Sunday, June 12, 2011

Best & Worst

To kick off a Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens probably had the first eight weeks of parenting in mind when he wrote "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."

The beginning moments are never forgotten.  Holding my baby for the first time was surreal.  I would spend hours watching him sleep.  Though most of those hours were to ensure he was still breathing.  Nine months of work wasn't going down the drain on my watch. 

Another perk of newborns is their surprising portability.  Once asleep, hardly anything woke him and packing him in a carrier or stroller was a sure nap in the making.  As long as a bottle or boob was nearby, we were good to go.

However sweet those moments, there also came a few bumps in the road.  People warned of sleep deprivation and high expenses, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning the topics below.  Consider yourself warned.

The Witching Hour
We were blissfully ignorant of this expression pre-infant.  The witching hour refers to the time babies scream inconsolably.  And scream.  Our “hour” (Bogus, by the way.  Wish it was only an hour) was each & every evening for eight weeks.  One traumatic night he screamed six hours straight.  No exaggeration. Six. Hours.  

This instance had us asking the important questions: What is the warranty on babies?  How flexible is the Nordstrom ‘return anything’ policy?

Neither the hospital nor Nordstrom would accept him as a valid exchange, but luckily the episodes ended and evenings together became more enjoyable. 

Nap Deprivation
The phrase "sleep like a baby" is misleading.  It makes one believe they not only love sleep but do so often (word on the street is 18 hours a day).  Early on, our baby took a strong stance against sleep.  When we realized the issue, help was sought from every available book, theory, and doctor.  Although recommendations varied, one idea was consistent: we should be able to mold his sleep patterns.    

His refusal to sleep and my inability to control it made me crazy.  Concerned it reflected poor parenting skills, I obsessed.  I called my husband at work bawling when he wouldn’t go down.  Self-loathing settled in when I resorted to the ‘prohibited’ motion sleep after all else failed.  Then anger switched to self-pity as I was the one awake, stuck pushing a stroller while he rested peacefully in a dream of warm milk and tummy time. 

Life drastically improved after I relaxed and realized my obsession wasn’t creating a perfect napper.  It only made me miserable.  While my son never had a napping epiphany, the new version of me was more enjoyable to be around. 

When seeking comfort from others, we scoffed at those saying “it gets better.”  That’s vague.  Better?  As in: still terrible, but not as terrible?  And what is the timeframe?  When does better kick in? 

It took about 10 weeks for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel (take heart: many have shorter timeframes).  And each month has continued to surpass the next.  To us, better meant our son transitioned from the personality of a gummy bear to an interacting, learning, and smiling little man. 

My unsolicited advice is to soak up the joyful moments and power through the challenges.  Just as Charles Dicken's quote starts off a great novel, we are embarking on an amazing and memorable journey called parenthood.