As a new mum, one of the tips I have been told time and time again is: Sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s a cute sentiment, but I call bullshit. Some babies don’t nap. Like mine. For me, it’s more like: Guzzle another cup of instant coffee and wash your face with a baby wipe, when the baby sleeps. Or: Frantically rush around trying to get dressed, make the bed and clean some dishes, when the baby sleeps. Or even: Google ‘how much wine can I drink while breastfeeding’ when the baby sleeps.
To be fair, our babe has started napping for longer periods now, which is fantastic. Two hours in a row even! But there’s a catch. He has to be atop another human. Any human will do – as long as you have a beating heart. His favourite place is face down on your chest. It is cute. It really is. His face gets all squished and his drool trickles down your cleavage. And, to be honest, there is nothing more soothing than having a baby dozing peacefully on you. But it is just a tad inconvenient (especially when it’s 4am and all you want is to be on a mattress instead of being a mattress). I try to trick him sometimes. I wait until he is fast asleep and then very slowly and very gently put him in his bassinet. Sometimes it works! A miracle! Oftentimes it does not. As soon as his little head touches the mattress – *BING* – his blue eyes open up like two full moons staring up at me. The whimpering begins.
It makes sense that the helpless little tot needs extra comfort and cuddles. All he’s ever known is life inside a cosy, secure womb. This world is a terrifying place to be! Good old Pinky McKay puts it perfectly here:
Just for a moment, put yourself in your baby’s bootees and consider how overwhelming the physical and sensory changes must be for your newborn. Imagine yourself soaking in a warm bath by candlelight, listening to the sounds of hushed voices drifting from another room or soft music playing in the distance. Now imagine standing on a buy street corner in the middle of winter with the headlights of a car shining in your face and loud traffic noise all around you.
My friend told me her baby sleeps six hours at night. In a row. Sometimes more. Good for her, I say. My baby does not do this. My baby gets up every two hours. Occasionally he hears my tears in the night and sleeps for a blissful three hours. “Mate, sure is lucky you’re cute,” I tell him. I read somewhere that the smell of the top of a baby’s head causes you to release dopamine (you know the smell – it is delicious). Everytime he wakes up (at 9pm, 11pm, 1am, 3am and 5am) I like to grab his head and snort him in like an addict. I can’t get enough.
It is quite spectacular what a lack of sleep can do to a person. It is the equivalent to being drunk. Everything is a blur. I am not myself*. To be honest, I’m not sure I should be trusted with a precious little child in that state. I even drive around with him in the car. Scary stuff. A lot of the time I start things that I forget to . It took me a few weeks to realise that caffeine is key. It was a real “AHA!” moment for me. I am a better person for it.
While the lack of sleep is trying, we have been blessed with a baby that does not cry. It’s actually unbelievable. He whimpers and grizzles. He groans and grunts. But he hardly ever cries. He is quite the gentleman. He is calm and chilled out, taking everything in with his bright, bright eyes.
He’s also a hungry boy and – thankfully – I have an abundant supply of milk. Needless to say he is growing quickly. He doubled his birth weight in just six weeks. He doesn’t look like the tiny newborn we brought home. He has rolls on his forearms and a triple chin. He is growing so incredibly fast that I can already picture him hiding liquor in his cupboard and bringing girls home. Terrifying.
Sometimes he grunts and squirms for an hour before pooping. He turns beetroot red. It is our role, as parents, to comfort and coach him through such trying times. Sometimes he farts so loudly he wakes himself up. He does not yet know his hands are his and he looks up at me shocked when they hit him in the face. Sometimes he screams in terror when my husband sneezes. Sometimes my husband and I talk about his poop in way too much detail. My how life has changed.
All of the time though, he is so god damn beautiful that my heart turns to liquid butter. I look at him and try to figure out a way to pour every piece of love and joy and light that I possess into his soul and into his future. Is there a way?
*Please excuse the lack of structure and flair in this post. I am writing through a haze of exhaustion. You should be glad I wrote anything at all. God.