When the go­ing gets tough, the tough find cof­fee

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Rest is a won­der­ful thing. I was re­minded of this con­stantly dur­ing last sum­mer’s up-all-night bat­tle­field with a 2-month-old. Sleep was the hottest com­mod­ity at our house. In the year since Oliver’s birth, our son now sleeps through the night — and my hus­band and I have re­turned to rest­ing again. I’ve tried to for­get the sweet, ex­haus­tive in­san­ity of life with a new­born.

But what has been felt can­not be un­felt.

When I see Face­book photos of friends bring­ing ba­bies home, I twitch and re­flex­ively reach for my cof­fee mug. It’s jet lag mul­ti­plied by 1,000, that feel­ing — and you never can catch up. My sis­ter re­cently asked some­thing akin to, “Is it re­ally that bad?”

I do want a niece or nephew some­day, so . . . didn’t want to scare her. In fact, I’ve adopted a less-is-more pol­icy when talk­ing to any­one con­tem­plat­ing start­ing a fam­ily. If we tell these wideeyed folks the truth when asked, will we con­trib­ute to the de­cline of mankind?

“Com­plain­ing” about moth­er­hood is not my in­tent. It goes with­out say­ing that I dearly love my child, but be­ing a par­ent? It’s hard. It’s hard in the best of cir­cum­stances when you’re fully rested, but be­ing “fully rested” is . . . some­thing of a mis­nomer now.

After Oliver’s month in the hospi­tal, Spencer and I were so ex­cited to wel­come him home. But life went back to an odd “be­fore” in the weeks un­til his dis­charge. Be­fore preg­nancy. Be­fore any baby. Just the two of us. And after deal­ing with preg­nancy-in­duced in­som­nia, I was ac­tu­ally sleep­ing soundly for the first time in many months.

That was, of course, short-lived. My hus­band and I rarely slept more than an hour at a time after Oliver came home. It was shock­ing, alarm­ing: like slam­ming into a glass wall after be­ing drenched with ice-cold wa­ter.

Plus: the re­spon­si­bil­ity. The over­whelm­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. As I wor­ried about is­sues all new par­ents stress about — SIDS, chok­ing — plus the anx­i­ety of hav­ing a pre­ma­ture baby, I was a dis­as­ter. Sleep­ing felt like “let­ting my guard down,” and I was too keyed up for that. It even­tu­ally seemed ra­tional to just stay up all night. You know: to watch him. Make sure he was safe. And I al­most did. There’s a rea­son sleep de­pri­va­tion can be used as tor­ture. I was tired enough to be­come phys­i­cally ill; my 9 p.m. stom­achache be­came an un­wanted main­stay. For the first time in my life, I was awake to watch late-night tele­vi­sion — but too dis­ori­ented for Jimmy Fal­lon. A bot­tle of Pepto-Bis­mol joined the new bot­tles by the sink.

It got bet­ter, of course. By Christ­mas last year, Ol­lie was sleep­ing at least five or six hours at a time. He still wakes oc­ca­sion­ally, but those dark evenings have given way to much sun­nier morn­ings. Our rou­tine now is heav­enly com­pared to last June’s sched­ule.

But Satur­day was a sum­mer throw­back — and not in a good way.

I could tell Oliver was unset­tled be­fore we even put him to bed, cough­ing and cry­ing out ran­domly . . . and sure enough, our lit­tle guy was up at 10 p.m. And mid­night. And 2 a.m. We of­fered a pain re­liever (he’s likely teething again), which did noth­ing. Even a long car ride — typ­i­cally fool­proof — didn’t help.

Each time we crept into his room, Oliver would be sit­ting up and sob­bing loud enough to break your heart. Take him down­stairs? Fine. Ready to play. Take him back up­stairs? Nope. And on. And on. By 4 a.m., Spencer and I had all but given up. We’d each slept two or three bro­ken hours com­bined, and get­ting any­thing more wasn’t look­ing likely.

An episode of “The Mup­pets” even­tu­ally knocked Oliver out in my arms, and we eked out an­other hour of rest on the couch. After such an event­ful night, I could have hap­pily stayed in my pa­ja­mas all day — but it was Fa­ther’s Day. I wanted to keep the plans Spencer had been look­ing for­ward to: driv­ing to an ama­teur ra­dio event in Manas­sas, Va., then host­ing the fam­ily for a cook-out.

Cof­fee was poured. Shoes were tiredly laced. We loaded a cranky Oliver into the car and set off, mar­veling at the lack of traf­fic. Oliver was, of course, asleep be­fore we even hit the high­way.

After dread­ing bed­time all day, Sun­day night was fine: like Satur­day never hap­pened. Eleven un­bro­ken hours. Spence and I both star­tled awake at the first fin­gers of day­light, not dar­ing to hope we’d all made it to morn­ing. But there was Oliver, snor­ing in his crib with limbs akimbo.

So new par­ents: this one’s for you. It’s never easy, but it does get eas­ier. Hang in there.

And when in doubt, dou­ble up on caf­feine. What­ever gets you through.

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