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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Weekend Update: Sleep-Training Remix

Night 4 of Sleep Training

Husband and I were on the same page…and finally starting to like each other again after the whole “I don’t know what a dream feed is” debacle.

At 10:50 PM, he brought Eliana downstairs for her dream feed.

Only one problem: with the dream-feed, as I understand it, the baby is supposed to be in a sort of dreamy delirium while the dream-feed happens. Problemo: our kid wasn’t asleep. Not even a little bit. Cheerful Eliana was wide awake and thrilled beyond belief to see Daddy (aka: Superhero Whom No Other Man Will Ever Live Up To For Our Two Daughters). The two of them started cooing at one another like they’d just been reunited after a war, and at that moment, I thought, “Wow, this is really going to fuck up the sleep-training, isn’t it?” in the same exact instant my heart filled with the sticky-sweet sentiment, “Wow…a baby. Our baby. We have a baby. Two kids! How did we get here?”

So instead of getting mad, I let the romantic side of me win. The sweet, soft cooing went on, and I drank in the moment. For an instant, I saw the future: maybe, one day, Eliana, as Mommy, will watch her wonderful husband coo at their baby and wonder how on Earth she got to this place.

I couldn’t help but smile.

With the bottle of formula ready to go, it was on like Donkey Kong. Husband fed Eliana eight ounces, straight up, and there wasn’t even a burp at the end. She downed the bottle in about twelve minutes flat, and two minutes later, she was back up in her crib (read: Sleep-Training Baby Prison).

Instinctively, I woke up at 3 AM. No noise. Did I dare take a peek? Never!

4:09 AM: I’m awake again, but Eliana isn’t. Briefly, I wonder in earnest if she is dead. I suspect that normal people might think, “Hooray, the sleep training is working!” as opposed to “Did my kid just suffocate in there?” I take a deep breath and remind myself, “This is the goal, Ariel. The goal is that she not wake up.”

At 5:55 AM, I am up again…and astounded. Where on Earth is Eliana!? Panic sits in my throat, and I can’t help but envision myself calling 911 in horror. I vow that at 6 AM, I’m going in, whether she’s awake or not.

And sure enough, as if telepathically aware of my anxiety, I hear Eliana, kicking joyfully in her crib. She’s not even crying. Just playing in there, without a care in the world.

Holy shit—THAT was sleep training? THAT was it!?

Yeah. Right.

Night 5 of Sleep Training:

The next night, we followed the plan: the dream-feed at 11, but Eliana was being coy and only seemed to want 5 ounces. It seemed risky, and while forcing her to eat more food would have been preferable, there’s no real way to force a baby to eat when she doesn’t want to, is there? The old me would have found her resistance to food alarming and cause for sleep-training concern. The new me? Flying high from our win the night before, I cavalierly shrugged my shoulders.

And damn the torpedoes, we even stayed up until midnight watching a movie!
That was our first mistake. But it wouldn’t be our last.

The whining began at 1:30. Then at 2. Then at 3:30. I’m not actually even sure it ever stopped, but let me tell you, that happy baby I like to gloat about being a cheerful little bucket of chuckles? At 3:30 AM, that was no bucket o’ chuckles.

Oh, no. She was pissed. Really pissed. If babies could talk, mine would have said, “Look, lady, just because I gave you one night of sleep last night doesn’t mean I’m ‘trained’. Get over yourself. You’re not all that, Mommie Dearest.”

I stared at her in her crib, trying to think of what to do, and unfortunately, I did the only thing I thought would stop her from crying after the pacifier and vacuum sounding “sh-shing” failed.

I knew what I had to do. I felt ashamed, degraded, and broken, but I did it anyway. Worse, I knew I’d hate myself in the morning. But still, I did it: I popped out the boob. We sat on the glider. She feasted, and I admitted defeat yet again.

Total night sleep without a feeding: 11-3:30.

Number of middle-of-the-night fights with Husband during which I projected my anger at sleep-training onto him, thus transforming him into my unwilling scapegoat and guaranteeing bitter breakfast warfare: 2.

At 5:30 AM, she was hungry again. Already a broken, ruined woman, at her call, I came. I fed. She conquered. I left.

Night 6 of Sleep Training

Sleep-training has to go on, but so does our marriage, so for the first time in two months, it was Date Night.

