Baby N on our way home from the hospital. And so it begins . . .
My fourth baby is almost eight months old, so if anyone’s an expert at this baby thing, it should be me, right? Of all people, I should have it down by now? Two nights ago, Baby N slept “through the night,” a slippery definition if there ever was one. To me, it means that I put her in her crib at a reasonable bedtime—8pm I think it was—and then I did not see her again until the morning, which means 6am or later. Win! The baby and I have this sleeping thing figured out! Supermom!
Then last night, I did everything the same, as far as I can tell. Her nap schedule had been okay, she’d eaten pretty well all day, we had a lovely—if somewhat rushed—bedtime routine, and she fell asleep in her crib at a reasonable hour. All systems go for a good night’s sleep, right? But then she (and I with her) was awake for two hours in the middle of the night. TWO HOURS. That is a LONG time, especially when you accidentally stayed up until midnight reading Divergent. She seemed like she could be uncomfortable, maybe? Or overtired? Or too awake? Too hot? Not enough blankets? Kept taking her pacifier out? Teething? Stomachache from something she ate? Feeling separation anxiety? Probably it was one of those things. Or not.
And before you start giving me advice about what I was doing wrong, remember: she did sleep through the night the day before, and that was not a total fluke. I really feel like I have found the balance between cry-it-out Ferber and bed-sharing Sears that I’m comfortable with and that works for my family. So I do kind of know what I’m doing. But can someone maybe tell Baby N that? Because she seems confused.
I guess what I’ve discovered is that even “easy” babies are just difficult. You don’t know what’s wrong with them until you do. There have been so many times that I’ve had an “Oh!” moment, way later than I should have.
“Oh! She wanted to sleep on her SIDE, all this time!”
“Oh! She needed to be burped longer!”
“Oh! I should have put her in a sleep sack ages ago!”
“Oh! I should have pinned the soother to the sleep sack, so she could find it!”
“Oh! She should be getting an evening snack!”
“Oh! She was ready to give up one of her naps, so she’s just too awake to sleep.”
And I’m only talking about sleeping here, but the same problem can be applied to other baby things, too. (Naps, food, stranger anxiety, crawling into the wall with alarming regularity. . . .)
You first-time parents certainly know this, and you may be wondering, as I did, why other parents don’t seem to be all that stressed out about this stuff. The obvious conclusion is that we veterans have it figured out; we are doing it right the second time around. Well, nope! Guess again! I’m still getting it wrong, as Baby N would tell you if she could (and if she does, could you ask her to communicate with me too, please?). Actually, I think the reason that we parents of multiple children often don’t seem too stressed out about this is that we know—first-hand, in our bones—that this stuff gets easier when they get older. Everyone, everyone, knows this, but you have to experience it to really KNOW it. Babyness lasts forever when you’re the one in charge of the baby, but when you’ve done it once, you can actually believe that it will end because you have the non-baby kid to parent every day, proving it to you.
Another reason it’s easier the second time is that our bodies have done this weird sleep-deprivation-adjustment thing. We’re tired, it’s fuzzy in our brains, we need copious amounts of coffee, but we still just run better on three hours of sleep than we used to, or than we ever will again (so I’m told). This makes us seem more cheerful during the day when you see us. But at 3am when the baby just won’t shut up, I assure you that “cheerful” is the last word you’d use to describe me.
I know that you don’t need to hear that it will get easier, and you don’t need me to offer suggestions about how to make it easier. But can we just say together, you with your first baby and I with my fourth: Wouldn’t it be great if our (adorable, wonderful, so very loved) babies were just easier?
Because no baby will tell her parents what she wants. And you won’t figure it out until suddenly you do, or until the baby grows out of it and you don’t need to worry about that specific problem anymore.
So, first time parents of babies, who feel like this whole baby thing would be easier if they could just figure out what the darn baby wanted, to you I say: you’re right, it would be. We are definitely doing something wrong. Beats me if I know what it is, though.