Saturday, September 1, 2012
A Year and Change
And you can take that "change" however you like - it's been almost 14 months since Rhys cannonballed into the still pool of my life, and I'm just beginning to grudgingly accept that the waves will never really flatten out again.
I don't want you all to think that I wasn't expecting motherhood to change my life. Because of course I was. I told Sandy frequently before we got pregnant that having children would change EVERYTHING. And I meant it. But I really had no idea what I was talking about.
This blog post goes out to all the parents of toddlers who DON'T SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. *gasp*
In America, I feel there's this prevailing notion - and maybe it is part and parcel of the whole feminism "I can have it all" embuggerance - but there's this idea that one should not, MUST NOT, let children take away one's autonomy. Which seems insane when written down baldly like that. But it's true - there's this idea floating around out there in the American Id that says, "sure, have kids...but don't let them change your sense of freedom/hobbies/friends/deliciously witty bar repartee." Don't be that person on Facebook who never posts anything but statuses and pictures about their kids. Don't be the friend who fails to call at least once a week to check in now that you've got kids. Don't let the little bugger interfere with the normal and orderly established progression of your days. And I feel like it is from this idea that concepts like Cry It Out are born - a new mother thinks to herself: "surely it isn't right for my 6 month old to be waking three or four times a night! I have to fix it so that I can get back to 'normal'."
And for some babies, this totally works. Some babies are just born being polite, quiet, happy babies who can easily be tucked into car seats or strollers and wheeled around their parents' life making as few demands as possible. Cozy babies. "Easy" babies.
And then there's Rhys. Rhys who still doesn't sleep more than 2-3 hours at a stretch before waking and crying for reassurance that there is someone in the world who still loves him. Rhys who refused to be put into a car seat or stroller pretty much at all for the first 5 months of his life without continuously screaming bloody murder. Rhys who made it necessary for me to rate various baby-wearing devices, front carriers, back carriers, slings and wraps, based upon how easily one could go to the bathroom while wearing them and the baby - (for the record, the Maya Sling wins hands down provided you remember to throw the spare tail of fabric over your shoulder before sitting down). Rhys who insisted that every moment of every day and night for his first 6 months must be spent within touching distance of Sandy or I. Rhys who has no problem playing independently now for quite a fair bit of time, and in theory would thus enable me to get things done, if his idea of "playing independently" wasn't everyone else's idea of "a spirited attempt at self-destruction via as many new and interesting suicidal experiments as possible." I could go on. Rhys.
The older he gets, and the more obvious it has become that he will never naturally suddenly become an "easy" baby, the more advice I've been given regarding ways to get him to conform to the standards of "good baby." People ask "does he sleep through the night?" like it's a touchstone by which his worth may be judged. And when they find out that he most definitely does NOT sleep through the night, they're full of good-intentioned advice about how I can "make" him sleep through the night. Weaning him from the breast and crying it out are the two most popular. Don't get me wrong. Really, really, don't get me wrong. I would give one of my smaller toes to help Rhys sleep through the night. I'd suffer any amount of personal indignity and pain to enjoy 8 hours of solid sleep a night again. But I'm not willing to make RHYS suffer pain to accomplish the same. I can't let my baby cry alone in a dark room in the middle of the night, wondering why no one is coming. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
That decision, to me, represents the essential sea change that has come over my life. Or, more accurately, our life. It's Rhys' and mine together. Because it is not just about me, any longer. And I'm sure between the two of us, we will make lots of mistakes. Hopefully we will both learn and grow from them. But I'm still not at the point where I believe that not crying it out is one of them.