Lazy Parenting

I hang out with a really cool group of mamas. Online, of course, like I have time, energy, and the wherewithal to consistently hang out with anyone in real life. We get together during our Velcro Babies (they taught me that term) naps, from our various countries and time zones and pieces of furniture. We talk about our challenges and throw tantrums and encourage each other, we share advice and ideas and brainstorm. It’s great.

Thing is, some of these moms make me look at my own parenting style and think, “man, I’m lazy!” They’re always teaching their babies stuff about sleep and sensory bins and the world at large. (Not training, we don’t train, training is for dogs.) It’s admirable, really. Some women are working on teaching their kids how to get through a sleep cycle without nursing, some are teaching how to sleep in their own space. Some moms are working hard to achieve important family goals (admittedly, most goals for most of us revolve around sleep).

Me? Although Mabel is nearly 10 months old, I’m still in the “oh thank God she’s asleep” category. I’m not trying to teach much of anything. You want to sleep in my bed? Fine, just sleep. You want to nurse all night long? Fine, just go to sleep. You want me to lay in bed with you while you nap? Well, you get the idea.

I call it lazy parenting, but I’m pretty okay with it. Sometimes I get all inspired by my awesome Internet friends and their cool success stories and think, “yeah! I’m gonna try something new!”, and then I’m up until 1:00 a.m. wondering what in the hell I was thinking. (That may or may not have happened last night. Hint: it did.) Truth is, Mabel wants to learn the things that are important to her – in the order and timeframe she wants to learn them in. And, honestly, I’m too lazy to demand otherwise.

So we’re making slow progress. (I may or may not be typing this on my iPhone while she naps. Hint: I am.) But it is progress. She no longer nurses all night long. I didn’t tell her to stop, she just did. She rolls away from me now to find her own space to sleep in. She doesn’t wake up at every noise. She doesn’t need the comfort of nursing between every sleep cycle. She sleeps longer and deeper and better, all by herself. Why would I want to mess with that?

in fact, she might not even need me to stay here for her nap. I’m not going to push it though. I mean, thank God, she’s sleeping, right? Besides, it’s dark and cool and comfy in here and there’s a machine that sounds like the ocean. Lazy parenting.


Someday Will Come

Watching my baby girl sleep and suddenly I am struck with the thought that I don’t want her to know how much ugly there is in the world, how much cruelty and violence, how shallow and hateful it can be. It pains my heart to think that, after she conquers crawling and walking and close-mouthed kisses and sleep, there will be a darker world of things to learn. Some of it is important and necessary (there are bad people in the world), but some of it is so unnecessary! It saddens me to think that someday she will look at herself in the mirror and hate what she sees, someday she will feel less than she is and far from anything safe and secure. Someday our world will try to label her and box her in and she will have the choice of giving in or fighting back. Someday her eyes will be opened to a world where you have to fight culture and status quo in order to live free.

And just when I think I will become overcome with sadness at the thought of such pristine innocence tarnished, a friend reminds me that there will also be much joy to be felt and good to discover, there will be sights and sounds that will astonish and delight. There awaits her in this world such remarkable beauty to be found.

And so I breathe again, a little bit easier, reminded that if I were to spare her every pain I would be robbing her some of the fullness of her joy. I remember that one must understand darkness to truly appreciate the light; a smile seems brighter after tears.

Someday she will flush with the satisfaction of a goal obtained, an obstacle conquered. Someday she will know the love of a partner, someday she may know the bliss of a child.

There are many somedays. There is only one today. And so, as she sleeps, unaware of the battle in my heart and head, I snuggle her close. I breathe in her soft baby smell and focus my thoughts upon my own moment of joy, my own little bliss.


Emotional Onslaught

My mood is all consuming these days. Every distraction from it is fleeting at best. I agonize over the cause and effect. Exhausting. It’s exhausting. An excerpt, for your amusement:

Am I having a bipolar induced depression? Am I even bipolar? If I was bipolar wouldn’t the Zoloft I’m taking for PPD trigger mania? Mania doesn’t feel like depression. So I’m probably not bipolar. Why do I feel so sluggish and sad; why so irritable and short tempered? Should I take more Zoloft? I need to have an actual doctor. A doctor will just put me on more meds. Still, I need a doctor. No doctor has Saturday hours. I need to do something. I’ll take more Zoloft. Why aren’t I sleeping? Why am I so anxious? Is it going to go away? Is it because of the raised dose? How long will it last? Is this a manic episode? Does this mean I am bipolar?

