“Oh, I slept like a baby last night!” “Look how cute he is, sleeping like a baby!”
Yeah, right. Let me tell you, I will never use that expression again. Because you know what? Babies don’t actually sleep. Ever. They came to earth to suck your energy until there is none left and you resort to begging them to close their eyes and pay a visit to dreamland. That’s my theory anyway.
His first week on earth, Mark slept a lot. We had been told he should eat every four hours, but as he happily slept past feeding time, we couldn’t help worrying. Should we wake him up? Should we let him sleep? Should I strip and cuddle him against my breast, whispering “milk, milk on special, good milk, one-time offer!”?
Guilt-stricken because he was skipping a meal, we woke him up a couple of times. We paid for it: he was cranky for the following twelve hours he spent wide awake.
“Do not wake Mark up on purpose” became Rule Number 1 at home.
The second week, Mark decided sleeping was overrated after all. The first time he opened his eyes and started looking around him with curiosity, I was all excited and took plenty of pictures. “He is so bright for a newborn,” I marvelled.
Two days later, I was begging him to act like a normal baby again, i.e. to close his eyes and go to sleep land, if only for a few hours. Fuck the pictures of Mark with his eyes open, gazing at the world. I wanted him back in his crib, sleeping like… you know, a baby. Ah ah.
That week, one night, exhausted and tired of getting up to put his pacifier back in his mouth (yes, it takes time for babies to master the fine art of sucking a pacifier without dropping it every two seconds), I took Mark to the big bed with me. He slept there, in my arms. Finally. Okay, I woke up with dead nerves in my right arm and a sore neck but hey, we slept a few hours.
That same week, he woke me up at 5 a.m., hungry. I was too tired to sit to nurse and I just lay in bed, on my side, as he latched on my breast. I fell asleep—when I woke up two hours later, he was still sucking on my nipple—buffet night for baby, yeah!
What’s great with babies is that they keep you on your toes. You think you found the perfect trick to put them to sleep, use it once, twice, three times if you are lucky… and then it doesn’t work anymore—back to square one.
In the first few weeks, swaddling worked. And then it didn’t—he was annoyed not being able to suck his fingers and move his legs freely. Falling asleep in the big bed worked for a while; we’d transfer him back to his crib later. But it stopped working when he would invariably wake up and realize he had been tricked. Putting him to sleep right after feeding worked too for a while, but now it seems to give him energy instead of acting as a sleeping pill. Lying in bed with him for a while was another trick… guess what, he learned to wake up about three minutes after we were gone.
We took him for rides in the car—he’d scream (especially if Nickelback plays on the radio, but I can’t blame him for that, I scream too), fall asleep… and wake up as soon as we’d stop at a red light. He sleeps in the sling when I take him for a walk, but like a tough gym coach, he starts screaming if I slow down or stop (maybe I should take the opportunity to train for a marathon?).
And yet, strangers and kind souls keep on telling me I should take naps whenever Mark is asleep. Yeah, right (again). First of all, when Mark is sleeping I usually use that free time to: 1) go pee 2) eat 3) do household chores 3) relax a bit 4) take a shower. Basic needs, really, I’m not so ambitious these days.
Second, I can’t sleep on command. Mark may be able to pass out in my arms or in the car but I can’t. And unlike him, I don’t feel refreshed after a twenty-minute nap. I’m a grown-up—I sleep in a bed, at night, preferably a few hours in a row.
But one thing I don’t do is sleep like a baby—and neither does Mark.