House rules

Yesterday, I told of how we moved the baby into our bedroom.  This comes with a new set of master suite rules:

1.) If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown...let it mellow

You heard me right.

My environmental science professor at school insisted we practice sustainable human waste disposal, best remembered by her mantra "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down."

If it's brown and the flush is going to disturb the baby's ridiculously short sleep cycle, let that thing disintegrate. You are in trouble if you flush it down.  Just think of the good you're doing for the New York City Waste Management system.

I might also insist you drink coffee only in the mornings. And forget about fiber after 3pm.

2.) Starlight, Star bright...

We will never sleep in true darkness again.

That adorable little star nightlight that was originally in the nursery?  It's plugged into our wall now. I need it so I don’t accidentally step on my glasses or Hudson. Excuse me while I wake up every 2-3 hours.

If you happen to be up in the night, don't even think about turning on the bathroom light.  Use your phone to guide you to safety and to light your passage back to bed.

In fact, no water after 8pm.

3.) Feeling Hot hot hot...

No air conditioning.

The baby might be too cold.  I know I'm the one who likes to sleep through all seasons with the air on, so this is actually worse for me. Now I only have the sounds of garbage trucks and sirens to fall asleep to, without the soothing roar of the AC.

It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. And I'm going to still keep my thick Harrods duvet on the bed, thanks.

4.) So I creak, creak, yeah…

No bed creaking.

Once in bed, you have a few minutes to find a comfy position for the night. When you're there and you're cozy, if you could just stay that way until morning, that would be greaaaaat.

Keep in mind my husband is 6'4" and 240 lbs. There is no delicate turning of the midsection for him. When he changes positions in his sleep, the dog and I are both involuntarily bounced around until Andy's rotation is complete. We end up in totally different spots as a result, yet we manage to just stay there.

If Hudson can learn to turn quietly, we all can.

5.) No sighing loudly.

I’m sorry you feel neglected.

I know you do, but your excessively loud sighs don’t really make me feel bad for you.  They just make me want to “Shhhh!” you but I can’t, because we dare not talk.

6.) No talking.

See above.  If you need me, text me, or write a note on your iPhone notepad and show me, or wait until morning.

7.) No coughing.

Ok – have a sip of water before bed.  Put the glass down quietly and nobody gets hurt.

8.) No naughtiness.

This is obvious.  We’re not going to be doing anything for a few years.  Go back to sighing.

Sleep Regression: Babies Is Pimps Too (Go On Brush Your Shoulders Off)

Where have I been for the past 2 weeks?

In New Baby Purgatory, otherwise known as 4-Month Sleep Regression, otherwise known as the Land of the Barely Living.  Our anthems? "Stayin' Alive" and "I Will Survive."  Maybe a little Aretha, if I'm feeling sassy (and really, when am I not?)

What is sleep regression?  It's when your adorable, chubby, sweet little bundle of eyelashes and spit bubbles basically acts like a bit of an asshole.  For weeks.

He won't nap, but he'll be super pissy and cry for an hour.  This doesn't mean I can sit in the glider and scroll through BuzzFeed's latest must-read list (15 Ways You Know You Went To Boarding School in England).  Oh, no.  It's an hour of standing up, bouncing, swaying, praying, shushing, rocking.  His little baby-radar goes off as soon as I try to get comfortable (how does he KNOW when I'm sitting down?)  I swear, my butt-cheeks start to quiver as they approach the couch.  Feed and repeat at the next naptime.  Long walks in the stroller?  Nope.  Wide-eyed and full of wonder, he'll happily stare at every freaking branch we pass, but God forbid he closes his eyes for longer than a blink.  Actually, is he mocking me?  I swear he didn't even blink.  It was like his eyes just took turns blinking, so yeah, a series of winks.  Lest he actually fall asleep.  When he does deign to sit, it won't be in his bouncer, rocker, or any of the baby accoutrements we were suckered into buying, instead insisting on sitting upright on my lap, just so, mind you.  A degree off here and there will Set. Him. Off.

So what is the big deal?  Well, naptime is when I eat breakfast - shower - write - take a full breath - think. It's when I collect sanity for the next few hours.  Especially for bedtime.

Bedtime. It used to be so simple.  We had a whole bedtime routine.  Bath, feed, sit in bouncer, swaddle, sleep.  Now it's Bath, feed, moderately successful burping effort, and the second his sleepy, heavy body touches the bouncer he is up again.  With a vengeance.  As I helplessly watch his placid, sweet little face turn bright red with anger and his eyes glower with rage, it's kind of hard not to take this personally.  When he starts to roar at me for DARING to put him down, and punishes me for the next hour by continuously crying ("See? I'm rocking you a maniac...doesn't this make you happy with me?" "Bitch I'll teach you to put me down like that again...") all he needs is a tiny little PimpCup and a cane.  I'm in uber-exhausted mode.  We're both crying and screaming.

