Monday, September 03, 2007


Traveling with Theo was not so bad. That’s probably because I expected it to be terrible, and it was better than that. He was a champ on the airplane, sitting up in his little bassinet, smiling at our fellow passengers and sleeping periodically so that we even got to watch Blades of Glory on the way there.

The worst part was coming home, as it is most of the time with vacations. I have always hated jetlag and the hating is at its peak right about 2:54 a.m. when I can’t get to sleep. It is at its second worst at 9:38 a.m. when I have to get up but feel like my limbs are dragged down by Wile E. Coyote anvils.

I thought that having a baby would make the jetlag so much worse, since my frustration level when Theo can’t sleep rises quickly even in the best of times. But, like so much about parenthood, I was surprised by the way a baby can make the worst stuff bearable just by shifting my focus from myself to him. Our first night home, Theo was terribly confused. He woke up every hour or so making creaky mewing noises and squinting his puffy little eyes. He just wanted to be held and bounced and rocked and sung to as he clung to the front of my pajamas. I would think he had fallen asleep but as soon as I even approached his crib to lay him down his pathetic sobs would begin anew. After an hour or so of the bouncing and clinging, Jeff would come into the room and I would hand over my little warm bundle, return to bed, and try to get some sleep before taking the next shift. At one point, I could hear Theo crying even though my head was underneath my pillow. I considered getting up to see if I could help calm him down, but instead I decided to give Jeff the privilege instead.

Now, when I say “privilege,” I am being just a tiny bit sarcastic, because I was really laying there thinking about how it was Jeff’s turn anyway, since I’d already been in there for an hour (and I'm sure Jeff thought the same thing when he heard me stumbling around an hour earlier). But after Theo quieted and I drifted off to sleep and Jeff crawled into bed beside me having successfully transferred our bundle of joy into his crib just as the sky got light, I realized that staying in bed was the right thing to do at the time.

I don’t have much advice to share about parenting a newborn, but here is one of the best things I’ve learned so far, and it’s something that I think women have a particularly hard time accomplishing. Let the other parent do the hard parts too. That goes especially for the middle-of-the-night stuff. Chances are, he wants to take his turn. He loves that screeching little angel as much as you do. Pump a bottle or hand over the baby monitor or take a long walk or do whatever you have to do to allow the daddy to roll out of bed at 1:27 a.m. and bounce the crying baby in his arms, even if he has to get up and go to work in the morning and you don’t, even if you are nursing and it’s just less trouble to do it yourself.

Because Saturday night, if I would have gotten up and taken over and let Jeff get some sleep, he wouldn’t have felt Theo’s warm legs against his torso or seen how Theo’s confused face relaxed when he recognized his daddy’s voice, or done a silent little cheer when he managed finally to lay Theo down without waking him (something I hadn't managed to do anyway). And the two of couldn’t have reminisced together on Sunday morning about how last night was so much like those first few weeks when we were both joyful, terrified zombies because we were up together in the dark, caring for our son.

1 comment:

EuroTrippen said...

You probably have mixed emotions about being back after such a great trip... but let me be the first to welcome you back to the fatherland anyway.

I know I'm guilty of stepping in when & where I shouldn't as it pertains to co-parenting. This is a good reminder even for me... and my kiddos are much older.