I think it’s important to show what the day to day really looks like. Especially with motherhood. It’s way easier than moms tell you — and just as terrible.
I was up a couple times that night, wordlessly sticking e.e. on the boob and dozing off like the present, involved mother I am. In the half-awake state that I was, I sketched out everything that needed to happen that morning: shower, a bowl of honey nut cheerios, maybe peanut butter toast. (No, no peanut butter toast. We had French toast and breakfast pizza in the fridge for lunch that day, so I didn’t need to eat a heavy breakfast).
This was the second week we were trying our new Sunday morning routine: I went to choir practice alone, then Erich and e.e. met me at church for the actual service.
e.e. stirred, squinting his eyes and grunting piggily. After eating his fill, e.e. screamed. Like, colicky baby scream. Inconsolable. Inexplicable.
A diaper change didn’t help. Feeding had obviously not helped. The only thing that helped was crazily dancing around the room, but that required two hands and a whole body, and I still needed to eat honey nut cheerios.
I got him quieted enough to pour dry cereal into a bowl, and then he screamed again, and I had a Very Important Decision to make: do I pour the milk into the cereal and risk leaving an increasingly soggy bowl of uneaten honey nut cheerios on the counter? Or do I not, and starve?
I poured that milk and ate every bite of those honey nut cheerios, while bouncing e.e. in the Baby Bjorn after every spoonful to prevent tears.
Handing him off to a sleepy Erich still curled up in bed, I gave explicit permission for him to stay home and tend to the inconsolable, inexplicable crying thing that was nothing like our angel child. There’s no point in dragging an unhappy baby to church if you’re just going to stand in the foyer and miss everything.
Upon my return home, I was happy to find that e.e. had gone to sleep. I was not happy to find that Erich had eaten both pieces of the French toast and breakfast pizza. “How selfish!” I hangrily yelled. “What kind of person eats both pieces?”
He offered to make it up by preparing me sausage (“I hate sausage!”) or what about an egg and English muffin (“no!”) or he could — (“it’s FINE, I’ll make myself a sandwich!”). I bitterly ruminated on how justice could not be properly dealt in a family environment, since eating both pieces of French toast and breakfast pizza is not a jailable offense.
I ended up lunching on popcorn and Craisins because I was too lazy to make myself a sandwich.
It was the warmest day of the year, and I spent it napping on the couch while e.e. smiled at the ceiling fan. We were going to go on a walk in the park, but we were too tired. By that time I had forgiven my selfish husband and snuggled up next to him to watch Saturday Night Live.
e.e. screamed periodically through the day, and I Googled and Googled things until I came to the conclusion that he was teething (chewing, check; drooling, check; inexplicable, inconsolable wailing, check). I tried looking at his gums, but his tongue got in the way, or he was screaming. I tried getting him to gnaw on a cold washcloth to ease gum pain, but he knitted his eyebrows together and squalled.
And we were supposed to go out to dinner that night with my in laws.
“You go, I’ll stay home,” I said, holding a wailing baby while Erich threw on dress clothes. “I don’t think it’s fair to bring him out in public when he’s not feeling well. And I hate nursing in public.”
“He’ll be fine,” said Erich.
e.e. cried and cried in the car, and then fell asleep for hours like normal.
e.e. went to bed nicely, and I went to bed too late.
e.e. slept until 5 AM, a joyous occurrence that used to be regular until he discovered that I would feed him at any and all hours of the night. Even though I got six solid hours of uninterrupted sleep (well, not counting the times I naturally woke up and poked him to make sure he was still breathing), I woke up on the terrible, horrible, no good, very wrong side of the bed.
“You could’ve woken up on my side of the bed,” Erich later placated me. “I woke up with a sore back.”
So I tried to sleep and put e.e. back to sleep at the same time, which never works, and involves unnecessary nursing, repeatedly sticking the pacifier back in his mouth, and patting his back until he wakes me up a half hour later and I realized we must have both dozed off. I was having a really strange but interesting dream, and he woke me up right before the exciting conclusion, which would have probably been lame, after all.
