When will my son settle into a routine? Oscar is now five weeks old. Our days have taken on a pattern, of sorts. A pattern that involves very little sleep for P and even less for me, and a lot of crying, feeding, nappy changes and finally a little hard won sleep for him.
"It's too early to impose a routine," some of the books say. Others dictate such a rigid schedule (7.15am get up and get dressed, 7.22am breastfeed the baby, 7.43am change the baby's nappy...) that I fear his needs will not be met, and neither will mine, scrabbling wildly to keep up and worrying about falling behind on the schedule. So I follow the advice of none, naively believing that the right way will become clear to me, but when will that be? And how?
I know he's not getting enough sleep but it's so hard to sit there in the half dark of our bedroom, next to the moses basket rocking and rocking and rocking him, while he cries. Suddenly, he passes out, asleep, finally, after what seems like hours but has only been twenty minutes.
As I lower him gently into the moses basket, gently, softly, slowly pulling my hands away from underneath his head, his middle, taking my touch away, his eyes snap open, wide awake and alert, and he starts to pant and work himself up into a crying jag. And it begins again.
I lift him out of the basket and settle back down onto the edge of our bed and commence rocking and crooning again as he cries. Finally, his eyes begin to roll back in his head and I keep rocking. I look at the clock on the dresser and silently commit to another five minutes of the sway to make sure he really is asleep this time, before I even consider getting up and attempting the basket manoevere again.
Three minutes pass and he wakes with a jerk, his startle reflex kicks in and I feel his arms twitch beneath his swaddle, which has become loose with all the rocking, loose enough for him to wake himself up with the movement. This time his wailing sounds as desolate and helpless as I feel inside.
What have we done? How can I get this baby to sleep? Will there ever be a time when I can just be on my own, by myself?
These self destructive and pitying thoughts whirr through my head as I unclip the top of my feeding bra and allow him to latch on, instantly comforted and sighing with relief. Within a few minutes his eyes are closed and his adorable face is as smooth and impassive as a pebble. He sucks with a tiny flutter every ten seconds or so, and as I ease my nipple from his mouth and he barely stirs I know he is really asleep. I've fed him to sleep again – a cardinal sin according to pretty much every book, magazine and person I have ever met, or so it seems. I tiptoe out the door with an exaggerated gait, silently cursing myself for not having taken off my flip flops before this all started; as they flap against my heels it sounds to me like someone clapping.
I manage to switch on the baby monitor and sink gratefully onto the sofa and reach for my fourth can of Diet Coke of the day before the sound of Oscar's huffing and puffing starts up again. My dismayed face must appear completely tragic, because P gamely volunteers immediately, "My turn!" and disappears off into the bedroom. He's back within 5 minutes and the baby stays asleep for a good 40 minutes before he's awake again and hungry.
P is better than this than me, the dark thought darts through my mind as he plonks himself down beside me and picks up the TV remote. But I don't say anything, I just stare at the screen and lose myself in an inane and forgettable plot, just relieved to sit and simply be for a bit.
Did your baby take a long time to settle into a routine? Were you exhausted?
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