He wants to be one with me, but he can hang mellow with Papa

So, the sleeping arrangements have been this: one of us on a mattress on the floor of the nursery, so that  it is not so disruptive to our sleep to go to him in the crib. The other person sleeps in our bed. DH is in the nursery from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and then I take over from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. S usually goes to sleep pretty easily at about 7:30 p.m.—we have a nice bedtime routine (last feedingof the day, bath, PJs and swaddle, the same bedtime story, which I love) and we kiss him goodnight when he is sleepy but awake, etc. Most times this works, other times he cries a little, and sometimes he just passes out before we are even able to get to the goodnight kiss part. He wakes at 11 to 12 to eat about 3.5 ounces and another time around 2 – 3 to eat another 3.5 ounces. (We are slowly working on eliminating those night feedings. Because of the reflux, and his small size, he still is not physically able to eat enough during daytime hours to meet his nutritional needs. When he eats big meals, he struggles, has occassionally vomitted it all back up.) But he wakes up in between those night-feeding wake-ups, crying because he is uncomfortable, wants us, etc. Sometimes it happens during DH’s shift, and always it happens during mine…

For the past few nights, I’ve been trying the “limited crying” technique in the Giordano, which is a fancy way of referring to what a lot of parents do naturally—waiting a few minutes for him to soothe himself back to sleep. I wait three minutes, then go over to the crib and pat his belly or gently jiggle him and go “Shhhhhh, shhhhh,” or whisper, “Go night-night, sweet boy, go night-night.” Then I go back to my mattress on the floor. If he starts crying again, I wait five mintues for him to soothe himself back to sleep. If he soothes himself back to sleep within that time and goes quiet, but then shortly after starts crying again, I start the five minutes over again. Once he reaches five minutes of straight crying, I go over and soothe him again with belly pats, etc.

It seemed like this was going okay for two nights, but then last night, the little one was just more or less crying during my entire shift. I stumbled into the bedroom, delirious, and slurred something like, “I can’t do this right now, I’m not superwoman, please help me!” I kind of felt like I’d been tortured for four hours straight. And not because I thought my son was in grave distress—he wasn’t—but because I was suffering from accumulated sleep deprivation.

DH went in late to work and let me sleep until EIGHT O’CLOCK. Oh, the luxury. I dreamed about my C-section opening back up. Thanks, subconcious!

When I awoke, there was DH holding a very chill and mellow S. I said good morning to him and we went into the kitchen. I saw that the entire house was picked up. Even the mattress in the nursery was put away. The bottles were washed. DH was dressed and groomed. And DH was online, making a grocery order…

My point is not that it was sweet of him to do all of this. Yes, it was. But my point is that he was able to do all of this!

Every morning is the same with me and S—there is a constant, stressful tension between his need for me and my need to do a few basic things. I would love to be able to wake up incredibly early to do these things, but I am already getting so little sleep (I am also suffering from insomnia some nights) that rising at 4 a.m. is just not going to happen. Besides, I am usually dealing with S’s frequent wake-ups in these wee hours.

So what happens is I try to incorporate the little one into chore-time. I either take him with me from room to room in his rocker or bouncer, or I strap him to my front with a sling or Bjorn. But he just doesn’t tolerate it for long most mornings. He doesn’t tolerate much, when it comes to my needs—me putting on makeup, brushing my teeth, getting dressed. He seems agitated and needy while I do these things, like he just doesn’t understand why I am not holding him and playing with him.  

I do play with him, every morning—activities like reading, doing yoga stretches, massage, dance, talking to Grover, and so on. But I sometimes feel like the engagement just leaves him wanting more.

So anyway, I walk into the kitchen this morning, and DH puts S back in the bouncer and goes back to making a grocery order online. All is so peaceful, the house clean, and S is just hanging out, looking around, quiet and content.

“I started a grocery order,” DH says, “if you’d like to finish it.”

“You’re making a grocery order?” I say, incredulous. “He’s letting you do something on the computer???”

DH started laughing. Really hard. He imitated how I’d just said what I’d said. “Oh, honey,” he said. “I think our son wants to be one with you.”

I begin to list all of the things DH has been able to accomplish this morning and how it is with me, each morning. The stress of S’s crying—he’s not happy, I’m not happy, and I can’t seem to get through a few basic things in order to get us out the door, where peace and sanity lie.

Example: I tried making a grocery order, yesterday. S screamed the whole three minutes I was online.

S loves his papa so much. He smiles big when he sees him, cackles at his antics. S also loves me so much. But he much more often shows me the rawness of his need than he does with his dad….

“But it’s not just that,” DH said. “I think he just needs you in a different way than he needs me. It’s a much more intense need. Sometimes I feel like while he likes hanging out with me, he doesn’t feel that intense need of me. But when he sees you, it triggers something big in him, and he wants you to touch him and hold him and not stop.”

DH turned to S. “You want to be one with mama, little guy?” he asked.

