Thursday, March 31, 2011

The not-asleep panic

As I tried futilely to get G to sleep last night, I couldn't concentrate. My mind was drawn to the two girls, each in their beds, tired and rubbing their eyes, who waited for me with their soft lights on and their storybooks in hand and their day's secrets waiting to spill from their tongues. My failing to get the baby to sleep was a failing of all three children. Sorry, kids.

(Have I mentioned the lovely husband is back home now? And how he took the baby up to bed tonight? And what a relief that was?)

When a baby of mine doesn't relax into sleep, I realized last night, I automatically panic that the crying will never, ever stop. I have no relative patience for the circumstance of a baby having a tough night. Instead, my breath catches and my heart pounds and I despair. I do that every time, but I only realized it last night. I think most parents have varying degrees of weary acknowledgement or maybe even impatience or frustration, but I don't think it's normal to dive straight into despair.

When E was a small baby and I was sorting out that I was responsible for this creature every minute of every day, I carried a lot of despair. I felt isolated, having walked out of work and my whole (as I then saw it) intellectual identity. It was winter and my baby was a screamer, so I never left the house. Sometimes in the last hour until the lovely husband got home from his work where he got to use his brain and eat whole meals with two hands and utensils and sitting down and not swaying and hold conversations and think complete thoughts, I'd just swing my screamy baby in my arms and cry. He'd come home and he wouldn't have time to take his suit jacket off and I'd be handing her over to him to escape her decibals.

Things I now know: she was colicky. I was post-partum-depression-y. And she truly has unmatchable vocal cords. Over time, she adjusted to the indignity of being alive and I figured out how to embrace motherhood and we both got much better at our new roles, but oh, was it a rocky start. She plummeted me into motherhood in a trial-by-fire style and overall, I do think those experiences have left me with a great calm as relates to their very loud entropy. In general, I'm able to handle any of the chaos that they send my way -- except for the quiet dark endlessly pierced by an inconsolable baby.

And, of course, none of these realizations by night light last night made me feel better about my lonely, waiting daughters, either.

I got the girls to sleep tonight, reading and snuggling them each in their beds in turn, listening to their days' tales and planning tomorrow's show-and-tell and explaining newly discovered concepts and offering to each the haven of my undivided attention. The lovely husband took the baby to bed.

He did no better than I. I don't know if G's cutting a tooth or too excited about walking or was just happy to see his daddy, but he wouldn't go to sleep. After an hour of trying with no success, the lovely husband brought him back downstairs, where he played happily for another hour before falling asleep without fuss on the couch.

New goal: untrain the panic. Pin It