Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sibling Spacing and the Spirited Baby

Here is how my night has gone, so far:

Stella ate dinner at 6pm, feeding herself for the most part. From about 6:30 - 7:10, she had naked play time, during which she aired out her sensitive tush, played with her toys, got tickled by yours truly and was read some fabulous books (also by yours truly). Then we had a lovely bath, including a reading of the Care Bears Bathtime Bubble Book, one of her favorites. I took her up to her room, dried her hair and body, massaged diaper balm and lotion into her flawless skin, diapered her and dressed her in her warm flannel PJ's. I kissed her, lay her in her bed, handed her her blue bunny/dog (Dave and I disagree over its species), turned on the white noise machine, told her I love her, shut off the lights and closed the door. I came downstairs, turned on the monitor, got myself a beer and settled in for some TV. It was 7:30 pm. Aside from checking on her before I turn in, odds are good I won't hear from my girl until around 7am.

Now, if you're a parent to a kid around Stella's age, I want you to ask yourself the following question: does this evening sound a)completely normal or b)freakish and strange, making you want to come over here and strangle the living daylights out of me, thereby destroying my cushy life?

If you answered a), you have what Dave and I would call an easy sleeper. Bedtime doesn't make your stomach tie up in knots, you don't flinch at any sound that might resemble a baby's cry (including feral cats, neighbors' tv's, cell phones and sirens), you're used to at least 8 hours of shut-eye a night, and you might even be ready to try for another kid (assuming you don't already have a litter).

If you answered b), however, you have what I call a "spirited" sleeper otherwise known as a "difficult" or even "bad" sleeper by people of our mother's generation. If you're the mom, you might have suffered post-partum depression from all the stress; if you're the spouse, you might have had to pick your partner up off the floor and cart her to the nearest psychiatric ER. Whoever you are in the family, you're probably still shell-shocked, still recovering from lack of sleep, still skittish about celebrating any kind of success you might have regarding sleep, and possibly NOWHERE NEAR ready to go through all this again with another sprout.

Stella's been remarkably easy lately. She wants to go down for naps and nighttime sleep all by herself. She doesn't cry, she doesn't wake prematurely, she gets plenty of rest. Consequently, Dave and I are also well-rested, have plenty of time to hang out together and on our own, can get things done during her daily naps, and find that life is generally pleasant and nearly stress-free.

I'm enjoying this stage immensely, but sometimes it dawns on me: this is what life has been like for months for many of our friends and acquaintances. Although babies vary greatly and sleep problems are by no means unusual for new parents, Dave and I know a remarkable amount of folks whose babies have been sleeping through the night or close to it from at least six months on. Even for people whose babies still wake a few times during the night past that age, very few people we know had an experience even approaching ours, with a baby that literally screams almost the entire night, wanting to either be nursed or be walked around the room or both at the same time. Think I'm exaggerating? Read Dave's blog* from back in the bad old days.

Look, I honestly don't begrudge those who've had an easier experience. Such is life, there's nothing you can do about it. And as long as that fellow parent is not self-righteous, assuming we did something to cause such turmoil via our terrible parenting, we harbor no ill wishes against them.
However, I do feel like this explains why, when people ask me if we're ready to "start trying" again (I would honestly prefer it if people would ask if we're going to have unprotected sex again, because I've grown so sick of that phrase), I want to give them shaken baby syndrome. I want to scream in their faces "NO NO NO! I AM SLEEPING AND IT IS WONDERFUL! BACK THE F*** OFF AND HAND ME SOME BIRTH CONTROL, BEYOTCH!" I want to throw a drink in their faces. Well, after I drink most of it.
If we'd had this same night every night for the past year, we might be ready to try to reintroduce some sperm to some eggs. But for now, screw the research on sibling spacing: if we have anything to do with this (and I think we do), Stella's flying solo for a little while longer.
I must reiterate: I adore Stella, she was worth all the sleepless nights, I'd do it again a million times if I had to. But, by golly, if I don't have to, I won't. So that means no second babies...for the time being.
*If you read that entry, just know that we thought my cessation of egg-ingestion had settled the issue, but that was just the first in a seemingly endless series of false successes. Other times we thought we'd found the answer to all our problems (but really hadn't) include the following experiments: pacifiers, taking dairy out of my diet, taking soy out of my diet, taking spicy food out of my diet, wearing Stella in a Moby/Ergo/Bjorn for walks, driving Stella around the block, taking Stella for walks in the stroller, blacking out all the windows, trying different white noise machines, playing different music, trying long and elaborate pre-bed routines, trying to get her to drink a bottle of expressed breast milk from Dave, and eventually trying Ferber-type sleep training. The only thing that worked was time. But I'm fully aware of the fact that the heavenly period we're in now may just be another false success. Whatever, honey, I'll take it!

1 comment:

Randi Skaggs said...

After rereading this as well as reading many thoughtful comments from my Facebook friends (where this blog is linked), I realize I insinuate that the only way a child can be "spirited" is by resisting bedtime. For us, lack of sleep definitely topped our list of frustrations, but others may experience other problems with their little ones that have nothing to do with sleep. Please know that we sympathize and identify with many of these issues; it's just for us, losing sleep made everything else worse anyway. So now that we have it, we see life in a completely different way.

Again, my intention is never to alienate or offend. Parenting is tough for all of us, and I always hope to offer support for others who have a rough time.

OK. I sound like a politician. Time to stop typing.