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Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

This post is a bit of a sequel to Parenting Pipedreams.  Some of them are starting to look a little less Pipey.

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I love babies.  I really love my babies.  I love the squishy-ness, the contact, everything.  Parenting very small people is fantastically delicious.  It’s also INtense.  And as much as I love it, I have to admit that I’m also a little bit happy that the intensity is starting to subside a little.

As of the last time I risked putting a finger into Lady Fair’s mouth, she had 15 teeth.  That makes us 87.5% done teething.

Since Lady Fair is super into doing EVERYTHING like her brother, I estimate we are also about 88% done diapers.

The kids sleep in (read: >6:30 a.m.) more often than not now, so we’re about 75% done with ridiculously early mornings.

We’re 99.9% done with baby gates.  In fact, I had taken the gate down, but Mr. Fair inexplicably put it back up.

I am 50% done wrangling small arms into seemingly smaller shirt sleeves.

Now that I leave the house three whole days a week for school, I get to drink 14% of my coffees while they’re still hot!  That might not seem like a lot, but let me tell you…

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When Lady Fair was barely even skin side, I started getting asked if she was “sleeping through yet”.

My immediate reaction was, “Yet?  She’s 13 days old!  For F***’s sake, can we not let the poor baby get through a cotton-pickin’ fortnight before we start shackling her with ridiculous expectations of adult behaviour?”

But I realize, this is one of those questions people just ask about babies because they don’t know what else to ask.  I also know I’ve asked the same question myself, as well as many of the following:

“Is she a good sleeper?”

“Is she a good eater?”

“How much does he weigh?”

“Is he a good baby?”

These are the standard new-baby icebreakers.  I think it’s because a new baby’s personality is more or less a mystery, so these little factoids are the best we can come up with to get to know him or her.  But at the same time, I think there’s also the lingering belief that a baby has no individual personality and thus it’s ‘performance’ as a baby can be quantified by things like how much it eats, how long in a stretch it sleeps and whether it burps readily.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we AP types could come up with some better new baby questions?  Questions that reflect what is actually important for parent-infant relationships; questions that don’t make new parents feel like their coping skills are being graded; happy questions.

So here it goes, let’s start a trend of happy attachment-friendly new baby questions:

“Are you loving the snuggles?”

“Do you get lots of smiles?”

“What’s her favourite way to be held?”

“Does he have a favourite time of day?”

What else can we ask??

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As I’m relearning now that Lady Fair is here, duration of night time sleep is held by our culture as some sort of penultimate measure of not only baby’s ‘goodness’ but of the parents’ ability to enjoy their daily activities as adults, even in the midst of the most intense parenting period.  I like my sleep, I really do.  I’ll appreciate it when my kids are old enough to walk themselves over to me for a goodnight kiss, walk themselves up to bed and stay there until they walk themselves downstairs for breakfast in the morning.

But you know what?  There are so many other things I’ll appreciate every bit as much as a full night’s sleep, that NO ONE ever asks me about.  Here’s a short list of what are currently pipedreams for this mama:

  • Finishing my entire cup of coffee without having to reheat it once, let alone 5 times
  • Having a phone conversation without having to shush anyone, or leap up off the couch to prevent my toddler from breaking a limb
  • Using the bathroom without having to simultaneously bounce a baby… or leap off the toilet to prevent my toddler from breaking a limb
  • Writing a blog post without having to swat little fingers away from the oh-so-exciting computer power button
  • Watching a movie without falling asleep
  • Clipping all of my toenails in one sitting

There were many others, but I forgot what they were when I went to reheat my coffee…

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I don’t think it will come as a shock that I’m not the cry-it-out kind of parent.  In fact, I’ve written before about my feelings on the issue.  We wouldn’t subject a physically limited adult to such treatment, so the fact that we routinely subject children to it is evidence that our society considers children as less than human.  And that offends me.

I would be lying though, if I said I haven’t had my low moments, with Little Man waking up for his sixth time that night, when I haven’t considered it.  I mean, who wouldn’t find the idea of endless, sleep-filled nights enticing.  Especially if it only takes a couple of hours of crying to get there, which is how it always seems to be presented.  Luckily for Little Man though, I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t work quite that easily, and the other day I got my proof.

We were at a party at a friend’s new house and he was giving everyone the tour.  Another acquaintance was there taking the tour at the same time.  He’s the kind of guy who makes me cringe just about every time he talks about parenting, so really I shouldn’t have been shocked… but I still was.

The new homeowner is expecting a baby in a couple of months, so he pointed out which room would be the nursery.  The cringe-inducing acquaintance had this to say:

“God, I’d hate to have the baby’s room right next to the living area like that.  I like that ours is upstairs so when he’s crying when we’re getting him to go to sleep we can just mute the baby monitor and we don’t have to listen to him.”

I just stared at him in disbelief, so he quickly added “Well, he doesn’t cry as much anymore.”

He doesn’t cry as much, but it’s still enough that you have to resort to muting him?  How much did he cry before??  And how long has this been going on???  And if you can’t stand listening to it, how do you think he feels doing it for goodness sake????

It was one of those conversations that, well, left me wanting to call child protective services, to be frank.  It was one of those conversations that made me wonder why people have babies, if they’re clearly not interested in parenting them.

