I’m sitting here typing while my little 9-week-old is staring at a plastic turtle filled with colorful beads.
He can sit here long enough for me to wash dishes, fold laundry, Swiffer the living room, scarf a milkshake and browse YouTube for different ways to use a ring sling. (This is exactly what I did today.)
I couldn’t have even imagined this would be possible last month.
Last month, if you recall, I was a mess. I felt defeated and helpless. I never thought I’d get three straight hours of sleep ever again. And I certainly didn’t think my baby would occupy himself long enough for me to get anything done.
While I didn’t believe it at first, I’m happy to report that yes, it does get easier.
A week into his second month, my baby is alert and responsive, he’s interested in the world around him, he actually looks at me (and not just my boobs… boys…) and — the best part — smiles. Oh, those smiles are such sweet rewards for weeks of no sleep, painful nipples and feeling like I’m trapped in this house.
Part of the change is biological: He’s older, his body is growing, his brain is developing. His digestion system seems to be working much better. (No more writhing and suffering.) He can entertain himself. He looks at and responds to us. All this makes a huge difference.
And the other part is us: We’re finally getting it. We’ve learned his different cries. We’ve figured out that babies needs to nap regularly. And we stopped stressing about the little stuff. He wants to sleep in the Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play sleeper? Let him! He needs to be carried a little longer before going to bed? Go ahead!
Every parent, every expert, every website, every book advises something — and it’s all over the place: Don’t rock your baby to sleep. You can’t spoil a baby. Breast is best. A fed baby is a happy baby. Feed on demand. Put your baby on a schedule. Don’t use a pacifier. Use a pacifier. It’s confusing and overwhelming, especially for a desperate, hopeless new parent.
And, like I did to get pregnant, I tried everything. I tried feeding on demand. (It didn’t work because I wasn’t napping him at all.) I swaddled. (That worked, but the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle didn’t.) We used a co-sleeper, then a bassinet, then a crib — all in the same week! I sampled different formulas, different bottles, different breast pumps. I have every kind of pacifier ever invented. I browsed more parenting websites and message boards than I knew existed. I called and texted every mother I knew, begging for help and advice, sometimes at 1 in the morning. And every single one responded — they’ve been here before, too — with very helpful suggestions, always ending with something along the lines of, “This worked for me, but it may not work for you” and “Good luck!”
Mothers know. No matter what you do, what you read, what you try, you will never know what’ll work. And what works with one child may not work — maybe almost never work — with another. So, basically, you’re screwed.
It’s like we’re raising this kid using trial-by-error — and, in a lot of ways, we are.
And it’s OK.
We still have a lot more to learn — like how to get him to sleep through the night. (He slept for five straight hours last night, so that’s progress!) And we still have moments of frustration, when we can’t figure out what he wants or needs. But, for the most part, we’re getting better at sticking to a schedule, getting him to sleep on his own and managing life with three hours of sleep.
And when I start to feel like life as I knew it is completely over, he smiles at me and I remember: a new life has only just begun.