(I wrote this weeks ago, intending for it to be a brief little story about yet another dumb thing I did to mess with Rei’s sleep. But the more I wrote, the longer it got and I couldn’t finish it without saying more, more, more. It became the Energizer Bunny of blog posts. Anyway here’s a story that could probably be a lot shorter. No one ever accused me of pith. … Except that one time, in sixth grade, when I tried to write a scary story and someone told me, “You get to the point too fast.” Maybe I took that to heart a tad too much.)
(Great, now this is even longer.)
Rei had a bit of a weird night last night. I’d decided, based on something I had read, to start giving her more frequent feeds in the evening in an attempt to help her sleep longer. She was pretty happy until bedtime — let Pete walk her around the house, smiled during her bath, only cried a little when she was getting into her pyjamas (and this baby cries a lot before bed, because she’s so hungry and feed me now and what are you doing this isn’t a boob, it’s pyjamas helllppp!).
For a baby who’s not even three months old, Rei’s normally a great sleeper. She doesn’t love her crib, and she always fusses a bit when I put her in it, but it usually only takes a few rounds of comforting and shushing, and maybe an extra feed, to get her to settle. Once she’s down, she often sleeps for 6-8 hours. But the other night she ate every hour, on the hour, from 7:00 to 11:00. And then in the morning, she woke up and ate at 5:00, 6:30 and 7:30. I worried that something was wrong.
So last night, based on ONE exception to her pattern, I figured she might be afraid of going to sleep, because she sleeps for so long that she gets extra hungry. So feed more, right? Right?
Pete handed her to me. She looked at me, her face blank. Not crying. Peaceful. “Oh good,” I said, “feeding her more at nighttime is working! She’ll eat a lot and feel better about going to bed! I’m so smart!”
I’d fed her at 5:00, and then an hour later. Now, I presented her with the boob, and stuck her on it. She started to suck.
And then she screamed.
There’s nothing quite like watching your baby howl, red-faced, clearly in agony because you are trying to FEED HER. The special thing you do together. That she loves. That she normally wants to do all the time.
She pulled back, still screaming. I picked her up and tried to comfort her. “There’s lots of milk, Rei,” I said. “You just have to get it out.”
And then I tried again.
It was bad.
It was like I was torturing her.
“Weird,” I said to her purple, howling face, still trying to smush the nipple in. “I think there’s lots of milk, but let me check.”
And I tried to express some milk.
And sprayed her in the face.
After giving up and walking her around the room singing to her, she started to calm down. Eventually it occurred to me that maybe she hadn’t been hungry at all. Maybe she had thought I wanted her to eat and I was basically force-feeding her and she would never again enjoy our special time and AHHHHH!
Or maybe she just wanted something to suck on? So I set her down in the crib, and she cried. I gave her a soother and she accepted it. I crawled on to our bed (she sleeps next to us, in her crib) and waited, fully expecting her to wake up when the soother fell out of her mouth. Instead, she fell asleep! On the first try! Which never happens.
And woke up again an hour later. Given that she hadn’t had much to eat earlier (despite me repeatedly shoving my nipple in her mouth), I wasn’t surprised, and I picked her up and fed her.
She took the boob (yay!) and minutes later, fell asleep nursing (yay!). I ignored the rule about always putting a baby in her crib “drowsy but awake” (for anyone who isn’t aware, this is the magic bullet of infant sleep: you’re never supposed to put a baby down after she’s asleep. She should always be a little bit awake so that she can learn how to fall asleep on her own. It’s about as easy as it sounds.), because waking her up at that point just seemed mean, what with the earlier trauma and all (and okay, I didn’t want to deal with another round of getting her back to sleep).
I lifted her up off my nursing pillow and carried her over to the crib. She was all floppy, which meant the chances of her waking up when I set her down (which happens almost all the time, and often involves fussing and squawking and general protesting over having to sleep on her back, which is why she refuses to go near her crib for naps, which is a whole other post) were basically nil.
Unless, of course, a third party was to intervene.
I do this all the time: I accidentally rap the crib with my knuckles, I wake up wondering why I woke up and poke her to check her breathing (and then her temperature, because why stop there?), I panic about the heat and have to get out of bed to turn it down and rustle our inexplicably loud duvet, I sneeze, I do some bonehead thing that wakes her up.
I laid her down, pleased with myself. She ate! She doesn’t hate me! We’re all going to have such a great sleep! Except…
Where is the soother?
The room, at this point, was pretty dark. I squinted into her crib and felt around, expecting to find it near her head. I patted around her face, jabbing at her cheeks. I began to worry that she was, in fact, lying on it.
Getting a baby to sleep is sort of like getting yourself to sleep when you’ve had one of those nights where everything is keeping you up. You get so close each time, and then your nose itches. Or a certain someone starts to snore. Or the cat meows. It’s not easy. And you do not want to mess with it. (Poor Peter, the countless number of times already I’ve flung an arm out at him to tell him to stop him moving because he’s rocking the bed and her crib is right next to the bed and why is our duvet so freaking loud?)
So now I had a dilemma: pick Reiden up and undoubtedly wake her, or let her sleep on her soother. Which was probably right under her head. Stuck in her ear, or something.
I felt her ears. No soother. I took a deep breath, put my hand under her and rolled her to one side.
Nothing. I rolled her to the other side.
If it wasn’t by her face, or underneath her, where could it be? Could it somehow be in the middle of her back, the part that didn’t roll?
I texted Pete. “I put her in the crib and now I CAN’T FIND HER SOOTHER.”
Then: “DID I SET HER DOWN ON THE SOOTHER?”
He replied, “Well, it can’t hurt her.”
“But it could! What if it does? Oh dear. I’m going to look on the ground? Maybe it fell out?”
“How could it?”
It was, in fact, on the floor, which I discovered while crawling around with the light from my iPhone.
I got back into bed, the cheap Ikea duvet crackling like a camp fire, and texted Peter the good news. I had retrieved the soother, and, impossibly, Reiden had managed to sleep through the whole thing.
I think the sleep gods took pity on us that night. The poor baby, her blissful sleep routinely sabotaged by her own bumbling mother.