Like I said before, I’ve had my moments too.  I can totally grasp why a parent might have to resort to something this drastic in a moment of exhaustion to preserve their own sanity and health.  But let’s clarify: this dad wasn’t talking about getting a few minutes of desperately needed sleep for himself.  He was talking about making sure his baby didn’t interrupt him while he was trying to watch American Idol, or some equally inane TV programming.

He also wasn’t talking about a couple of nights of concerted effort, after which the baby calmly (and presumably happily) goes to sleep with little or no parental intervention.  He was talking about a months-long routine of crying that is so extreme he – a grown adult with a range of stress-handling techniques at his disposal – can only cope with it by turning off the very device that was designed to alert him to the baby’s distress.

That’s a pretty ugly reality.  I wonder how popular the technique would be if more parents knew this was what it looked like before they started?

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“Is he sleeping through the night yet?”

This question plagues me.  It seems to follow me everywhere.  Everyone asks – friends, acquaintances, random strangers and especially family – and every time they do, it makes me irate.  Why?  Because it’s a reminder of how messed up our society is when it comes to parenting.  How little we value our kids and our jobs as parents.

Little Man snoozing in the big bed

For starters, there’s the pregnancy/parenting dichotomy. We’re told we can’t be too careful when we’re pregnant.  We can’t give too much to our fetuses.  How many times was I chastised for drinking coffee with a bump?  Eat a piece of salami?  My God, how could I play such Russian roulette with my precious child’s life?  And how often did I hear from people that I shouldn’t want a homebirth, rather welcome a C-section because surely getting the baby out alive (no matter what it did to my body) was the ONLY thing that mattered?

But then the baby is born and the same society tells us to push it away.  Why are you nursing him again so soon?  Why are you nursing him at all?  Formula isn’t poison you know!  You know, newborns don’t really need to nurse at night.  Whatever you do, don’t let him ‘get used’ to sleeping with you or he’ll ALWAYS want to be that comfortable.  Isn’t he sleeping through the night yet?

Yup, the change in ‘advice’ from pre- to post-birth still makes my head spin.  And I often wonder if the two extremes feed each other.  Perhaps women who fall prey to the martyrdom mantra of pregnancy find themselves exhausted, disconnected from everything they used to be and yearning for control of their bodies and lives.  Maybe that makes them more ready to subsequently follow the minimum-inconvenience mantra of parenting, to get back that control.  Maybe we feel we were under the thumb of our fetus, so now it’s our turn to show that fetus who’s boss.  But we don’t realize it wasn’t our baby who took our autonomy, it was our culture, and it’s our culture that needs to be put in its place after our little one is here.

Then there’s SIDS. SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants in Canada other than congenital abnormalities and perinatal trauma.  In other words, sleeping is the single most dangerous thing my baby will do this year.  So why should I make it my goal to leave him vulnerable for as long as possible each day?  I’m perfectly happy to wake up in the night if it means my Little Man will wake up in the morning.  But it doesn’t take statistics to tell you that it’s unnatural and unsafe for a baby to be away from it’s parents all night.  Every parent knows it instinctively.  That’s why there are whole sections of stores devoted to gadget that will let you know your baby isn’t dead.  Right down to the ones that measure every possible marker of aliveness – breath rate, body temperature, heartbeat – and beep it at you all night long.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to know your baby is alive because it wiggles next to you in the night?  I honestly don’t get it.

But these things aside, the question prickles me because I’m not sure why it should be asked at all. Why should it matter to anyone else how long my baby sleeps at night?

The people who ask the question (especially the ones who ask it repeatedly) aren’t asking because they think his wellbeing is in jeopardy.  I know this because these same people see that he’s happy.  All.  Day.  Long.  They see that he’s growing and developing ahead of ‘the curve’.  They compliment me on these things.  If he were falling asleep at breakfast, or screaming all day then I’d be the first to say that something needs to change.  But he’s not, and the doubters know that.

They’re also not asking because they’re concerned about me being exhausted. This one I know because I never complain about being exhausted.  Probably because I’m not, in fact, exhausted.  On the contrary, I sleep better than most moms I know, because I’ve found ways to meet Little Man’s needs easily (ie nursing and bedsharing) and I brag about how rested I am.  I also know that these people aren’t worried about me missing sleep because they’ve never asked me about my sleep before I became a parent.  No, they weren’t calling my dorm room to ask if the other Frosh were ‘giving me at least six hours.’  They weren’t tut-tutting at me when I worked night shifts or crammed for biochem or dragged my drunk ass home at 5am only to head back out at 8.  I guess these were considered acceptable reasons to forfeit sleep, but caring for my (nearly) helpless infant doesn’t make that cut.

They’re asking because sleeping babies have become synonymous with good babies.  In a society where a ‘good’ child is a ‘well-controlled’ child, a baby’s goodness can be numerically summed up, it seems, on a scale of 1 to 12.

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I’m going to put in a little caveat here: everyone loves their baby, no matter how many hours that baby sleeps in a row, and even if the method used to achieve that sleep isn’t one I’d employ.  I do get that.  Hey, if Little Man drifted off to sleep and stayed that way all night, I wouldn’t be complaining about it.  This is MY vent about a societal value that I deplore, and about the people in MY life who get on my case about something that is none of their business.  It’s not an attack on parents of babies who sleep ‘well’.

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