Eliana had her last nursing session at 5, and with Lila plied with the promise of popcorn and movie night with her regular Babysitter, we were off.

For us, there was sushi. Plum wine. Conversations that reminded us that we weren’t just parents and that we actually happen to really like each other. A text to Babysitter: “All ok?” Response: “Everything’s great. Both girls are fast asleep and happy. Enjoy yourselves.”

When we arrived home, with me tipsier than I’d like to admit, it was clear from the ear-splitting screams that the Babysitter’s understanding of “everything’s great” is way different from mine, because in my view of that phrase, it usually means that my children don’t sound like they’re being murdered. And from the sound of screeching upstairs, Babysitter was ripping Eliana’s fingernails out of her fingers one by one.

No, everything was not “great.”

I ran up the stairs, my heart pounding in my chest.

In the dark of Eliana’s room, Babysitter tried to seem like she had her shit together as she said, “She woke up, so I changed her diaper and gave her some bottle. She was really hungry.”

I took Eliana from Babysitter’s arms and tried to remain cool. “Of course—thank you. Husband’s in the car waiting for you to take you home.” Oh, and PS: I’m never hiring you ever again.

As Eliana wailed, she looked into my eyes. Tears were streaming down her face, and my heart really hurt for the sweet girl. As we sat down together in the glider, she was panting. I held her bottle, or, shall I say, her ice-cold formula Slushee. No wonder the poor kid was screeching—some random high schooler she’d never met came into the room and gave her a bottle that felt like it had been through the Ice Age. For the first time, I saw something I’d never seen before in Eliana: fear. It made me feel sick to my stomach.

So I popped it out. She latched on, panting in fear. She nursed for ten minutes and passed out from the sheer exhaustion of her hysteria. That, or it was from too much plum wine at dinner.

At midnight, we heard her again. Husband went in with a bottle, but fell asleep on the couch in her room before he could feed her.

And the next we heard from her, it was 4:15 AM

Total uninterrupted sleep without a feeding: 9:20 PM-4:15 AM.

Guilt about leaving child with stranger she has personally never met before: intense.

Paranoia about alcohol in breast milk: high.

Delight at another long night of baby sleep? Endless.

***

            So it’s been nearly a week. Eliana still isn’t sleep-trained. She’s sleeping long stretches, but not necessarily at the times when we’d like her to. And yes, I realize it’s 100% selfish of me to want her to sleep longer and at the times I’d like her to. And yes, I know that sleeping five-hour stretches is considered “sleeping through the night.” And yes, I know that in all likelihood, I need to just let her “cry it out” instead of going in and soothing her. And yes, I know that we’re totally inconsistent, and that the ones being sleep-trained here are her stupid parents, the ones who go in, soothe, resist feeding, soothe, and then give in with feeding, thus negating the whole purpose.

But I’m also pretty sure that sleep training is largely emblematic of the whole endeavor of parenting. You try, you get frustrated, you’re surprised by yourself and your children, you’re delighted, you mess up, you’re ashamed, you try again, you think you’ve figured it out, you gloat, you’re knocked down some rungs, and then you try again. And it’s dirty and it’s messy and it’s emotional and it’s difficult and it’s triumphant. And sometimes, just once in a while, if you’re really lucky, you get a win.

But you never stop trying.

So tonight, we try again.

 

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Dream Feeder, I Believe You Can Get Me Through the Night: Sleep Training, Part Three

It’s time for a huddle.

Last night, Husband, aka The Underminer, unraveled the plan.

Truly, it is SO hard to find good help these days, isn’t it?

On the mend from his stomach virus, Husband eagerly volunteered to get back on board with the night feedings. I briefed him on our agenda:

1) Dream-feed somewhere between 10-11 PM

2) Pacifier anytime after that before 5 AM

3) Pray for the best

4) DO NOT BREAK. (Never mind that I broke the night before. Any parenting couple knows that Mommy gets away with anything because she is Mommy, and let’s face it, she’s the final authority, but if Daddy does the exact same thing that Mommy herself would have done—but was mad at herself for doing? Murder and mayhem ensue. Nothing like a parenting double-standard to keep you on your toes!)

I thought we were both on board with the plan. As you may notice, this plan is not complex. It requires emotional and psychological stamina, but the methodology is not so fancy.

However. (Imagine me seething, nostrils flaring like an angered bull as I write this.)