Right now I'd settle for the lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T to get some S-L-E-E-E-E-P.

When he finally does suddenly fall asleep I'm such a bag of nerves that all I can do is zone out for an hour and then fall into my bed, teeth unbrushed (I know, it's so awful, don't judge), living in fear of when he will next wake.  The nightmare isn't over.  He'll be up multiple times, at which point I'll cycle through patting&shushing (squinting without my glasses in the dark, to ascertain whether we are about to enter the "feed me now or you'll regret it" phase), rushing to the living room with a sleep-sacked baby over my shoulder, while simultaneously popping buttons on my pajama shirt, desperate to pull out the boobs before the shit hits the fan, and then sitting in the dark for 45 minutes until he digests.  Because if I put him down to sleep too soon, I'll have a crib full of congealed breastmilk to deal with.  And even though I seem to bathe in it, I do not like congealed breastmilk.

I know I owe you recipes, a Favourite Thing, and a story...but have pity patience.  I'm working on it!

Oh, how did we get through the sleep regression?  I'll let you know when we get there.  Still cursing about 16 hours a day, sleeping about 4 hours a day, and somehow eating cookies 24 hours a day. 

Sleep Regression: Insane In The Membrane

As a continuation of my enviable state these days, let me invite you into a night in my life...

8-9.20 pm:  Crying.  In my ear.  WHY won't he sleep?!

9.30 pm - THANKS BE TO GOD all is well! I must reward myself with some reality television (Hey there, Real Housewives of Melbourne!  You and your Australian accents will remain my dirty little secret.  Dirty because that's what I am.  And not in a fun way.  I mean, I used to be, in a fun way.  Now I'm just actually dirty.  He spat up down my chest and inside my shirt.  It was warm and kind of lumpy.  And now it's so, sooo cold.  I couldn't put him down because, shitfit, and so I just let it pool in my bra, and dry.  This is why I need you, Real Housewives.) And dinner. I'm so hungry.  Wait, there's only a spoonful left of the food I made yesterday.  After facing the reality that I might eat my own arm by the time Seamless gets here, I'll just have peanut butter on toast.

11.00 pm - BED.  Is there any feeling more wonderful than cool, freshly laundered sheets underneath my aching limbs? I do a little starfish dance to luxuriate in this pleasure before I pass out.  I'm so tired. I secretly hope hubs doesn't want to "cuddle."

12.00 am - WAAAAAAAHHHHH!  What. The. Fuuuuuck.  Shush/pat doesn't work. He wants to nurse; off the living room we go.  Shitshitshit! I forgot the nursing pillow in my toddler's room! I can't go in there! I proceed to nurse on stacked couch cushions, one hand preventing the baby from slipping off and the other holding a boob in place. I can practically feel them sagging with every suckle. Stupid stupid me!

1 am: He must have digested by now. I'll wrap him and put him back in his crib. He's asleep. I'm awesome. I hear an angel's chorus as I get back into my welcoming bed.

42 minutes later: Crying. Again! WHAT is going on?  He spat up! Thank god it's not on him though.  Perhaps he'll be more comfortable out of the crib. I throw him over my shoulder, and we go to fetch the Rock'n'Play.  BURP! A little cottage cheese on my tee shirt; no biggie...EWwww! It's in my HAIR!!! Like a bird poo in a tangled nest! That shit'll brush right out, right? (It won't. I'm currently mustering up the energy for a shower).

When I reswaddle him I notice parts of it are wet with spit up. Whatever, I'm sure he won't even notice. Except now he's awake and gurgling at me in the dark. I can feel him staring. Ignoring him, I poke one foot out from under my duvet and rock him. Once. Because I've fallen asleep. Not to worry though because a few minutes later...

1.52 am: A door creaks. That ominous sound is my toddler's calling card. Suddenly he appears at the foot of my bed, a tiny shadow staring at me and pointing to my bed, wanting permission to sleep with us.  I get up to take him back to him room.  "But I eurgh lebyrch" What?? He says it louder. Nope. Whatever it is, I can assure you it's a nope. I scoop him up just as his face starts to crumble into that high-pitched, elongated wail only 3 year olds can master, and run with him back to his room.  I plop him back into his bed.

Wait, why is there a wet spot on his pajama pants? It's too large to be from tears, but it's in such an odd place that it couldn't possibly be pee, could it??? Mystery wetness be damned! Let's cuddle and sleep. I tuck him in and head back to my room after a few hugs.

4.00 am: Loud lip smacking. Baby is happily chewing away at his chubby little fingers, loud enough to wake the dog up.  But I got 2 solid hours of sleep! I can do this. He wants to eat.