I feel very much overwhelmed by the requirements of the day to day. My attention stays on Mabel and getting her successfully through. I am rewarded by a cascade of giggles and gooey baby kisses, but the rest of life remains untouched. I wonder if this is just the effect from the sleep deprivation that has been the last few weeks of development and growth for her. I wonder when I come out on the other side. I’ve forgotten what the other side looks like. I always do when I’m in the mire.

I’m either a good mother or a good wife, I can’t seem to manage both. Either I look good or the house does. Either laundry is done or dinner is. I want to be sweet and understanding but I’m not. I tell myself I will be but I can’t. I’m snappy and frustrated and demanding and I can’t figure out why. There’s nothing wrong at a glance, but the feeling is that everything is. I need things. Not material things or more purchases. I need love and spontaneous affection and declarations of delight. I ask for them. They do not come. Suddenly I need to buy more things. I assume I’m asking for too much. I tell myself my marriage is failing. I tell myself that I am failing my marriage. I tell myself the problem is that I’m now fat and we don’t have enough sex. I believe myself. I want the things I cannot buy. I do not want to ask for them again. I am lonely, hurt, and sad. I feel like I brought it on myself. He’s adjusting to being a parent, too. I excuse him. I belittle me.

I have no answers to the constant onslaught that is my mind. I have no easy solutions to the anxiety that bubbles beneath the surface. Day follows night. Night follows day. I get up and I do what that day expects. I giggle with the baby. I cook dinner. I sweep the floor, eventually. I wait. I wait and know that this can not be forever. I remember that I have felt lost in the tidal wave of rampant emotion before and that I have somehow come out on the other side. I remember that things look their worst when I feel mine and that my vision is clouded in times like these. I stare at my baby. I breathe.

Should I have raised the dose? Maybe it was going to end all by itself? It had been a few weeks and it wasn’t getting better, I’m sure more Zoloft was the right choice. But now this anxiety… will it go away? It’s just a side effect, right? Just a temporary problem to what was a good solution. Should I go back down? I need to find a doctor. I can’t find a doctor…

And so it continues. Until it eventually ends.

Nap Strike Humor

After trying for 30 minutes and failing to get Mabel to take her afternoon nap, we got back up. It took two hours to get her down this morning so I needed to get the chicken in the oven and a few other things before spending that kinda time on it again. She fussed while I prepped dinner, whined while I loaded the dishwasher, cried while I switched the laundry, and yelled while I took a shower. An hour of complaining. Okay, let’s go nap. Get upstairs, nurse for a bit, switch sides, yada yada yada.. Then she rolls over and starts talking to the ceiling fan in her sweetest ever voice.

I spent a minute envisioning punching her with my boob or something (Thwap!) but finally settled for “Mabel! It is time to go to sleep!” Which ended up sounding far more exasperated than stern, and in my normal level of speaking, but serious nonetheless.

She went completely still. Pushed her face under my boob and whispered for a minute (conferring with…?), then popped back on to nurse and was asleep in 30 seconds.

Seriously, who’s living under my boob?

Sleep is Like An Orgasm (or, Finding Empathy)

Usually, when I watch my daughter try to fall asleep, it is with utter confusion. It’s obvious she’s tired, it’s clear that she wants to be asleep, and yet, there she is, awake. It’s unbelievable to me, the sleep deprived mom. How can she want something so badly and not be able to just give into it, just go to sleep?

I jump through all her hoops; I hold my body just so while we side lie nurse, I pace the floor in just the right rythym, I sway her in my arms just right – not too fast, not too slow, and move my own body just the way she likes. I didn’t make these hoops up, they are time tested and proven, the product of many nights’ trial and error. And yet, sometimes, they just don’t work. I haven’t empathetically understood her inability to just go to sleep…until tonight.

Tonight a new epiphany struck my tired mind. (How tired? Keep reading…) Mabel flopped from one position to another, trying to find the perfect spot and when she couldn’t get comfortable enough to find sleep, she whined and then cried in frustration. Watching my daughter try, actually work to, fall asleep, it struck me – it’s like an orgasm.