Rather than “dream feeding” Eliana the six ounce bottle of “Baby Ambien” (read: formula) somewhere between 10-11 PM as the plan clearly outlined, Daddy decided he’d just feed her the first time she woke up.

Presumably, the men reading this may (incorrectly) think there is nothing wrong with Daddy’s plan. You may think he was thinking rationally.

Ladies, please. You know the truth.

And hell hath no fury like a sleep training mommy whose agenda has been scorned.

As any sleep-deprived mommy can tell you, Daddy’s undermining, off-the-reservation plan negates the whole purpose of our sleep-training program. Because with Daddy popping in for a jovial drink and cuddle when Eliana wants it, she is still getting what she wants when she wakes up. She will not be able to distinguish between why she gets up the first time and someone feeds her, whereas all subsequent times, she does not get fed.

And yet.

He fed her at 1:28 AM last night (“or did I finish at 1:30?” Seriously, Daddy? CAN YOU NOT LOOK AT A CLOCK AND TAKE NOTE!?). Husband reported, “It was the first time she ever had powdered formula instead of the liquid stuff. She loved it.”

The next time Eliana woke up was at 5:01 AM. That little genius knew that I wouldn’t go in there until past five…so she just held out for the clock. I don’t know whether to hate her or sign her up for an infant gifted program.

Today, after Lila and Eliana were in bed, and Husband and I sat down for dinner tonight, I tried calmly to state my case and enumerate the flaws in his plan without sounding like a judgmental bitch. I was going for “easy, approachable gal who works with Husband as co-parents” demeanor, even though we all know that no matter how awesome your husband is (and yeah, mine is really awesome), co-parenting is a myth made up by guilt-ridden men because really, this whole parenting thing just doesn’t break down 50-50 ever. 60-40…still dreaming. 65-35? Closer, at best.

Me: So….let’s talk about what happened last night.

Husband (innocently): Huh?

Me: Yeah, with the sleep training.

Husband: I fed her at 1:30ish. Or maybe I finished at 1:30ish? I don’t know. She ate six ounces pretty fast. Maybe tonight I should give her eight ounces.

Me (quietly seething): Remember how we talked about dream-feeding her?

Husband: I just figured I’d wait until she woke up.

Me (losing my cool): Right…but that was not on plan!

Husband: I think you and I are approaching this in different ways.

Me (thinking: “Mine is the right way”): What do you mean?

Husband: You want to eliminate all night feedings.

Me (trying very hard not to sound patronizing): Yes.

Husband: But you can’t just cut out all night feedings at once.

Me: Yes, you can.

Husband: That’s like trying to lose 100 pounds at once. How about we go for 2 pounds? Eliminate the TWO night feedings…let’s just get her down to one.

Me (thinking about this, as it does actually make sense): Yeah, I guess that makes sense. (Filling with self-doubt) But then what have I been doing these past 3 nights?

Husband: Sleep training?

Question mark, indeed.

About twenty minutes later, after I explained the concept of dream-feeding (for the record, AGAIN), Husband said, “Oh! So that’s what a dream feed is. I didn’t really get what you were talking about. Now I get it.”

“So are you on board? Feed her at 10 or 11? No more feeding until 5 AM? Pacify in between?”

“Yeah, yeah. Sure.”

So here we are: night #3.

Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but I can’t help but think of Lady Macbeth all these nights. And while she speaks to figments of her imagination, tonight, when Husband does that dream-feed (now that we know what dream feeds are), I will think of Lady Macbeth’s final words: “come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone.—To bed, to bed, to bed!”

So here we go, Eliana. Take three: “To bed, to bed, to bed!”

 

Postscript: Husband has read this blog post and claims, “I don’t think we ever talked about dream feeding at night. I don’t think we ever had that conversation.”

ARGH.

The Night Watch: Sleep Training, Part Deux

The war wages on: last night was night #2 of sleep training.

The battleground looked ripe for victory. As anyone who has ever sleep-trained knows, the first night is like climbing a mountain pass, blind and drunk. The second night is more like managing a hangover, wishing you were deaf.

