, when he needs to do it. And when he doesn't, I have a library full of books with helpful strategies for coaxing him along. Now I'm going to go back to enjoying the fact that I got a full night's sleep last night, because since I've told you, it probably will never happen again.


Maria said...

The Boy was down to one wake up per night...then I took him to the US and all went to pot. Of course, going back to Germany was worse, followed by a return to the US. Anyway-- all of that to say I am jealous.

Oh-- and The Boy has an ear infection in both ears so he wakes up hourly again! YIKES!

Nicole said...

Good luck on your trip! I worried that the travel would totally mess up the lucky sleep-throughs we were having, but it actually seemed to help. Who knows how babies work sometime?

Oh, and fear not the Binky displacement. Like most things, babies will dispense of that which they don't need when they no longer need it. Connery gave his up, no fuss no muss, when he was ready.

mames said...

found you via superhero comments...it must be in the air. i just read your tuesday post, i posted something so simiiar on my blog that same day. this mama thing sure is lovely and crazy and maybe we are all so much more connected than we think. your little guy is a lovey. congrats on the night sleep, doesn't it feel like xmas? i wouldn't know (yet, please god.) smiles.