I’ll just say it: This past Monday sucked big donkey balls. It was a veritable fountain of suckage, a vortex of poopyness, a supernova of craptastic. I felt like I was failing The Colonel, failing at this “Mom thing,” and maybe I should just take my toys and go home. It was bad enough that I wondered briefly if I might be slipping into a late-onset bout of postpartum depression. At least that’s how it felt at the time.
To summarize the problem, The Colonel wouldn’t nap. Well, that’s not true — she’d nap like a little angel on the Boppy in my lap, especially if the boob hadn’t yet fallen out of her mouth. THOSE naps were no problem. Never have been. But, with my return to work and her introduction to daycare looming, her virtuosity at those naps isn’t going to cut it anymore. I’m feeling compelled to try to introduce some good napping habits that she can take, say, to someplace where comforting Mom boobs aren’t so readily available.
And, me being me, I probably over-Googled in my attempts to create a strategy for The Colonel’s Nap Revolution. I am a researcher when it comes to stuff I don’t yet understand, sometimes to the detriment of my own instincts. Everywhere I looked I saw a variation on this Pollyanna-esque theme: “Just wait until the baby is drowsy and put her down to fall asleep on her own.” Sounds so easy, right? What could go wrong?
I tried so hard, I really did. I’d nurse her, watching like a hawk for those eyes to start to get heavy, at which point I’d scoop her up as gently as possible, walk into the bedroom not saying a word, barely making eye contact, and lay her down in her bassinet like she was made of eggshells. I’d quickly lay a couple warm receiving blankets over her and start to back away, waiting for gossamer waves of glorious sleep to overtake her and whisk her away into the two-hour nap The Google had led me to believe would invariably follow.
Other than one time last week that I now consider a fluke, it didn’t so much happen as advertised. The Colonel apparently hasn’t read the same articles I have. She, shall we say, PROTESTED. And when I say “protested,” I mean bawled, loudly and instantly. As if me lovingly laying her down in her bassinet was akin to setting her on a bed of cayenne-coated briars while blaring speed metal and telling her her ass looked fat in that diaper. I dutifully tried to bink her up, pat her slowly, shush her until I thought I’d pass out from lack of oxygen, try to muster every ounce of my being into emanating calm and soothing vibes like some Zen Mommy. She spat out the binkie and screamed. I’d re-bink her. Spit. Scream. Re-bink. Every so often, there’d be a few eager pulls on the binkie, or a couple heavy blinks of her eyelids, just enough to raise my foolish hopes. Then she’d spit and scream some more. Oh, and the head-thrashing! Always the head-thrashing. Charming. We went through this probably three or four times that day, and it’d always go on for 15-20 minutes until I’d break down and give up, leaving both of us exhausted and tearful. I got to the point where I didn’t care if she fell asleep on her own, I just wanted her to fall asleep.
It got to be mid-afternoon and I hadn’t yet showered or had any lunch, and The Colonel hadn’t had anything more than a few minutes here and there of sleep. Suffice it to say, I was not feeling great about my stumbling efforts at being The Colonel’s Mama. To say I was frustrated and discouraged doesn’t even cover it. For whatever reason (can I still blame hormones?), my state of mind that day turned what might otherwise have been just a bummer into a hyperbolic emotional shitstorm of epic proportions. The one thing that saved me was the two times I was checking her diaper right after one of these failed attempts, hot tears falling down my cheeks, and I leaned over to her and gave her a shaky smile and whispered, “Baby, can Mama have a smile? I could really use a smile right now.” And, bless her heart, both times she immediately blasted me with a gummy grin full of unicorns and rainbows and sunshine. And I knew, as shitty a day as we were having, that everything was going to be okay.
And it was okay. Daddy held her for two hours and rocked her in the recliner so I could take a shower. She slept the whole time. Our evening was normal, we had a pretty good night, and I woke up Tuesday morning ready to head back into the ring, bobbing and weaving all the way. Over morning coffee, I happened upon a mention of double swaddling. Wait, what? I felt possibility tugging at the corners of my brain. Other than her SleepSack, we’ve never swaddled The Colonel much because she’s just so strong, she wriggles her way out of the swaddle within 15 minutes, no matter how tightly and perfectly we do it. We’d kind of given up on it, but the idea of using two blankets hadn’t ever occurred to me. Why hadn’t the idea of using two blankets ever occurred to me? Can I still blame hormones?
So, it got to be mid-morning and The Colonel was nursing, her eyelids getting heavy. I whisked her into the bedroom and quickly swaddled her in two of her Luna Lullaby muslin blankets. She started to cry, as expected. I laid her down, covered her up, binked her and started shushing and patting her, my eyes closed to where I could just barely see her. Spit. Cry. Re-bink. Little head-thrashing. Spit. Little cry. Re-bink. And then, miraculously, her eyelids began to droop. Once, then twice, then three times. Heavier and heavier. The binkie stayed in. The head-thrashing stopped. The eyelids stayed closed. I got up and backed away, shushing all the way, closing the creaky door behind me. And I waited. No cries. She was asleep.
She slept for a full two hours. It was long enough for me to pump, take a long hot shower and get myself something to eat. And, most importantly, restore my faith in my own Mommyness. I felt renewed. Such a simple solution, but it perfectly illustrated how powerful the right answer can be.
As I write this now, The Colonel is napping, secure in her double swaddle. It’s been almost two hours now. I feel like I have a battle-tested new tool in my Mom toolbox. But this is just one battle. We will undoubtedly have more bad days. There will be times when she completely confounds me and I feel like I’m not even in the same zip code of knowing what the hell I’m doing. But my shitty Monday reinforced for me that, if I take it five minutes at a time and keep looking and listening, the answers will present themselves. And, until they do, I know a beautiful little girl who can give me a big gummy grin full of unicorns and rainbows and sunshine to keep me going.