It was 11 AM before I gathered up e.e. and went to the bathroom. Someone had used the toilet without flushing. This is a regular occurrence now, and I couldn’t tell you who is the culprit because neither of us remembers what we do at the odd hours of the night when e.e. cries. Our lunchtime conversations involve us recounting what weird things we remember the other person ding the night previous:
“Where did you go last night?” I would ask.
“What do you mean, I was in bed the whole time.”
“No, you weren’t, you said, ‘It’s too loud!’ and left the room and never came back.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, I distinctly remember you saying that.”
“Yes, because I remember wondering what on earth you were talking about because e.e. wasn’t even crying that loud.”
“Yes, really. You left the room and never came back.”
Anyway, I sat there on the toilet for a while watching e.e. smile at the ceiling, and sketching out what I needed to do that day: put on deodorant, brush teeth, find clothes, tie my messy hair into a messy bun that is never messy enough to look effortless, and eat honey nut cheerios.
I didn’t feel like doing any of that. I tried to guilt myself (“Erich doesn’t get to sleep in and spend a whole fifteen minutes deciding not to brush his teeth, you’re wasting your privilege”), I even tried to mom guilt myself (“what kind of mom are you if you can’t even brush your teeth at 11 AM?”), but I ended up exiting the bathroom without doing any basic hygiene. (I did flush the toilet.)
We sat on the couch, e.e. on his Boppy pillow smiling at the ceiling fan, I next to him feeling like I really didn’t want to be a mom today, and ohmygoodness, our house is a total wreck.
And it really was. Is. Always. I got behind on everything when e.e. went through a sleep regression that required me to hold him the entire time he napped, and that precipitated the rest of the house going to pot. Tissues, clothes, dirty dishes everywhere.
I didn’t feel like cleaning the house either. When was Erich coming home? I wanted Erich. I needed to tell him that I couldn’t do this anymore without his help and, also, for all that is good in the world, would he please throw away his tissues instead of scattering them around the house?
I was depressed. I hated everything, especially housecleaning. I just sat there, hating the mess, and then e.e. pooped.
Ugh, the nursery was even more disastrous. Laundry from three weeks ago was nicely folded on the floor. I had managed to fold half of the laundry from two weeks ago and to dump last week’s laundry in the middle of the floor thinking I would have enough time to fold it before e.e. woke up from his nap. (Hilarious, I know.) Duplicate baby stuff sat in the corner from the baby shower five months ago. A pile of return addresses for thank you notes (right, great, still need to write those) sat next to that. And Erich’s art and horticultural projects exploded from a large sheet of drywall teetering on a fancy chess table that we can’t figure out where else to put.
I changed e.e.’s diaper, sat him on the floor, and watched him smile at that room’s ceiling fan. Something gave the tiny, underfed, rarely seen housekeeper within me a gentle nudge, and I began stuffing the extra baby stuff in the big Christmas gift bag and throwing away trash and recycling old cards and sticking the return address labels somewhere else besides the middle of the floor. And then I folded the rest of the laundry and actually put some of it away. (I didn’t put away the kitchen hand towel. That was just too much.)
In all my cleaning zeal, I neglected to notice that e.e. had stopped babbling and smiling.
No. Oh, no. I had missed The Sleep Window, and now he would fight slumber.
Fight he did. I darkened the room, turned on the “BAMBOO WATER FOUNTAIN | Relax and Get Your Zen On | White Noise | Tinnitus Relief” ten hour long YouTube video, poorly swaddled him, and danced around the room. He dozed off, sucking on his pacifier. I put him down. He awoke screaming.
No problem. I am a calm, patient mother. (And I heard Erich coming in for lunch, so I had backup.)
I danced around the room again. He dozed off. I put him down. He awoke screaming.
PROBLEM, and I am not a calm, patient mother. I am a tired, tired, tired mother who just wants to sleep for any amount of uninterrupted time and not wonder if my baby is going die of SIDS.
I set him down, greeted my husband with, “I can’t do this anymore,” and threw a blanket over my head, sobbing.
“Are you okay?”
A few minutes later the crying stopped under Erich’s expert care. It was too hot to mope under the blanket, so I crawled out, made myself a sandwich, and spent Erich’s entire lunch break explaining how much I hated housecleaning.
