Baby experts and many parents have mentioned to us that Week 6 of babyhood is something of a nadir for new parents. The child’s night sleeping might be awful, dovetailing horribly with what is at that point moderate-term sleep loss for the caretakers. But bedrock being what it is, it’s also a sign that stress will soon lessen, life will feel somewhat easier, and soon enough, the baby will respond to coaching on sleep cycles and training.
Here is where I should mention that we have just entered Week 5. We’ve descended past chaos and stress and entered the realm of second guessing, especially now that we’re chronic participants in sleep loss. Whereas last week it was my foot-eye coordination, now some of my higher faculties are involved; I can’t do long division in my head right now, and yes, I double back on what I’ve learned about the baby thus far.
In some ways, this makes parenting more entertaining. Here is an example.
I think I’ve sussed out the different types of Emile cries:
- Ah-WAH! Ah-WAH!—Something disgusting is in my diaper and it needs to be removed now.
- Hoo, hoo, hoo—I’m getting really tired. Can you please turn out the lights and stop singing to me?
- EEEEEEEE!—I hate gas pain!
- Eh-HE, Eh-HE—Time to feed the baby, Mr. Stupid!
Since Emile doesn’t have any other needs, this is pretty much all there is. He does have a subset of the EEEEE scream for when a medical professional sticks him with a needle, but that is so loud and all-numbing that it doesn’t last long, because who can sustain such a noise? Well, I wouldn’t put it past some, I suppose.
Sleep loss has continued to erode my sensibilities, however, crumbling more than my dexterity. I’m losing names to faces, so to compensate I smile more, as in coming across someone on the street while pushing Emile in his stroller, and saying, “Oh, hi! *smile* Heeeey! *smile* So good to see you! *smile* Gotta run!” If I’m lucky only ten minutes or so will roll by before I’m ready to slap myself in the face with their name hanging in my mind.
But recently learned information is even more shaky. If it’s say, 2:43 in the morning and I wake to the sound of Emile crying from the bassinet, my mind tears through fields of data before getting to the newly plowed area of “Which Baby Cries Mean What.” I experience this frantic searching as:
The baby’s crying! The baby’s crying! WHAT DOES IT MEAN? He must need to eat! No, check his diaper! It’s gas! I NEED TO DO SOMETHING!!!!
By this point, generally I’ve scraped my knee into the bedroom wall and thrown a toe into the door frame. I feel free to curse because he’s not capable of learning those words yet. I’m quite sure, by the way, that I will shut off my personal stream of vulgarity too late, and we’ll be out in public when he starts cursing like a sailor at Fleet Week.
Finally, through the treachery of our disorderly house, I arrive to l’enfant de la wailing. And find myself without my usual babblefish for baby cries. Worse, he sounds like he’s making multiple requests, as in:
Ah-WAHooee! Eh heh EEEE!
Someone needed to inform me that babies can self-destruct. Even in the dark I can tell he’s some shade of purple. I lean over the Babies-R-Us crib railing (fixed in place for safety!) and sniff his crotch. Oh, the things we do fr children. To my absolute unsurprise, it smells like he’s exchanged some business there. And because it’s October, I have dressed him for bed in 16 layers of clothing and protective gear. Getting to said diaper should only take about 7 minutes. My hands fly past zippers, flinging open an army of defensive snap enclosures, whipping out baby wipes and uncrinkling a fresh diaper, all in the near darkness, and it dawns on me that I am really and truly a parent, in the not-Velveteen-anymore sense of the term. No more Uncle Ev, or sweet babysitter. This is my very own screaming infant and I am, at this very second, his defense against the dark poop mentor.
Okay, clean diaper. Still, he wails. It’s starting to sound a little pathetic, even as my ear drums crash with every sound wave he makes. The air is cold on his skin, maybe. He knows he’s all undone, so a renewed sense of urgency propels me to redo all of the fastenings on his clothing. Finally he is re-velcroed into his swaddle wrap. Sweat drips from my forehead. For one gorgeous, glorious moment, silence. Only the soft sound of forced air through our heating ducts.
And then it begins again. A hodgepodge of gurgles and cries that seem indecipherable. I try to regroup. Is he making nursing motions? Could it be gas? I pick him up and bounce him. I bounce everything now, once it’s docked into my palms—my keychain, books, dinner plates, anything. Hot mocha was a problem, but I’ll survive. He responds to the bouncing and my loving shushing. At long last his eyes close, clearly against their will. There is still a millimeter of blue on the outer ring of his irises, but they’ve been subsumed for the most part by a gray-brown. It’s a nice stormy color.
I sing him one, two songs. “Hey There,” from Pajama Game, and something from Guys & Dolls. Those aren’t even my favorite musicals, but they’re lullabyish enough for my purpose.With more care than I’d give defusing a bomb I lay him in his crib, and walk out of the nursery backwards like a Geisha. Please, I ask nobody, just let me get a couple of hours’ sleep this stretch.
One more week to the so-called worst of newbornhood. And then it’s all an upward trend.