Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dreaming of Sleep

I've said over and over what an easy newborn Genevieve is compared to Julia: how she nurses well and efficiently, every two to three hours rather than every one to one-and-a-half, rarely cries, uses my nipples (largely) for sustenance rather than constant soothing, and actually sleeps at night. And this all continues to be true. But this week the lesson is hitting home that even so, there is only so long a human being can go getting at most 90 minutes of sleep at a time each night (and a total of, on a good night, maybe five hours of sleep) before she starts to feel (not to mention look) as if she's been run over by a truck. Yes, people, I've hit the wall. Here we are in week three of newborn life and I. AM. VERY. TIRED. Not as tired as I was when Julia was two weeks old, but very tired. The kind of tired where you think, futilely, that if only you could hand off this newborn for just one night--magically pause the merry-go-round of parenting responsibilities and just, you know, not be needed for one measly night--and thus get just one full night of sleep, well, you'd feel like a million bucks afterward. You really believe that eight hours of uninterrupted sleep--something you used to, in your pre-parenthood life, take so luxuriously for granted--would now have the power to send you blazing through the next three weeks on a blast of superhero energy and good will. But alas, you're not going to get it, so why even think about it any further?

And then there's the C-section. Another lesson learned this week: just because you start to feel good, without any constant reminders of all the things you shouldn't yet do physically, doesn't mean you should stop taking ibuprofen completely and start doing things like carrying the laundry hamper downstairs. Because guaranteed, the next day you will be reminded that you had major abdominal surgery a mere two weeks ago, silly, are you nuts?, and your incision will hurt and swell up again. And you will be even more tired and spent than before. Yeah, that medicine? That directive about GRADUALLY increasing your activity? They exist for a reason.

Amidst all this, I did manage to get both babies--big and small--out the door to playgroup for a full two hours this morning. And there I learned another lesson. One of the other moms in this group had her baby eight days before Genevieve was born, and as we all talked about easy second babies after difficult firstborns, short, smooth labors after protracted and traumatic first ones, and getting along on next to no sleep, this other mom let slip that her three-week-old now nurses ONLY ONCE DURING THE NIGHT. You heard me. Once. Three weeks old, and already sleeping as much--and nursing as little--as Julia did at seven or eight months. And here I am with my new baby, who wakes up to nurse every two hours around the clock, for a total of five times between 10 or 11 p.m. and 6 or 7 a.m.

And this was the lesson learned--that there will always be babies who are easier (and harder) than yours. And to obsess on the fortunes of others--to envy their lack of dark undereye circles and their relatively high energy level--is to drive yourself batty. Because up until the moment
when this fellow mama spoke the word "once," I thought I was so, so lucky with my easy, easy baby. And then, suddenly, I didn't feel so lucky, but instead felt even more exhausted than I actually was. The whole way home I worked on restructuring my personal world-view back into one of gratitude and blessing. Because I really do feel lucky. I AM lucky. I'm just not getting the ridiculous amount of sleep this new mom is getting with her atypical three-week-old.

That's okay. It will happen. In the meantime, surely you'll understand why this time around, I am embracing caffeine. Nothing like a strong iced latte to get you through the afternoon. Genevieve doesn't seem to mind one little bit.

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