Still When I’m a Mess, I Still Put On a Vest…

… With an S on my chest
Oh yes, I’m a super woman

-Alicia Keys

This past Monday marked the day that our son turned one month old. He is gradually getting bigger, but I cannot, for the life of me, figure out who he looks like. I think his face changes every few days. The good news is, he does not look like a wingless bat anymore. Sadly, as it was to be expected, he does not do to much beyond crying, sleeping, pooping, and eating (in that order… maybe with some extra crying and pooping in between).

During this past month, I have discovered learned a bit about my own limits, which mainly correlates with our son’s sleep patterns. My main realization: women are stronger than men… well, at least my partner is stronger than I am.

How did I discover this? By trying to rock our son to sleep.

Last week, I get home from work, and our son is crying. My partner had been getting tiny fragments of sleep over the previous twenty hours, so I take it upon myself to put him to sleep, thus allowing my partner to grab a bite to eat and maybe a few extra consecutive hours of shuteye.

After swaddling the little one, I whisk him away to the other room, where I assume the relative darkness and silence will quickly put him to sleep. Goodness gracious, I could not be more wrong. The blanket-wrapped infant will not go to sleep. He cries, grunts, then relaxes–staring off at the shadows on the wall, then repeats the cycle again.

I try a variety of repetitive movements to lull him to sleep. First I rock him back and fourth by hinging my arms at my shoulders–the universal movement for rocking a baby to sleep in sing-alongs. Doesn’t work. Next I try twisting back and fourth. Unsuccessful. Next I attempt walking. No dice.

As my frustration grows, I begin reflecting on the considerable lack of exercise I have been able to fit in since his birth. It was at this moment I decided to kill two birds with one stone–I will rock him to sleep while doing a series of yoga moves I have learned from our “Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss” DVD.

Gradually, I begin incorporating lunges and twists into the rocking. Making sure to “breathe deeply in through my nose, and out through my nose,” while “feeling my feet rooted to the earth,” as instructor, Suzanne Deason likes to remind me.

Ten minutes pass; he is staring at my hair like it is the most fascinating entity on the planet–isn’t that cute. Fifteen minutes pass; the little one is nodding off a bit, but can’t seem to commit to sleeping, and my joints are cracking. Twenty minutes pass; our son seems to be fighting the sleep just to spite me. Furthermore, I am attempting, without any success, to

Are you amused by my discomfort derived from the incorrect practice of your teachings, Ms. Deason?

“focus my intentions without hardening my mind,” and wondering what the f#c% Suzanne Deason means when she commands me to do such a thing. Forty minutes pass; he finally seems to be asleep, which is good since my back hurts, and I am barely able to make any discernible rocking movements at this point as I am seriously fatigued.

Upon exiting the room, I pass a mirror. Perspiration is dripping down my sideburns, my cheeks are a bit flushed, and my shirt is sticking to my back and chest due to the sweat I have just worked up. Nevertheless, I am feeling pretty good about “working out.”

Just as I am about to sit down to relax, I hear a cry from behind. Our son is awake again.

I will spare you the details of this particularly epic diaper changing and just sum it up with the following statistics: one swaddling blanket change, two outfit changes, five diapers used, in a seven minute time frame; plus forty more minutes of hushing the little one to sleep.

Once he goes to sleep, what do I do? Take a nap? No. Lay down for a bit? Nope. Zone out on the television? Uhh… negative. I sit, hunched over in a chair, doing useless things on the internet.

Now, in a previous life, this would have been semi-acceptable. I mean, I might sleep in a bit the next day, maybe wake up a bit more fatigued. But on this night, such a simple act turned out to be a major miscalculation. I stay up for the eleven o’clock feeding, do yoga-lite to put him to sleep, and finally hit the hay at midnight.

Three in the morning marks the moment of painful enlightenment for me. Our son cries out for a feeding. I jump out of bed and my lower back locks up into one giant knot. Simultaneously, I am hit with a severe spell of dizziness, and I almost crash to the floor. With my stomach clenched to stabilize my back, and the room reeling a little bit less, I scoop up the little noisemaker, and make my way to the kitchen to prepare a bottle.

Everything hurts–my back, my head, my ankles–and wait, do I need to pee too? Shifting my weight from one foot to another, doing the rhythmic pee dance I have been practicing since I was two years old, I clumsily get a glass of water in the microwave (man, I need to pee). Dropping the small container of breast milk into the warm water, I spin in search of a clean nipple (why won’t you stop crying?). In a state of near-panic I try to unscrew the breast milk container with only one hand as the other side of my body is committed to the task of getting a hungry baby to refrain from waking the entire neighborhood (please don’t spill the milk).

After what seems like an eternity, I make my way back to the couch–baby in one arm, bottle in the other. My partner passes by silently on her way to her scheduled pumping.

“It hurts,” I whine, in a state of borderline delirium. My bladder feels like it is going to explode, and I am somehow, through the fog of relative insanity, weighing the relative merits of: a) rocking back and forth to keep myself from peeing, but disturbing the feeding and evoking the wrath of the back spasms; b) engaging my back muscles to stay still enough to feed, which will certainly be painful, while putting me in risk of peeing in my pants; c) engaging my stomach muscles as I recline, which will place baby in reclined position as well, which usually leads to hiccups and gas, and does nothing to keep me from using the floor in front of me as a urinal.

From behind me in the kitchen, I can hear the rhythmic, almost techno-esque, beat of the breast pump at work. Using the bass line as a distraction from the need to relieve myself, I stabilize myself enough to feed the little one. “It hurts,” I whisper to nobody in particular; referring to no specific pain in particular.

The breast pump, masquerading as an electronic drum machine, goes silent. “I need to pee,” I say, my stomach cramping. Through the darkness I can see my partner giving me a knowing smile. Gracefully, with outstretched arms, she gathers up our child in one fluid motion.

I rush off to the bathroom to take care of one of my numerous pains. Upon my return to the dark room, in between gentle hushes, I hear, “go to sleep.”

Feeling a mixture of relief, defeat, gratitude, and shame, I make my way to bed, and fall asleep. During the few moments between the instant I laid my head upon my pillow, and the second I fell asleep, only one thought repeated in my head, she does this every day; man, is she strong.

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