I think it's safe to assume that the person who coined the term "Sleep like a baby" was a man. Obviously some well-coiffed buffoon paid a visit to the nursery on his estate and, while the exhausted nanny struggled to remain upright and awake for Sir's visit (which cut into the brief rest she was to have), remarked upon how envious it was to be able to "sleep like a baby," while chewing on his pipe and peering down into the bassinet. Requisite fatherly duties dispensed with, he exited the room in a puff of foul-smelling Turkish tobacco smoke and in his sound-insulated, wood-paneled study, put quill to paper to record for centuries the most maligned term in English language.
Sleep like a baby, my ass.
In fact, I hope he spent the rest of his days sleeping like a baby. Waking every three hours desperate to eat, crying for no apparent reason, and shitting his pants.
Between the baby being awake, and the short spurts of blissful sleep, there is an arid wasteland of putting the baby to sleep. It is in this desperate time period that we are at our most harried, exhausted, sensitive, and imaginative. There will be WORLD PEACE if only I can get this baby to bed. I will dance in a field of flowers with sunlight streaming through my hair, if ONLY I can get this baby to sleep. Woe betide you who interrupt me from this task. The blinders are on. There is NOTHING more important and completely necessary than getting this baby to shut his eyes and sleep. On a recent car journey, with the baby refusing to sit in his seat and instead spending three hours wailing away in my arms (I possess biceps like the Hulk at this point), when Andy asked me to wipe our older son's sticky face, I almost picked up the car seat and threw it at his head. "Cleaning his face isn't on my priority list right now!" I snapped back, before being absorbed back into the hellish world from whence I came.
But once the baby is asleep, oh then, it's all summery breezes and butterflies. The tornado raging away around me dies down and everything is beautiful. Unless he is just pretending to sleep, of course.
This happens only when I MOST need the baby to sleep. Say, for example, when I have been up for hours at night and it's finally morning naptime. He's pissy but through a dizzying combination of bouncing, patting, and continuous swaddling of those tiny fists that love to break free and pull out the pacifier just as he is falling asleep, it's working! Eureka! Now I totally know how Archimedes felt! I have an out of body experience as I forget my weary limbs...I'm completely focused on my task of putting the baby to sleep. Suddenly, I can climb mountains. I start imagining all the wonderful things I can achieve when he (definitely) sleeps. I could NAP! Wait, who has time for a nap when there is food to be had?! I could eat a HOT breakfast! I could write! I could shower AND brush. my. teeth!
My head swimming with dreams and possibilities, I realize I am bone tired. I need to sleep, before anything. All else can be achieved...later. I'm still bouncing, I'm still patting, but my eyes are heavy. The baby is breathing steadily and sleeping soundly. My eyelids are drooping. I'm actually already dreaming. Dreaming of the cool sheets under my tired body, the soft feather-stuffed pillow beneath my weary head, the fluffy duvet insulting me from reality...I just can't wait. I'm already there, even while bouncing with the baby in my arms. I just need to transplant him successfully from my body to the crib.
Half-asleep, I glance down before I make my stealthy moves. One. One tiny little beady eye is open and is peeking up at me.
Then, a gummy smile.
The beautiful, peaceful world I just built around me comes crashing down. It's really cold in here, I really need a shower, and my eyes are burning. Stupid hopes and dreams.