Adding a complication to the sleep-training plan last night: Husband inconveniently became violently ill last night, thus meaning 1) I wasn’t going to sleep in the same bed as him out of fear that I could make either Eliana or Lila sick (and much though I hate waking up to feed a kid at night, it is still preferred over cleaning up vomit or diarrhea) and 2) Mommy was flying solo on the sleep training bus, and going to sleep in Eliana’s room on the couch for the duration.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Ariel, why do this to yourself? Why not postpone sleep training for a better time when you don’t have to sleep on the couch in Eliana’s room? Why not forfeit the game? Rain date?

Because that’s the way losers talk, that’s why. And Eliana can’t get out of this that easily. That, and I’d already invested a night. This was no time for losers. We are the champions.

At ten PM, things were looking good. Real good. Husband was asleep in our bed. Lila was asleep in hers. Eliana was sleeping in the crib. The house was blissfully quiet, and for a moment, I almost choked on the plan and went to sleep myself. Maintaining my moxie, though, at eleven PM, as planned, I got the bottle of formula, or, as I had been building it up in my head, “the Baby Ambien”.

Smugly, I walked into Eliana’s room. Poor kid didn’t know I had some tricks up my sleeve. And while I know from dear Dr. Weissbluth from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby that I should never, ever wake a sleeping baby, let me tell you, it felt really good to wake a sleeping baby. Karma, my dear baby friend, is a bitch sometimes.

As I reached into her crib, Eliana gave me the old “one-eye,” by which I mean she opened her left eye suspiciously while scrunching the right one tightly closed. She let her eyelids relax, and as I held her body in my arms as we sat together in the glider, I did the “dream feed,” which, all in all, was pretty creepy. I mean, there’s no getting around this one: it is weird to force-feed your child, while she sleeps, six ounces of formula. Weirder: she was into it.

I tried for a burp, but came up empty-handed (With our first child, the burping lasted ten minutes until I admitted defeat. With Eliana, I’m lucky if I make it to forty-five seconds.). I placed her gingerly in her crib and backed away…slowly, slowly. Must not disturb the beast. She twisted her body, turned on her right side, and that was it.

Miracle! So far—the game strongly looked like it was headed in Mommy’s favor.

I set up camp on the couch in Eliana’s bedroom, popped in some earplugs, and got ready for the battle ahead.

All was going well.

Then, the clock struck 1:53 AM.

“Eh. Eh. Eh. Eh? EH? EH!?”

For whom doth that whine toll? It tolls for thee, Mommy. It tolls for thee.

Fact 1: I was pissed that Eliana didn’t even make it three hours. Really? Really!? C’mon, Eliana. Seriously.

Fact 2: She couldn’t break me. Not this early.

Blind without my contacts and having stupidly left my glasses in our quarantined bedroom, I wandered over to Eliana’s crib, stubbed my toe, cursed, and then found a vagrant binky in the crib to pop in her mouth.

Amazingly, this seemed to quell the beast. She went back to her corner, and I returned to mine.

2:33 AM: thirty minutes after our last show-down, I heard the honey-sweet manipulations of a four-month-old yet again: “Eh. Eh. Eh! Eh!” (Insert muffled giggling and incoherent babbling accompanied by kicking sounds that would astound the Rockettes.)

Stubbing my toe AGAIN, I get to Eliana’s crib. My hands desperately search for a binky in the darkness, which, miraculously they find. Still blind without my glasses, which rest comfortably on the nightstand in our bedroom that is under quarantine with sick Husband, I try to shove the binky in Eliana’s mouth but mistakenly tap her eyeball with the pacifier instead. She whines—and in fairness, she has every right to because who really likes a plastic nipple jabbed at their cornea?— but when I find her mouth, the binky goes in, and she has been tamed.

Mommy: 2. Eliana: 0.

Sleep training? Piece o’ cake!

We return to our corners, and I fall asleep with a smile on my face. I have conquered the minotaur! Now I simply need to find my way out of the maze, back to reality.

3:34 AM rolls around. This time, Eliana means business. She starts whining, in a sad, adorable way that is clearly designed to tug at my heartstrings. Stay strong, Mommy. Stay strong. You’re exactly where she wants you!

But the cries grow louder. And I’m so, so very tired. The couch is killing my back. I can’t really sleep. My mind starts racing with things I need to prepare for my classes tomorrow. How can I teach when I’m exhausted? My heart starts to race with irrational anger. Furiously, I envision “sick” Husband luxuriating in bed while I feel sore all over, exhausted, and on the brink of tears myself.