I went to work, and then I did my WERQ class and felt tired and hot and, yeah, tired.
e.e. took a nap really late and was wide awake at a 11 PM. I laid him down in bed and thought I could get out of putting him to sleep if I fell asleep first. I awoke a half hour later to find e.e. had missed The Window again because his parents had dozed off.
I ended up putting him to bed. Or maybe I didn’t, because I remember Erich waking me up when he crawled back in bed having successfully gotten our child to sleep.
But like I said, we don’t really remember anything that happens at night.
e.e. slept until 5 AM, but I still felt tired. Happy and energized, but still tired.
I gave him a bath. He peed on the wall and spat up while I was sudsing his tummy, so, that was effective. He was entirely back to his old, happy, smiling-at-the-ceiling self.
There were no more honey nut cheerios, so I didn’t eat breakfast.
Which is fine, because I don’t normally eat breakfast, and I was fueled by the motivation I felt to brush my teeth this morning. It helped that we had Baby & Me Storytime at the library.
Baby & Me Storytime is the best idea ever, except that it happens right when e.e. wants his morning nap. I once sang all the songs and said all the rhymes and listened to the whole story while he snored away in my arms.
It was definitely naptime when we got ready to go, and he cried all the way to the library.
But he was gurgling and bright-eyed during storytime, oddly enough, and no baby tried to poke his eye out. Win!
e.e. fell asleep in the carseat, and I let him snooze while I didn’t do enough cleaning. I passed out on the couch reading blogs.
I woke up realizing I needed to drink my coffee before work because I was zonked, but e.e. woke up too, and we nursed and snuggled. I texted my mom some deep and emotional thoughts about motherhood, and cried a bit, and pondered how it was possible to love someone as much as I loved my beloved little baby.
His Gigi’s knock on the door jolted me out of my sappy reverie. I took too long kissing e.e. goodbye and barely got to work on time, per usual.
I ran on the elliptical for half on hour afterwards and felt so proud at how sweaty and athletic I felt.
Tuesday is Bro Game Night, that hallowed evening whereupon my husband gets to spend all night playing League of Legends with his friends while I watch e.e.
I sent copious amounts of Snapchats to my sister of e.e. chewing his hand and tooting, then wondered if I spent too much time on my phone around my baby. If I didn’t start stopping now, would I really be that present, unplugged mother I aspired to suddenly become once he was capable of forming lifelong memories?
Guiltily, I turned my phone over and gave him undivided attention. I loved tickling his toes and making him grin, but all the while kind of wished it wasn’t Bro Game Night because I wanted to read blogs without guilt.
I missed The Window again. He would not be consoled by crazy dancing or pacifiers or my poor swaddling job, so I nursed him to sleep like I said I wouldn’t do anymore. I felt bad for being a tired, unprincipled mother. And I read blogs with guilt while I did so.
I had to go back to his bassinet three times to reinsert his nookie and pat him until he finally fell asleep.
I stayed up way too late again.
“Don’t worry,” Erich said. “He’s going to sleep through the night.”
(Technically) Wednesday |
Thirty minutes past midnight, e.e. stirred. I poked Erich with my toe. He poked me back. I poked him. He poked back.
“This is somehow your fault,” I joked, rolling over to pluck e.e. from his bassinet next to our bed.
And I did it again at 3 AM.
And 5 AM.
And a few hours after that. He started off jolly, grinning and chortling at me as if I was the funniest mom in the world. Such gaiety convinced me I could take a shower. I plopped him next to the shower and took my precious time. He loves listening to running water. I heard only happy coos, and had plenty of time to complete my morning toilette.
But I must have missed The Window. By a lot. Because — no joke, no exaggeration — I spent the entire day trying to get him to nap.
The entire day.
For a while he wouldn’t even fall asleep in my arms. And then when he did fall asleep in my arms, if I stopped doing the exact bouncing motion he liked, he woke up squalling.
I watched a lot of Netflix. And wanted to cry, and sleep, but was too tired and occupied to do either.
This was definitely a breaking point. Definitely rock bottom.