We go.

5.00 am: Guess who's back, back again? Mommy's back, back in bed...I practically faint into a deep sleep.

6.00 am: WHY? WHY IS HE AWAKE? Why is this happening to me?!  This can't be happening! He can't be hungry. I pick him up and try desperately to rock him back to sleep. IT WORKS! Hallelujah!

As I'm putting him down...the toddler comes back in. Oh. My. God.

Defeated, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. I send him to my bed and get in. Only I can't sleep because his tiny little feet are burrowing into my butt crack. How? Why? What the hell? I'm losing my temper. Hubs wakes up and tries to cuddle him (by putting him in a headlock).  Now I'm worried and can't sleep. I get up to reposition him. I fall back down and try to sleep. Andy feels my seething anger and quietly takes him to the living room.

7.00 am: Baby is awake for the day.  I want to shoot myself.

Today I have subsisted on a diet of chocolate biscuits and a bottle of wine.

"Sleep Like A Baby"

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.

The Minefield

I steady my breath, willing it to be even and calm. My muscles are taut, poised to gently rise up, one limb at a time. I balance nimbly on the balls of my feet, sending a blessing to my pre-natal yoga instructor for the hundreds of Warrior poses she made me do. As I slowly make my ascent, I say a silent prayer. Katniss is about to enter the arena.

Or is it a silent plea? Please let me make it out of the minefield.

If my ankle cracks - it's over. I navigate my way towards the exit in pitch darkness, holding my breath, taking a moment in between each step to ensure I make the right choice of floorboard to step on next.

While I play the parenting version of “the floor is water and it’s full of crocodiles,” a mantra plays in my head. Please don't creak please don't creak please don’t creak.

I wonder, what will it be that does me in this time? The ankle? The stupid parquet flooring which only seems to creak while he is sleeping (bastard flooring), or the ominous sounds of the door squeaking (note to self, smile at maintenance man tomorrow and ask for WD40.)

Who ever knew a nursery with a sleeping baby in it could be fraught with so much apparent disaster at every turn?

I make it to the partially open door, and visualize myself as a snake, willing my body to suddenly attain a flexibility it has never possessed, as I try to squeeze through silently.

I’m at the threshold...I allow myself a brief turnaround to glimpse my sweetly sleeping baby, pivot, and ever-so-gently Shut. The. Door.

Hallelujah! I strut through the hallway of my apartment, receiving accolades from my imaginary audience. Screw the diet! Chocolates and tea all around!

This adrenaline-pumping experience is a twice daily routine. Lest it get boring, the exact stage of sleep the baby is in does change things for me. Sometimes I army-crawl across the room (who convinced me to buy this long pile sheepskin rug anyway?) dropping to the floor at any little whimper or deep exhale, waiting for my break to continue scuttling across like a cockroach. Sometimes I play the weight-game, where I’m patting the baby and I slowly remove my hand, hovering directly above in case he makes a sound, at which point it will come crashing back down upon him, the lullaby I’m humming increasing in pitch and sounding more frantic than ever. Sometimes I make it back outside, only to realize the bloody monitor is still inside the nursery, next to the crib.

There's nothing like a another nerve-tingling roundtrip to make me crave a soothing bottle of wine. Sancerre for naps and Pinot Noir for bedtime, sounds about right and not at all disturbing, yes? YES?!

And sometimes, having risked a look back, I'll see the baby watching my tribal dance across his room with fascination. He lets me know that he appreciates my efforts at entertainment by making guttural cooing noises and flailing his limbs like he can fly. Once we lock eyes of course, (his full of mirth and mine full of panic), his expression darkens and the wailing begins.

I'm at a crossroads. What is the right thing to do? If I quickly hide behind this convenient wall, will he wonder if he made up the mommy-sighting and just go to sleep?

Let me try it.

Nope, he's really pissed now. Should I leave and shut the door?

Oh, my bad. That just resulted in blood-curdling screams. I briefly imagine the neighbours calling the police and child services knocking at my door (presumably during naptime). I rush back in and resume patting, pretending like I never left, unable to look at him. He won't accept my apologetic actions.

Pick me up or else, Mother, if that even IS your real name.

As I oblige and cuddle him, he rears back his head to show me the full extent of his displeasure by screaming in my face, tears and snot streaming down his. I can't believe I did this to a poor, helpless baby! I'm sorry!

Having taught his errant mother a solid lesson in obeying orders, he soon settles down just enough to sleep, but only as long as I'm holding him.  The minute his sleep-sack laden legs touch the mattress he's twitching like a fish out of water. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Immobile but finally a little less frazzled, I am content to hold him like a bag of flour, because mommy-guilt.

It seems the little shorty has indeed won the battle.

Tell me you have gone through this too. Please.

Yours in Desperation,