Now don’t freak out, I’m not attributing sexuality to my infant daughter. I am attributing sexuality to myself (which, to be frank, is an equally absurd idea lately, I might choose sleep over an orgasm). I have found a way to wrap my head around this physical inability she sometimes seems to have to fall asleep.

Think about it. Even if all the right buttons are pushed, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, even if you hold your leg just so. Right? Sometimes you could just cry from the frustation of it. Right?

Okay, it’s weird. But tonight, when my back and knees were loudly complaining at the extended nursebounceswaytwist combo we had going, the humorous parallel bought me enough bemused patience that I was able to get Mabel to sleep, gently and lovingly.

Find your own thing, your own way to understand what it is the tiny, nonenglish speaking, mass of doughy rolls and toothless mystery, is going through. Whatever you choose – humor, zen, actual research – you’re going to need some kind of perspective and empathy to get you through a bazillion nap and bed times with sanity intact.

What is your strangest coping strategy for nighttime parenting?

Waking Moment

Mabel wanted to take a nap an hour after we got up. I didn’t want to nap. I wanted to drink my hot vanilla coffee and get started in the garden before the storms hit this afternoon. Mabel is very convincing, so up to the dark and air conditioned bedroom we went. We laid down to nurse but she wasn’t falling asleep, which was irritating considering how far away my vanilla coffee was. We bounced and walked but it didn’t work, and my thoughts kept roaming to the garden. Finally, we lay down again, under a comforter thanks to the ac, and she pressed her baby buddha body against my curves in a way that demanded my attention. I focused my eyes on her and my thoughts turned to how her posture seemed to say that she sometimes wished we could still occupy the same exact space the way we did before she was born. I hummed her favorite song and snuggled her as tight as I could. I forgot about the coffee and the garden and focused on matching my breath to hers. She fell asleep. Neither of us moved. When she woke up her eyes opened to mine and she smiled, leaned forward, and planted a drooly kiss right on my lips. The coffee was just as good cold and the garden didn’t grow legs and run away. That hour and a half in bed cost me nothing but earned me the sweetest waking moment with my baby.

Nap Oasis

My daughter requires that I lay with her for naps. She’s 8.5 months old and stirs awake between sleep cycles. If I am here beside her she will stir, her gaze will find me, and sometimes she’ll drift back to sleep. More often than that, she will stir with closed eyes and open mouth, rooting for the comfort of the breast to ease her back to sleep. If I am not here beside her when she stirs and hovers momentarily in the land between asleep and awake, she will awaken fully and cry out for me; her nap will end prematurely, leaving her sleep deprived and cranky.

And so, two or three times a day I stop what I am doing and take my daughter to bed. We share a bed in the master bedroom, a comfortable queen. The room is kept dark and cool no matter the time of day or the weather outside. It is our shared oasis.

We snuggle together as she nurses to sleep. I stroke her back and she studies my face – sometimes with her eyes and sometimes with a hand, tiny fingers stroking and poking. Many days she needs a few minutes to settle and so we play first; we talk to the ceiling fan, practice blowing raspberries, explore new sounds as she learns them, and giggle through a few tickles. When she is tired, she begins to hum while she nurses, her hands and feet slow, and she sleeps.

When she is fully asleep, I gently pull my nipple from her slack mouth and roll away. This is progress. She used to require that I stay tight to her, that she be latched on. She is slowly learning how to nap without me. Without tears, without training, without a fight to force independence she’s not ready for, she is learning.

I used to resent the time I spent laying in bed during daylight hours. I used to lay here and think about the housework or errands. I would will my daughter to nap quickly so I could get back to doing something more productive.

I realized, however, that these hours were beginning to be a delight. I’ve read more books in the last few months than I did in the decade before. I connect with other moms in online groups and forums. I slow down and blog. Everyday my daughter forces me to leave the to do list, the mess, the hustle and bustle of the day and spend a little time with her, and then with myself. I am grateful to her for this. I will miss these oasis moments when she is past the age of needing me so close.

Soon she will wake from her nap. She’ll rub her face and open her eyes. She’ll stare at the ceiling fan and blink herself awake. Sometimes she talks quietly to herself as she wakes up. Eventually, when she’s ready, she’ll turn and smile at me. She’ll find me where she left me, exactly where she expects me to be, and she’ll smile joyfully.