I put the binky in again. For a moment, I consider shoving it in my own mouth to help me with a little self-soothing.

To show her disgust with the night’s events, Eliana spits the binky out angrily, wrinkles her face, and starts to really howl. Time? 3:39 AM.

I close my eyes. I walk out of the room. We need some distance. I shut her door behind me. I sit on the floor of the hallway and dreamily wish that I had a job that would send me far, far away on a business trip, as my Husband’s job often does, thus absolving me from one twelve hour period of night watch. My kingdom for a night of sleep. One night. One night of uninterrupted sleep.

To sleep! Perchance to dream! To enter REM sleep! I could…I could…I could…if.

If I give in.

Eliana continues to whimper in her crib. If whimpers had meaning, hers would be, “Mercy, Mommy. Mercy!”

But if I give in…if I give in, how will I respect myself in the morning? I’ll have to do a whole new “walk of shame” at dawn. What kind of woman am I if I can’t even keep a resolution to myself to sleep train my child?

Eliana starts to wail. Lila starts to cough down the hall. Husband sleeps peacefully in the bedroom.

Kill me now.

I lie down on the floor and try to come up with a plan. Option 1: Let her “cry it out” and wake up Lila and Husband. Option 2: Give in. Suck it up, and give in.

She’s made it long enough, I try to convince myself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Slowly, slowly. Let her build up to it. You didn’t just wake up one day and run a 5K, Ariel. You trained for it. Let her train. Let her work. Teach her the value of stick-to-it-iveness! It’s called “sleep-training,” after all, not “sleep-miracle.” Alcoholics can’t quit over night, so neither can a baby who wants a drink. One drink at a time = one night at a time. One hour at a time!

She cries some more. I put my hand on the doorknob.

Don’t do it. Don’t go in there. You won’t respect yourself. What kind of wimp gives up like this? You’ve already invested 2 odd hours in this, Ariel. Go the distance! Finish the job!

I take a deep breath. My eyes are sore from lack of sleep, and I feel sick, I’m so tired.

My palm rests on the doorknob, and in that second, it happens. The decision has been made.

I open the door to her room and walk to her crib. She looks at me beseechingly. I look at her angrily. Her arms reach to mine, and mine to hers, and before I know it: here we go again.

In the glider, popping out a boob, giving her what she wants.

Game point: Eliana.

Tonight, we try again.

All Night Long (She’s Gonna Give It To Me Give It To Me Give It To Me Give It To Me)

“So is she sleeping through the night yet?”

Few questions enrage me as much as this one.

So let’s just get it out there: No, she is not sleeping through the night. And if you could refrain from showering me with your faux sympathy while you simultaneously herald how your awesome child has been sleeping through the night since she was a week and a half old, that would be great, thanks.

Oh, and PS: Fuck you.

So, do I sound cranky?

Now that Eliana is officially four months old, it’s sleep training time, baby. Like every parent who has ever lived, I’m really just sick and tired of this waking up at night thing. And I realize that that is not a very maternal thing to say or feel. With every wake-up, I really do try to remind myself, “This is a blessing. Having a baby is blessing.” And truth be told, Eliana is a very pleasant baby to be around in the middle of the night.

Let me lay my cards out on the table in terms of how shit shakes down in our house at night, because all parents of non-sleeping-through-the-night-children like to compare “crib sheets” if you will. (I couldn’t avoid that one, sorry.) After her bath around 5:30/6ish, Eliana gets cranky, by which I mean she yawns and rubs her eyes. I pick her up, bring her upstairs, and put her in her crib wide-awake. Generally, she looks at me with this forlorn doe-eyed look that I interpet as, “Mommy? Can I please have some snuggly night-time affection right about now?” Sadly, Lila is whining for me downstairs, so I kiss Eliana on her head, shut the door, and hope for the best. Unless Lila is willing to help me in Eliana’s room to put her to sleep, there’s no reading, no singing, no mother-daughter bonding. It is clinical and without emotion, simply because Lila simultaneously needs to eat dinner, and I’m flying solo around here at that hour. To her credit, Eliana generally falls asleep easily on her own if I catch that magic drowsy window, and she then stays asleep until around midnight or one AM, giving us an amazing seven-ish hour stretch, which has nothing to do with my parenting at all, but for which I will take the credit anyway. So thank you, yes, I’m a superior parent, and I’ve made that seven hour stretch of sleep happen all on my own. Well, that and Eliana’s own biological and physiological development as a four-month old and her personal circadian rhythm, but please, let’s not quibble about details here.

