the night shift

Because I had a C-section, my initial plan of staying in the small one’s room and handling all the nightly duties on my own (the theory being that my husband plays with knives and fire in a kitchen all day, so his being sleep deprived could be a bit more damaging than your average office worker)  was put on hold due to my inability to get out of bed and hold a child at the same time.  This turned out to be a boon for me, as I would simply lean over and grab the small one out of the bassinet during our first week+, nurse him, and then wake up my husband to handle burping and diaper changing.  It didn’t actually mean I got any more sleep, but besides trips to the bathroom, I never had to leave the bed (not to mention the wonder that is skipping middle of the night diaper duty).

Now that I’m mostly on the mend, I’ve taken over the night shift.  I’m in the nursery sleeping in a double bed (which I actually find much more comfortable than my bed, as the husband prefers to sleep on the mattress equivalent of concrete, and the double is a pillow top) a few feet away from the crib.  And it’s going okay.  I say okay because I’ve yet to fall asleep while holding the child, and I haven’t tripped on anything or knocked anything over in my tired wonkiness.  That being said, while I wish the small one could stay tiny forever, I’m not going to be too disappointed when he first learns to sleep 5 hours in a row (although I’d take 4 in a heartbeat).

Here’s a sample of how the whole thing goes down (the times are merely illustrative, we so aren’t on a tight schedule… yet):

10PM – feed the small one while downstairs, hand him to husband for a diaper change/burp while I head upstairs to get ready for bed.  Ideally we have him down within a half hour, but it can take as long as an hour and a half depending on god knows what goes on in the small one’s fickle little brain.

11 PM – 1 AM – I get to sleep, occasionally interrupted by a half-hearted cry or squeak from the small one, and usually a simple “it’s okay baby, I’m right here” called from beneath my covers is enough for him to quiet down again.

1 AM – Snack time.  It’s not as clear cut as baby cries, I wake up, I feed him and change him and he goes back down.  No no.  It’s more like he starts to gurgle anywhere from 12:30 to 1:15, and if I pick him up while he’s still in gurgle mode (vs. fully awake), he feeds like a convalescent and needs to nurse even sooner than our 3 hour cycle.  So I wait until he’s more robustly rooting (or starting to work up into a cry – but ideally before full wail), which means I wake up at every noise, think to myself “wait – didn’t I just feed him – oh no, I just thought about feeding him but haven’t done it yet,” fall back to sleep and repeat the process until the small one is loud enough that I realize that I have not actually fed him yet despite having thought about feeding him 6+ times, jump out of bed, lift up the child and settle into my chair.

Then begins the discomfort wiggle.  You see, after lifting up the little guy and hoisting him over my shoulder, burp-style, I (still working without ab muscles here due to major surgery) lower myself into my chair, try to arrange the boppy nursing pillow just so with my one free arm, use my feet to drag the foot stoll into place, and lower the small one into nursing position.  Once he’s latched on, I scutch around as I am inevitably seated in a way that makes some part of my back or shoulders ache, all while trying not to disturb the feast.  Next it’s my neck that starts to bug me, in that way that has more to do with the fact that I’m being asked to support my own head at what is now 1:30 AM than the way I’m sitting, but I attempt to rearrange pillows with one hand such that I can sorta lean my head against something.

The actually nursing lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to 25, depending on how hungry or lazy the small one is at the time.

Now that he’s either stopped sucking or unlatched himself, it’s back over the shoulder for an attempted burp (often fails), while I get up out of the chair.  I then lay him down on the bed to unswaddle him, keeping the blanket set so he can be reswaddled momentarily.  The cold on his bare legs wakes him up a bit so now it’s over the the changing table for a new diaper.  This is not the fun part.  I mean, imagine if you woke up in the middle of the night with hunger pangs and in response someone fed you so much warm milk you were basically drunk… and then they suddenly strip you naked, pick you up by your feet such that only your shoulder blades are touching the surface and rub your raw ass with cold wipes.  You would probably cry, too.  And he does.  So I fumble to wipe him down, fan him off so he’s dry, salve up that raw little butt and rediaper him, hopefully without getting peed on or the change pad getting pooped on in the process (but this inevitably happens at least once a night, resulting in the addition of an outfit change to the repertoire).

Now that he’s dressed again, it’s back over the shoulder for attempt No. 2 at a good burp (and it also seems that this position calms him).  We head over to the bed to reswaddle and if at this point he seems sleepy, it’s into the crib.  On the other hand, if he’s awake he’s probably still hungry, so it’s back to the chair for the second boob.  Ideally, after the second boob it’s just another burp attempt and then he goes down, but at least once a night (if not more often), you can hear him let one loose during the second feeding, in which case we go back to the changing table for yet another diaper.

Are you seeing how this could get tedious?

By now he’s down.  And most of the time he’s not fussy (although sometimes there is much wandering around the room to get him to settle – and my attempts at singing a lullaby at this hour are nothing short of hilarious).  So I clean up the changing table area of dirty wipes/diapers, head to the bathroom to wash my hands, have a glass of water and jump back in bed for what will hopefully be two hours of sleep.

By now it’s around 2 AM.

Repeat the 1 AM scenario at 4 AM and 7 AM.  But at seven , he won’t go right back down so it’s down the hall to wake up daddy so I can take a shower.

And yet, somehow I am not dead to the world exhausted.  But this is why maternity leave is an absolute necessity.


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