I desperately needed to talk to someone and get their sworn, experienced assurance that life couldn’t, wouldn’t go on like this. I didn’t want pity from a kind soul who’d never spent all day trying to get their baby to sleep. I wanted clinical fact: this will not last forever.
Because if it was going to last forever, I needed to trade day jobs with my husband pronto.
I puddled into work. There were plenty of women to talk to, but no time for me to break down and beg for their assurances.
“Dear Miss Bailey,” one of the girls pretended to type to me on her bristle block computer. “How was your day?”
“It was terrible,” I pretended to type back, in a joking way, not in the desperate, rock bottom way I actually felt.
“Why?” she pretended to type back.
I hesitated, because what three-year-old is interested in the real woes of her teacher, but then I figured that honesty might be refreshing or something. “Because my baby was crying and crying,” I typed back, “…and then he tooted.”
The children, a bit stunned, stared at me, a grown woman initiating something dangerously similar to potty talk. Then they burst into raucous laughter.
“Dear Miss Bailey, how was your day?” the girl kept typing to me.
“Oh, it was horrible.”
“Why was your day horrible?”
“Because my baby kept crying and crying — ”
“AND THEN HE TOOTED!” the rest of the class hollered.
The moral of the story is, when faced with a lack of adult sympathy, potty humor with preschoolers will do. It will do very nicely indeed.
When I came home, I found Erich and e.e. conked out on the bed. I pumped some milk for tomorrow, went to and from choir practice, and heard e.e. squalling even before I put in the key. I opened the door to find Erich holding in one hand a bottle and in the other a disgruntled e.e., swaddled like a burrito with eyes desperately knit together.
“My bambino!” I cried, shocking myself with how much love and energy I had for the same child who had screamed all day. We snuggled. He giggled as I crunched my carrot dinner. And I went to bed at 9:30.
Okay, but when I say “I went to bed at 9:30,” what I really mean is I was in my room telling Erich there was no possible way I was going to attempt to put e.e. to sleep again. Not today. And, I bribed, if he put e.e. to sleep, I would research how to massage sore backs.
e.e. wasn’t interested in going to sleep, so we listened to him gurgle to himself while I expertly applied baby oil and pressure to Erich’s aching muscles. I had to stop once or twice or three or ten times to reinsert e.e.’s pacifier, and then I had to permanently stop because e.e.’s gurgles had turned into wails.
I tried rocking him to sleep, but we all know how that ended — with me sitting on the couch, sobbing about how I was so, so tired.
I went to bed too late that night.
Thursday started out better. He slept until 4 AM, I fed him, he smelled poopy, Erich changed him, I got a glass of water. When I came back in, I found e.e. kicking in nothing but a rainbow diaper. He was so fat and soft and cute, even at 4 AM.
“What are you doing in just your diaper?” I cooed.
He grinned hugely.
For his first nap of the day, I got him to sleep on the second try, and then, even more amazingly, I myself managed to get in a full REM cycle of uninterrupted sleep.
A good thing, too, because he cried for no reason, refusing even the nookie and the boob. I, newly energized, simply popped him in the Baby Bjorn and danced him around the kitchen to an original song (with rap interlude) entitled, “I Don’t Know What’s the Matter with You.”
I managed to make and eat a poached egg, so, I’d say it was a success.
I watched him give a great effort at rolling over. Good form and technique, needed a bit more force.
But the real success for both of us came when I noticed him quieting down a bit. A sleep cue! This time, I would not miss The Window!
I bundled him up, played the BAMBOO WATER FOUNTAIN video, and bounced him on the exercise ball. This was working. Instead of screaming, he blinked his eyes, slower and slower. No tears. No fighting.
I even put him down drowsy and awake, and patted his back until his eyes shut completely.
I happy danced out into the living room.
“I’m so awesome!” I crowed to my husband, who had walked in for lunch and was more interested in finding gardening supplies than talking to me at the moment. “Erich! Aren’t you impressed?”
“Yeah, you’re amazing!” he smiled as he rummaged through the closet.
“You don’t even know what I did.”
He flashed me a sheepish grin.
e.e. started crying.
“Never mind,” I groaned. “Your turn.”