During the night wakings: 1) Husband and I hear Eliana giggling and babbling in her crib for ten minutes, so to avoid her waking up Lila (which has happened before…dear Lord, please let that never happen EVER again), I nurse Eliana for five minutes; 2) I diaper her—which apparently brings her such unbridled joy and personal satisfaction that she cannot help but bubble over with uncontrollable giggles; I take this as the baby’s version of “my compliments to the chef” wherein “chef” means “person who wipes the shit off my ass for free”; 3) I nurse her again for another five minutes; 4) Without making eye contact, I dump Eliana in the crib, wide-awake and cheerful, at which point I assume she either eventually falls back asleep or has extraordinarily complex and philosophical conversations with the cartoon owls on her crib sheet. The whole late-night-show lasts a whopping fifteen minutes. And I’m not even doing all the night feedings. Husband does the first one at 1 AM while I do the second one around 4 AM.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a healthy, happy baby, who, yes, likes a little snack and company at night. She’s not that unlike her mother, truth be told.

And yet.

Yet, yet, yet, yet, yet.

I’m still an angry, tired, resentful, cranky bitch.

Talk to any parents—and I don’t care how many or few children they have had—and they too will all be plagued by this impossible dream: the desire for an uninterrupted night of sleep.

Some parents out there—with four-month-old babies, just like Eliana— are already living this dream.

And I hate them.

I hate that they say so cavalierly things like, “Oh yeah, he just started doing it on his own.” Just this morning, a teacher I work with said, “Oh, you know, my daughter (five months) just had a hard night last night…she went down at 7:30 and then woke up at 6:30.” Then she had the balls to say, “I read somewhere that babies who sleep train themselves learn to talk sooner also.”

It took every fiber of self-restraint I had at that moment not to stab her in the neck with the mechanical pencil in my hand.

So in a quest to be more like the people I hate, I’ve become a mommy with a mission. I’ve read The Sleep Lady. I’ve read 12 Hours in 12 Weeks. I’ve read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby. I know all about Ferberizing, extinction cry-it-out, gradual extinction cry-it-out, and “dream feedings” whereby you go into your baby’s room before you go to bed, force the kid to suck down a couple of ounces, and then disappear into the night sky.

And I read this all with Lila too…and the kid still didn’t sleep through the night officially until she was nine months old.

So armed and ready, two nights ago, I thought, Let’s do this thing. Because as I know well from all my reading, once a child hits eleven pounds, there is no metabolic reason for that child to wake up for night feedings. And Eliana is fifteen pounds, at least.

Oh yeah. Game ON, bitches.

Unaware of the shit that was about to go down, Eliana was an oblivious delight at bedtime. She rubbed her eyes. She yawned. I put her in her crib. She smiled at me. I smiled back. I kissed her head. That was it.

God, I love that kid.

Hours ticked by. Husband and I strategized. The Plan: We would feed her a bottle at eleven PM before we turned in, even if she didn’t wake up for it. A dream-feed, and then if she woke up later, we’d “soothe” without taking her out of the crib.

All seemed to go well; Husband gave her a bottle, and as he returned to bed, triumphant. “She drank the whole thing!”

Operation Restore Life Happiness was well underway.

At 3:08 AM, though, that was when we heard it. The babbling. The giggling. Eliana’s chattering was so loud, it was as if I could hear eleven-years into the future her fifth grade sleepover party.

Ready to show her who was boss, I went into the room. I did not smile, in spite of the huge grin on her face. Without emotion, I plugged the pacifier in her mouth. And I bid her adieu.

At 3:17, the babbling continued. It sounded thoughtful. Inquisitive, almost. As if she were wondering, “Mommy? Daddy? Um…I ordered a drink? What’s it take to get service around here?”

Unwilling to bend, I went into her room, said “shhhh” in a kind of soothing/vacuum cleaner kind of way, and plugged in that binky. Then I left.

At 3:39, Eliana was starting to get pissed, sort of the way you get pissed when you order in a restaurant, and you’ve been waiting to be served your appetizer for forty minutes. The cries were changing from, “Uh, hey, guys?” to “Uh, HEY! GUYS!”

