Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The baby sleeps.

MOTHER is what I have always wanted to be. Good mother at the minimum, and BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD, if possible. I read a bunch of books and studied up on it. I was so damn earnest, it's kind of disgusting in retrospect.

Despite my research, I find myself to be a 'by the gut" mother. I learned it the hard way, when they were babes. Now that they are becoming adults, I have to re-learn it every day. I do the best I can.
One night, book mothering and gut-mothering had a head on collision. It was not pretty. I shudder to remember it. (Yes, shudder is correct, shutter is on a camera or a window). Baby-Sophisticate had never slept all night, closing in on her first birthday.
I'm not actually sure she sleeps through the night now, and she's about to graduate from college.

I was feeling the pressure of bad-motherhood. Baby-Sophisticate had already had 11 ear infection incidents and 14 rounds of antibiotics and I did not make those numbers up, they are burned in my brain. (14 rounds of antibiotics puts me in the bad mother category, because of the whole overuse thing, sorry.)
I was also a bad mother because - the book said - I was allowing her to "run our household." Typically, after an evening catnap (long enough for me to possibly load the dishwasher) she woke up screaming. Every night. Every. Single. Night.
I picked her up, we rocked, we strolled, we sang Amazing Grace (I am the 'wretch') , and she slept. I also slept. We slept together, in the recliner. Every night. Win-Win. Right?

NOT right. My husband did NOT consider me sleeping with the Sophisticate in the recliner "Win - Win - WIN."

On the advice of Dr. Wise-Guy's Guide to Baby-sleeping, I was converted to believe that she was a controlling baby, and it was my fault, and therefore I was a bad mother.I set out to rectify my bad-mother status, and un-spoil the Sophisticate, in one night. She would just have to cry it out! I was assured by the book that the seige wouldn't last more than 3o minutes, though children often cried for hours just to be obstinate. Duly noted, the obstinate thing. I was listening to the book.

On the target night of rectification, I checked on her when she started wailing, closed the door and left it closed. My stomach hurt. After 45 minutes, BigB, who was then LittleB, came in and begged me to "pick her up, Mama, she hurts." I had the book open on my lap, assuring me that she did NOT hurt, but was simply testing us, as we headed into the second hour of misery. We watched a video - our first born son, BigD and I, all snuggled in our cozy bed, while baby-Sophisticate screamed for all she was worth, alone in a dark room with the door closed. "Pick her up, I can't hear the movie." was BigB's advice. When I listen to our children, they tell me exactly what they need. I think I learned the listening lesson later, because I didn't pick her up. Still listening to the book.

The video was over, the screaming was not, and I was not feeling like a "good mother." After 2 hours and 7 minutes, the screaming had to end, spoiled or not spoiled. I would have to fix baby-Sophisticate another night. To hell with 'good mother.'

I hope that I never forget the look on her face when I opened the door. Standing, clinging to the crib rails, her swollen red face was a picture of total betrayal and absolute relief. She hiccupped and sobbed and buried her head, wiping her gooey nose on my shoulder. I hiccupped and sobbed and put my head down on her sweaty, wet, wispy hair. We sat in the recliner, I offered her some healing mamma-nectar, and we both feel asleep. We slept all night like that, with her semi-upright, nursing at will. At that point, the only thing that mattered was no crying.

When morning came, I took her to the Pediatrician, Dr. No-Tubes. She was hoarse and her face was swollen from the two hour scream-fest the night before. I was in similar condition. I whimpered, "Tell me she's fine and I'll let her cry it out."
His opening remark was "Well, she's hoarse!" Seriously? Wonder why? She also had two bulging, red hot eardrums. Antibiotic and tylenol, but no tubes recommended. Tylenol? Did I hear TYLENOL? Plain and unadulterated? Do you know the word codeine? Because I do.
I went straight to the ENT, she had codeine in 30 minutes and tubes in 3 days. And she slept- most nights. We spent a lot more nights in the recliner, even with tubes.
When her ears hurt, she told us - by screaming - and we slept reclining, so as to relieve pressure and facilitate nursing all night long. Sleep optional.

When the Sophisticate walked in one afternoon last week, fresh from student teaching in a trying urban setting, I recognized her look. Tears had been shed. She's frustrated, not because her students can't learn, but because they are relentlessly mean to each other. She's been cursed and threatened, by 11 year olds.
And she keeps going back, because there is at least one 5th grader who will learn to read by Christmas, no matter what it takes.

Today, no rocking, no singing, no strolling through the house will soothe the Sophisticate. The best I can do for her is listening. Sometimes we text too.

I showed her a teacher website with videos , so she could have a 15 minute break from talking to kids with profane and smart mouths. I hope my best was enough today.

I learned a lot about being a "good mother" - whatever that means - the night of by-the-book crying. I learned to trust myself more and the books less. Also, nursing can be awesome. I wasn't a bad mother for letting her scream. I was doing my best for her that night, and we both survived.

That's all I can do, really, is my best. And be willing to change course, when things aren't working. On occasion I do consult books, but first I hope I remember to listen to our children, because no matter how old they are, they tell us - either with words or actions - exactly what they need.

But...I forget it all the time, and then I have to learn it again. I do my best.
The minute the Sophisticate saw this photo she said "Oh, look, I'm at a birthday party and I don't feel good!" Ya THINK?


Muddy Boot Dreams said...

Yaaa! You are back! I have been waiting for you.

Kathryn said...

Aww. What a beautiful and wise post. Only we know our children best. :)

THE sophisticate said...

poor little sick baby. you failed to mention that not only was I in pain I could not HEAR. thanks for loving me anyway! Your next post should involve blue silly putty.. I am scarred for life (emotionally AND physically)

Anonymous said...

This post was fabulous!! It actually brought tears to my eyes because I remember all to well trying the "cry it out" thing with my oldest. Well, guess what? he's 9 now and still hates sleeping and those books? yeah I don't listen to them anymore...I listen to my heart, it hasn't been wrong yet.