Feeble Knees

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Who needs sleep?

Bug is sleeping, well, almost sleeping. Hoping I have a few minutes to post while he dozes...

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, my obstetrician told me to "prepare to go into survival mode for the next four weeks". Well it's been about four weeks. He was right. I think I'm only just now starting to come out of the fog.

Bug's doing great, he is a wonderful little guy and has been pretty easy on us, all things considered. But I realized a couple days ago that it's not the pain of labor that I need to forget. The pain wouldn't put me off from having another child. But my recollection of caring for a newborn will have to get pretty fuzzy before I'll be ready to do this again.

It actually got easy once I realized that newborns are pretty simple. If they're crying, it's (usually) one of a finite set of causes:
1. They're wet
2. They're hungry
3. They're gassy

There are a couple of lesser causes like being too warm or cool, or their unfortunate talent for startling themselves awake. But for the most part, it's pretty simple. Bug would cry and I'd run down the list: "Hm, you just ate, you're dry, so bingo, you must be gassy - time to burp you!"

It sounds so simple. And it is in theory. The problem is when you have an unfortunate confluence of these things. Or when they happen successively, in such a way that it makes the baby uncomfortable (and therefore awake and screaming) for a longer than tolerable period of time, usually late at night.

The following collection of experiences illustrates my point:

Suppose Bug wakes up at 2 am hungry - I completely expect that, so that's no problem. I pick him up and we get into our cozy spot to nurse. I'm a little bleary eyed at this point, but reasonably awake and functioning. He feeds for quite a while, very content. By 2:45 am, he's extracted about all the milk his little tummy can hold. He has this goofy little look (one nurse described it as being "milk drunk") and a little dribble of milk running from the corner of his mouth to his little chin. He's full, he's quiet, life is wonderful. I'm starting to count the minutes 'til I can slip back into bed.

But we're not done. Not by a longshot.

I put him down in his little bassinet and slip into bed. The first thing I hear is the sound of the bink (a.k.a pacifier) popping out of Bug's mouth onto the crib mattress. Then there's a whimper. I reach over to assess the situation and realize he's soaked through his diaper, through his pajamas, all the way through his swaddling blanket. Oh no. It is just a matter of time before he realizes this and starts howling. A change is in order. I get up, grab Bug and off we go to the changing table.

2:55 am: The change has been completed. A fresh diaper is on, fresh pajamas, and he's been tightly swaddled in a new comfy blanket. The application of a cold wet baby wipe brought him out of his nice quiet sleepy state, and though he's now clean and dry, he's a little miffed about the whole experience. Hey, I'd be too if someone wiped my privates with a cold wet cloth while I'm trying to sleep at 3 in the morning. I'd be more than a little cranky.

2:56 am: Upon picking Bug up from the changing table, I realize to my horror that he's wet through again. Oh no. You've got to be kidding me.

3:00 am: The pajamas are off. The wet diaper is off. I am in the process of wiping him down (again) when he poops into my hand. While trying to grab another wipe to handle the output, he commences projectile pooping; the wall, the changing table and a nearby lampshade are all hit with a veritable barrage of the brown stuff. I am crying. I am laughing. I am getting a bit delirious. In the next room Mr. F awakens and listens and tries to gauge whether his assistance is needed. My sobs are now camouflaged by paroxysms of laughter. Hearing my guffaws from the other room, Mr. F assumes the situation is under control and goes back to sleep. Meanwhile, I'd call for help but I'm laughing too hard to draw a breath. Better to laugh than cry...

3:15 am: Bug is once again freshly diapered, pajama'd and swaddled. He is content but very awake, staring up at me with his big deep and wondrous blue eyes. I've wiped down the walls, the changing table and various other casualties of the poop storm. The lampshade is permanently stained and will have to be replaced, but for now I just turn the nasty part to face the wall. No one has to know...

3:17 am: We are en route to the crib. I am walking the floor with Bug and bouncing him slightly, willing him to nod off. His little eyes droop, his breathing gets deeper. I can almost feel the warmth of my flannel sheets on my skin. My body is aching for sleep. Just a little sleep. Steps away from his little crib, there is a sound in the dark: "Hiccup!"

3:25 am: Bug is now wailing inconsolably, complete with that devastating lip/chin quivering maneuver. It's Defcon 2. I am coming unglued. The hiccups continue. I try to burp him in the hopes that a big gas bubble will come up and put an end to the hics, but he continues to try to wriggle out of burping position. He hates being burped. There is no alternative but to nurse again.

3:27 am: Back in our cozy spot, Bug looks up at me contentedly while happily nursing through his hiccups. We nurse and wait and hope they'll stop soon.

3:39 am: My head snaps back as I nod off. Bleary eyed I look at the clock. Bug too is starting to nod off. If only I could just put him down now. But he must be burped...

3:50 am: Still no burps, and he's wide awake again. Boy does he hate everything about being burped. I wonder if I should just put him down, but I know that within the hour he'll be miserable if I do. We persevere. He's not happy, but hey, where's he going to go, right?

4:00 am: Finally having extracted one big burp, and confirming that we're still dry, we head for bed. Hallelujah.

4:05 am: We're all tucked in, Bug in his bassinet by the bed, and me in my comfy flannel sheets. My poor cotton-stuffed brain begins to slip into sweet repose.

4:06 am: From the direction of Bug's bassinet, an outrageously loud farty, squirty noise shatters the silence, followed by another. And another. One more and we'll be dealing with fallout from critical diaper failure. HAZMAT suits may be necessary.


Oh Bug, no! No! NoooooOOOoooo!

* * *

There were a few consecutive nights like this, nights where we'd awaken for a middle-of-the-night feeding that turned into two to three hours of dealing with both input and output. But it's getting better, bit by bit, day by day. Bug's sleeping in longer stretches, and wetting through less. I'm getting better at being able to anticipate what he's going to do when. We're getting into a bit of a rhythm and figuring each other out. Bug's learning to trust that when something makes him uncomfortable, Mum or Dad will be right there to make things all better. We're learning that he really only cries when he has something to cry about, and we're getting better and smarter about how to respond.

Saturday will be five weeks, but the weeks haven't felt like the units of time as I've previously experienced them. Rather it's been one long unrelenting, unending, undefined blur of the space-time continuum in some other dimension.

We're surviving. He's thriving. I think we might all just make it...
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