Still, stubborn fool that I am, I went into her room, this time with a stern look on my face. We looked at each other; she smiled again, clearly in an attempt to out-maneuver me. I put the binky in her mouth firmly, more with anger than with love. I returned to bed.

The babbling and giggling then transformed into crying. Simultaneously, Lila woke up, coughing non-stop. Husband and I broke: he would take Lila, I would take Eliana. My job was easy: I went to her room. I binked her. I left. Her expression was  embittered and wrathful.

There: at least we were now on the same page.

Lila continued coughing, so Husband and I met for a 4:08 game plan adjustment.

“Do you want to nebulize her?”

“Do you think I need to?”
“She’s gonna keep coughing. Eliana woke her up?”

“Yeah.”

“Eliana’s not going back to sleep. I keep soothing, and it’s not working.”

“So go feed her?”

I felt fury rise in my chest, and my face get hot. Husband did the impossible: he suggested admitting defeat…the same defeat that had cowering in my brain, getting louder every minute, for the past half hour.
“FEED HER?! Are you fucking nuts? Then that will have derailed everything I’ve been doing! I’ll have wasted the whole night! The whole point of it is NOT to feed her!”

“So what do you want to do?”

“FINE. I’ll feed her!”

With a self-righteous huff, I turned towards Eliana’s room. I walked down the hallway, my feet dragging on the carpet. I had read all the books. I had prepared for the game. I’d run through all the scenarios in my head. But still, at 4:11, I admitted defeat. As I took a furious Eliana out of her crib, slumped into the glider, and popped out the boob, I had the sinking feeling that she had won. Eliana, 1. Mommy, 0. It was the Battle of Thermopylae, and I was the fallen Spartans.

FUCK.

Tonight, it’s a rematch. This night’s game plan: I will stupefy her with a bottle of formula instead of breast milk at approximately 11 PM, with the hope that this new concoction will “stick to her guts more than milk” (former baby nurse Ingrid’s terminology, not mine). All the sleep books say that this is a myth—that formula won’t make a kid sleep any longer than breast milk; we’ll see about that. Then, Eliana, having slept with the equivalent of a belly filled with lead, will miraculously wake up tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM, refreshed, renewed, giving herself, her mommy, her daddy and her sister a new lease on life.

Let the games begin!

Stay tuned for updates…

Cruising for Chicks

When you have a baby, there are certain things you expect: sleepless nights, moments of wide-eyed amazement (yours and the baby’s), hours of paranoia, an extra five pounds of what appears to be dough glued to your waist, and, in all likelihood, the desire to, at some point, have another one. (Aren’t you amazed that, even after a shitty pregnancy or an evening with a screechy newborn vomiting in your lap, you’ve already found yourself wondering: “So… when can I have another one?” You sick, sick weirdo.)

That’s what you expect when you’re expecting.

What you don’t expect is that, shortly after having a baby, you’re gonna be on the prowl.

No, hot mama, you’re not ditching your man to go cruise for some boytoy.

You’ve got bigger goals.

You, my dear, are cruising the preschool parking lot for moms.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Once upon a time you trolled bars, websites, and friends of friends looking for guys until you met your special one. But now? You have a much, much harder goal.

You’re going mommy-dating. And a good woman is really hard to find these days.

Mommy-dating is a leisure activity that I hadn’t anticipated either time I was pregnant. But yet somehow, shortly after popping a watermelon out of my vagina, the instinct was there: I’ve got to meet someone. Someone nice. Someone funny. Someone smart. Someone real. Someone with whom I would actually choose to be friends—not just someone I’m friends with because we both have babies. Someone who will laugh with me at the absurdities of parenthood and cry with me—or at least let me cry on her— over the things that are too hard, too terrifying, too overwhelming. Someone who will help heal the bone-crushing loneliness that inevitably comes at one point or another with having a newborn, no matter how cute that little mush-face is.

I remember very clearly the first moment I realized I needed a mom friend when Lila was born. She was sixteen days old; the nurse had just left, and I was feeling beyond lonely. Even now, three years later, I can still recall with razor-sharp clarity the sound of my husband closing our apartment door behind him at 8:01 as he left for the day for work. I’d look at Lila. She’d look at me. I’d say, half-ironically, “Who’s ready to have a great day?” She’d look back at me blankly. I’d look at her blankly. I’d look at the clock: 8:02.