All of this was ringing so true. “I actually think he might be able to smell you,” DH said. Then he explained that this morning at 6 a.m., when I begged DH to take my place and give me some more sleep, S stoppped crying the moment DH entered the nursery. 

“It was instant,” he said. “And he didn’t cry again until it was time to eat breakfast.”

So! No more mattress on the nursery floor! We’re moving on to the next stage: I’ll sleep in the bedroom, in our bed, with the monitor. We’ll see what happens.

DH and I have also come up with a bit of a plan for me, in terms of making it easier on me in the mornings. A plan that will help me get those few basic things accomplished and also spend quality morning time with S.  I have guarded hope it will help. And I guess if S continues to cry every time I put him down, or when he won’t tolerate the sling or Bjorn,  I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing—I’ll let him cry, as stressful and unhappy it is for both of us.

I bet once he is able to eat more per feeding, and his naps become more predictable, things will smooth out a bit.

But you know, once we get out the door, we have such a good time together. I mean—as much as I am able to enjoy it, as sleep-deprived as I am! Some days I feel so gross and off and achey and not in good shape to drive (I pull over and sleep in parking lots, like I did when I was pregnant). But some days, I can bring my A game.

Two days ago, we went into town and walked the streets, stopped in shops. The whole world opens up for this little boy. The ooohs and the ahhhs. The, “I’ve never seen such a cute baby!” People pouting cartoonishly as we pass. People stopping and asking what his name is. Men coming up to me at the coffee shop, “Miss, he needs a marshmallow.” “Miss, does he drink espresso?” “Ohhhh! Look at him, just look at him!”

The world has never been such a friendly place in my life!!

I love the way he makes people melt, makes them open up, makes them so, so happy. Even the cranky guy at the frozen yogurt place opened up and smiled and shook his head in disbelief. “Wow,” he kept saying. “Such a cute baby!”

Yesterday, we went for a long walk along the beach and water and up into the yellow grasses along a still lake. We saw ducks. We saw geese. We saw the sunlight coming through the trees. My little man, his eyes open and watching, absorbing. We stopped, and I took him out of the Bjorn so that he could stand on the wooden boardwalk for a while. He stuck out his chest. He stiffened those little chub legs. He looked at me with a quiet smile. “Big boy!” I said. “Look at you! My big boy!” He kept his legs straight and strong for a long time. Tears sprung to my eyes. He was showing me what he could do. When I kissed his cold cheeks, he leaned into me, tucked his little head inside the crook of my neck, before showing me his Big Boy stand-up-tall again.

I know some day he is going to be a big boy—a really big boy, as in a boy who does not need me to hold him much at all. And then a teenager. And then a man. And I will remember this time and yearn for that feeling of being needed.

I will never be this needed again in my life. What a thing!

This is all part of what I wanted for so long. And even while I am at a loss most mornings as to how to keep us both in harmony, a big part of me doesn’t want him to grow up too fast. I would love it if S could be as chill and content with me as he is with DH, sometimes. But what DH said, that he needs me differently and more intensely, is just true.

I have to teach him, show him, that our love relationship can coexist with slight distance. That I am here for him, no matter what, but we don’t need to be one at all times for him to be safe and happy. That’s what’s going on here. We’re transitioning into a new phase and it’s not easy for either of us.

No wonder I had a dream about my C-section opening back up, eh?

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4 Comments

  1. I totally get this, my little girl was the same way, couldn’t handle sitting by herself and wasn’t a fan of being worn either at that age. It’s going to get better very soon thoug, promise! Around 3.5 mos I started to see improvement and now (7.5mos) she can sit and entertain herself with a toy for like 15 minutes at a time!! (Miracle :))

    Reply
  2. Wow…so interesting to see the different dynamics that evolve! It makes total sense though…I hope you guys can use this newfound knowledge to your advantage and allow you to get some more sleep!

    Reply
  3. You are describing exactly how it is with us, even though we are at 13 months now. My son is cool with daddy, but he really wants me. Luckily, they get more and more independent. He can now play on his own long enough for me to do things like unload the dishwasher, chat on the phone, etc. Of course he still often tugs on my legs or raises his arms, indicating he wants to be snuggled close. Isn’t it interesting that they have this connection, this yearning, to be close to mama, even though you and I are not breastfeeding?

    From my experience, sleep will change a million times, as will your arrangements. You will sleep in your room, his room, maybe even be like me and set up a floor bed so you can cuddle him on especially hard nights. I love the cuddles so we’ve been cosleeping, but we’re working on transitioning away from it now. Sounds like you are doing the right thing by trying different arrangements and finding what works. Good luck!

    Reply
  4. Just found your blog and the first post I read…SO FAMILIAR. I simultaneously love being needed by my little person and have moments of “holy smokes I just need an inch of space for a few minutes!” I’ll say it has gotten better as she becomes more interactive with the world around her. Distractions are amazing :)

    Reply

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