We Were Warned

I was so proud of my daughter being a really great baby – like not spitting up and sleeping well and only crying when she was gassy. Ok ok, I still am proud of my daughter because I am still loving every minute of her short one-month life. Upon looking at her sleep routine from week 2, I’m curious to track how her sleep habits have changed.

Sara and I are routine people. Really routine people. We love our daily rituals of how to wake up, make the bed, care for ourselves, care for Coda, make our breakfast, drink our coffee, work from home, eat lunch together, use our checklists, end our days by packing up our computers and notebooks, making dinner together, being together in the evening, ending our days at our bathroom sinks and reading before bed.

Again with the conflicting advice: “you won’t be able to keep any routine when the baby comes” or “you need to make sure you establish a routine because babies thrive on routines”. Everybody had thoughts about a routine with a baby, and like all the advice I’ve received so far, it conflicts with advice others have given me.

From day 1 of bringing Ellie home, we had been keeping a log called the Baby’s Eat, Sleep & Poop Journal. At first, Eleanor slept all the time. If Eleanor wasn’t sleeping, she was awake for no more than 25 minutes to eat. That lasted easily until around day 16 or so. It seemed like the baby thing was going to be easy. Our lives stayed the same except for a break every once in a while to feed, burp, and change Ellie.

On day 16, she awoke at 10am and stayed wide-eyed and awake, kicking her feet and moving her arms after her bottle. This lasted for about 45 minutes or so when she dozed and went back to that barely awake for 25 minutes we know and love. That soon became a 10am and 6pm wakeful period. Then 10am, 1pm, 6pm. Almost like clockwork, the wakeful periods grew more frequent and the sleeping periods became further between. Great! This is the time when we get to read her stories, and talk to her, and make funny faces. Then she goes to sleep and parenting is so much fun!

By early September, there was a specific pattern developing of feeding, then nap, then wakefulness until she was hungry again. Her nights were starting to develop a 10pm, 2am, 5am routine as well. It seemed like we were nailing this parenting thing.

Then came week five.

We were warned in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth that there is a period in baby’s development between week 4 and week 6 where Ellie’s brain is hard at work. She’s transitioning from a blobby newborn to a learning infant. Her brain is making connections fast during this period. She’s taking in so much information. Her body will go through a giant growth spurt. We knew this was coming, but knowing is not the same thing as experiencing.

I created The Crying Checklist during this time to help my brain try to remember all the options. Eleanor cried and would not go down to sleep consistently after the 2am feeding and during the morning and again in the afternoon. She cried until I held her, and then after holding her for several minutes, she’d cry until I put her down.

This dance has continued through her fifth week with little sign of letting up. This makes it impossible to schedule calls to work from home – not knowing when she’ll yell at the top of her lungs with no reprieve. Again, I do cite this particular situation to see why European countries allow for months of parent-leave. But… ‘Merica.

Sara and I have been reading the internet (I won’t call it “research” because that term is now abused to justify whatever our beliefs were before we typed some words into Google) about a phenomenon called Purple Crying. It’s a period that’s been called many names like “the witching hour” or “your baby is colicky.” According to Dr. Weissbluth, this isn’t colic because it’s temporary – your baby will go through it for a short period and then come out on the other side as though you have the happiest baby in the world.

The articles we’ve read all seem to include a section on shaken baby syndrome and a plea that no matter how much your baby cries, don’t shake your baby. Got it. Don’t shake my baby. There’s also another phrase that continues to come up in each article:

Being a new parent is hard.

About 372,000 results on Google

I both agree and disagree. Being a new parent is hard in the way that learning to live with anxiety is hard, in the way that eating right and exercising your body is hard, the way that doing the dishes before you go to bed each night and don’t leave them for tomorrow is hard. I don’t say this to judge parents who are struggling to adjust. I say this to ensure I maintain perspective that all worthwhile endeavors in life involve some degree of “hard.”

Yes. It is hard. But it’s the best kind of hard. The kind of hard that is worthwhile. The kind of hard that you come out on the other side with mountains of memories that make life worth living. The kind of hard that immortalizes your life’s story, and you tell it to your children and their children. So I want to be sure that while I recognize it is hard, hard is usually a wonderful thing.

The best way to summarize the purple crying period is I can still have my routine, but the first node in my decision tree has become “is the baby crying right now?” If yes, attend to the crying list. If no, continue on with my daily routine to continue to do the things that work for me and my family. This may seem extremely rigid, but when I’m running on very little sleep, the more I can automate my decision-making and avoid decision fatigue, the happier we all are as a family.

Published by @electrickduckdesigns

Eight days into motherhood, I needed a place to be myself again. Follow me as I grow into this new role.

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