Holy. Shit. What kind of people can do this flying solo all day long? Once upon a time, I used to judge the nannies hanging out in gangs at the parks on the Upper East Side. I used to look at them with such derision, pitying the poor parents who had hired these women to sit on a park bench and talk to each other while the un-nurtured babies stared emptily out into the abyss.

But man oh man, did I get it once I had Lila. When you have a new baby, you NEED someone to talk to, because, let’s face it, you can only narrate your day for the baby’s well-being for so long before you feel like it’s time to lock yourself up in an insane asylum. (Said in extremely irritating “Motherese” voice: “Is Mommy going to put the dishes away? Yes, Mommy is! Is Mommy going to walk across the room to pick up that piece of lint on the floor? Yes, Mommy is! Is Mommy thinking about slamming her head against a wall because she feels she has entirely sacrificed her own intellectual well-being and adult mental capacity by spending the day by narrating the minutiae of her life to an uninterested baby? Yes, Mommy is! Does Mommy feel guilty about having that thought just now? Yes, Mommy does!”).

And thus, Mommy-dating is born from any thinking woman’s need to talk to someone—anyone—other than a baby all day.

When I had Lila, I hightailed it to a new moms class at the 92nd Street Y in New York, thinking this would be the place where I could meet “the one”. I also attended a breastfeeding class (which is basically what porn looks like gone horribly, horribly awry). While I met only one nice mommy whom I legitimately liked/still like at these venues, I mostly sat on the ground with Lila in my arms thinking, “Who are these people and why are they talking about hiring a professional to come in and sleep-train their baby?” I also recall thinking, “That woman who says her three-week-old sleeps through the night is a liar, and I’m going to trip her on the way out.” And of course, “Why does that woman have a Louis Vuitton diaper bag?” I would routinely glance at my sad little diaper bag, lamenting already the ways in which my baby was living a life of hard-knocks compared to the well-heeled upper class of infant society. Occasionally, I also had disparaging thoughts about the other babies, which was cruel, but given that a woman in the hospital had openly commented that Lila “looked like a monkey” on the day she was born, I felt I had earned my sinfully delicious schadenfreude. That and the fact that at that particular moment in time, Lila had such bad cradle cap and baby exzema that the poor kid legitimately looked like the crypt keeper. And yes, I liked throwing rocks even though I too lived in a glass house.

With Eliana, the need for mommy friends is less urgent. Both of my sisters have three children; one of these children is only two days older than Eliana. And there are still the remaining mommy friends from Lila’s infantdom; many of these women are on the same “track” as I am, and in spacing their children three years apart, they too have their second child who is Eliana’s age to go with their parallel three-year-old.

But still. Like an online dating addict, I find myself gravitating back to mommy-get-togethers. Searching for someone special. Someone who gets it. Someone who gets me. Someone whom I can call and say, “Does your kid make spit bubbles for fifteen minutes at a time and then shove her whole fist in her mouth?” and then have them say, “Yes.” I have some of these women in my life already, and I am grateful for them beyond words. But still…I keep looking.

This past Tuesday there was a get-together for parents (read: mothers) of children in Lila’s class. As I got ready, I realized there was something seriously fucked up about all of this: why was I putting on more makeup for these women than I did for Husband when we went out? Why was I pouring myself into a pair of Joe’s jeans instead of going out in my crappy, dirty cords? Why was I wearing perfume?

Not. Normal.

I got to the bar, giddy with the feeling that I would not be in Baby World for at least 2 hours. The other moms were well groomed, too; it was clear upon arrival that no one had errant noodles or stickers stuck to their pants, which is really a quality I admire in women. It shows self-respect. Additionally, they had all been able to make it to the get-together, which meant that a. they too were looking for a good time (get your mind out of the gutter—that’s not what I meant) and b. their husbands were taking care of the kids, which is another quality I look for in a woman: a woman who isn’t going to be the martyr.

The lights were low. The ambience was good. The cocktails were flowing (for those of us who weren’t nursing…sigh). And boy, did it feel good to just sit at a table with some smart women talking about our toddlers’ crushes on one another.

At the end of the night, I got some new Facebook friends. I made some tentative playdates. I promised myself I wouldn’t forget their names.

And with that, I was on the prowl once more.