I’m sitting with a cup of tea on a sunny Wisconsin spring day listening to my napping baby groan and grunt his way through a nap. Calvin can be an aggressive napper, fighting his way through his REM cycles with gurgles and stretches. In the first few days of this behavior I would reach for him every time and try to settle him back into deep sleep. I usually just ended up waking him. I had to learn to let him be, and let him figure his way back to sleep. That process of accepting my baby’s behavior has me thinking about the whole idea of acceptance/adapting to new things/resigning oneself to one’s fate. People have told Kevin and I that we’re making new parenthood look easy. I don’t know if we find it easy by any means, but I think one of the best things we’ve been doing as new parents is accepting what comes. When we feel overwhelmed, which we often do, we talk to each other about it and we find ways to accept or support each other through what we feel is a problem. If we can see it as the way life is with a baby, or an opportunity to be better parents, we might be able to accept it as a normal part of our lives. That process is easy some days and other days, when Calvin has been awake for 2 hours in the middle of the night just wanting to eat more and more, I have to repeat in my head, “This too shall pass. He’s the cutest thing ever and can’t control when he sleeps, just keep nursing…just keep nursing.”
This past month has been fraught with opportunities to adapt to our new roles. The first few nights at home I would struggle to wake for every feeding, I remember sitting and staring at my fussing baby as he tried to latch on thinking: I am going to be waking up during the night for so many months/years as we have more babies. It’s going to be SO long before I can peacefully sleep through the night. Losing my “sleep independence” was a bit terrifying at first. I love sleep. So much. Before Calvin came I would sleep 9-10 hours every night. I’ve never pulled an all nighter and staying up past midnight has never been my idea of fun. I felt lucky to find roommates in college who felt the same way, and we considered a fun Friday night to be playing Balderdash and eating brownie sundaes (don’t we sound AWESOME?!). During Calvin’s first week at home I kept telling myself, this is your life now, you’re going to get sleep, just not the way you want to. I still find myself frustrated during a middle of the night feeding that turns into an impromptu bath after Calvin vomits out all of the milk he just drank (imagine a little fountain of milk straight from his mouth and nose, now try and convince yourself that it’s totally normal and fine for him to be doing that as the doctor says, then try to go back to sleep). If he takes too long to settle back to sleep I feel a bit crazy. However, four weeks in, waking up to feed him and change him feels like a part of our routine. I don’t feel the dread of bedtime I did in the first few nights: Would he sleep? Would we sleep?? It feels good to (mostly) accept this new normal. I’m sure long time parents know this is just the first step of resigning yourself to the way kids change your lives and routines, but it feels monumental to me :-).
Another way we’re adapting and accepting the new is to be more flexible. Kevin and I are planners. We love to be prepared for something and to be on time (or early) for events. The first three events we went to as new parents we were late for. Calvin would be nursing until the last moment or he’d have spit up all over the place (are you sensing a theme in Calvin’s behavior? spit up plays a large role in our lives), and before we knew it we hadn’t left the house when we needed to. We’ve learned that in order to get out of the house to be on time, we have to push back our ETD by about 10 minutes to account for Calvin emergencies. It also becomes necessary to relax when we’re not on time, to give in to the little things that come up when you have a newborn and you’re trying to be a good parent. Being on time becomes less important than making sure your baby is happy. Same thing goes for social events. I love seeing my friends and so far we’ve taken Calvin to our weekly sand volleyball tournament (where I breastfed in a bar, woot woot), trivia night at the library and the VFW, and hosted a campfire dinner at our house one night. We’re definitely not missing out on time with friends because of having a baby, but I know if push comes to shove, I might choose a good night’s sleep (where we get in bed around 9pm and get out of bed around 9am) over hanging out with friends. It will be a balancing act of quality friend time and quality sleep time ;-). So far I don’t feel like we’ve missed out, I’m glad I have friends who like babies and are willing to accommodate our parenting needs!!
This first month has been full of strange surreal moments. At times I can’t believe we’re parents. I pick up my baby and it almost doesn’t register that he’s truly mine. Other moments I can’t remember not being his mother, it feels like he’s always been a part of our family. I can’t wait for you all to meet him. He’s pretty amazing.