Once again, a toddler in the house.
Things pulled off low shelves.
Always wanting up (the stairs, into arms, on chairs, on the table).
Always wanting things put on (hats, socks, goggles), or taken off (hats, socks, goggles).
The energy of a toddler astounds me, even with the fourth.
She carries the kitten around like a purse.
She scribbles on whatever she finds, with deep concentration.
She stamps her feet in frustration, tells us that she wants to brush her teeth by pointing at us then thumping her chest like Tarzan.
She dances to Jungle Boogie and the Mexican Hat Dance, The Irish Washerwoman and Cha Cha Slide.
She goes hard when she's awake and I swear I'm sprouting a new gray hair each day.
Then there are the nights. To bed, only to wake up. And repeat. I've never had a baby that wakes up this often. To say things seem a bit blurry by morning is putting it mildly, as I drag myself out of bed at six to get myself and two children ready for a day of school. The first week back at work after a two week break can be summed up in one word: grueling.
I have often wondered about the flaw in nature's design, that a mother (who is generally the busiest person in most households) doesn't get the sleep she needs to sustain the energy levels required for all those things she does. My sister reminded me that nature's design is perfect, but that it's our messed-up society that makes it difficult.
She's right, of course. If I were not working full time, didn't have a large house to maintain, and so many errands to run in a week, I'd nap during the day when my baby did. I'd go to bed with her instead of staying up late trying to squeeze a bit of "me time" out of the last hours.
As it stands, we are taking steps to do some gentle sleep coaching.
I remember us as first time parents, letting Jude cry it out (for way longer than my heart will allow me to admit now). I remember myself then, feeling terrorized, panicked, desperate, and exhausted. I was willing to take the hard road if it meant, ultimately, that we'd all get more sleep. We'd lock ourselves in the bathroom, fan on, deck of cards and bottle of wine at hand, to pass the torturous minutes of listening to him cry.
It's hard to admit that now.
I forgive that mother I was, because I know her frustration and exhaustion, her sense of surrendering to what all the experts were telling her about babies needing to learn to settle themselves.
It didn't take long to realise that it didn't feel good, for me or for him.
One night I finally gave in to my instincts and ran up the stairs, to find that in his distress he'd scratched his cheek with his fingernail. I think there might be a tiny scar on his almost-nine-year-old face to remind me of that last time we tried the CIO method. (For the record, Jude and I cuddle every night now, read Harry Potter together, and he is a well-adjusted, closely attached, independent, lovely young man, in spite of my early blunders).
Violet kind of found her own way with the sleep thing, once she found her thumb. By 18 months she was out of a crib and into a bed with her big brother, and snuggled happily to sleep (often with her exhausted, pregnant mother drooling beside her after a day of teaching). Aside from giving speeches in her sleep, she's had no trouble.
I can't really remember much about Margot as a baby, as I was raising three children in diapers, had survived the trauma of open-heart surgery on my infant, and spent that first year or two in survival mode. Margot was bottle fed so I think my husband had more of a hand in the night shift then.
Enter the fourth baby.
Everything is just...more chilled out. I'm exhausted, yes. I miss having time to knit and read. I wish she slept through the night (or at least through some of it). I haven't had more than three hours' sleep at a time in 13 months. Yes, that's crazy making. Yes, I whine and bitch about it, often. I'm not always happy and zen about it all.
But we're working on it, gently. We still do all the things you're not supposed to do.
We rock or nurse her to sleep.
We go to her every time she stirs.
Sometimes we can pat her to sleep, but mostly we pick her up and sway with her until she settles again.
I've started going up to the attic to sleep through the first shift (my husband got up with her four times between 9 and midnight the other night), then come down to do the midnight-six shift (with her in my bed...another no-no!).
She stirs, curves towards me, I pull down my shirt, and she nurses until we're both asleep again. I love the warmth of her feet, the shape of her little bum stuck up in the air, the whisper of her breath, the downy softness of her hair, her scent, and the close connection between us as we dance the night away in our rhythm of snuggle, nurse, sigh, roll over, turn, and touch.
Sleep will come, gently.