Toddler Life, Chapter 76: Infants Are At War With Our Sleep Schedules

I believe I’ve written before about the sixth sense the babies have about the plans adults have made in the house. In short, if you are a parent of a kid under… mine are only 2, so I’m going to extrapolate a little bit here… 7, that kid will inevitably find a way to unearth your plan, smear it with his slobbery little fingers, then shatter it into tiny little pieces, then eat the pieces and poop them out all over the oriental rug in the living room. The priceless one you inherited from your grandmother. The one valued at over ten thousand dollars, because somehow a rug can be worth more than a car.

They know. They have brains the size of baseballs, but they can smell a plan forming, and the smell is abhorrent to them. They don’t have sophisticated language skills yet, or the ability to set a booby trap or actively create a mess for you to clean up at the expense of whatever thing you were thinking of doing, but what they do have is the knack for becoming unignorably needy and unbearably obnoxious.

Case in point:

Morning runs have been getting dodgy of late. My wife is exhausted from the wee hours wake-ups with sprout #2 (justifiably so) and has asked me to help out with some mid-night changings and feedings. (Mid-night is hyphenated, because oh, if only they happened at midnight. No, were they at midnight, they would fall in between REM cycles and allow for a nice long stretch of sleep unbroken before sprout #1 wakes at half-past waaaaay too early. These happen at 10:45 — roughly an hour after we head to bed — and 3 AM — just a few hours before we’re going to wake up.)

There’s a corollary here which neatly encapsulates the Catch-22 that takes place in my house every night (and here, were current events different, I’d quote Bill Cosby’s Himself routine about how “the same thing happens every night”, but the world is an ugly place and I can not currently quote Bill Cosby without feeling a little bit skeevy). Sprout #2 begins crying at oh, whatever time she damn well feels like it. My wife sleeps much more lightly than I do, so she wakes up immediately (I can sleep merrily for at least ten minutes of infant fussing). So she’s awake anyway, but I’ve promised to help out, so wife starts poking me in the ribs to wake me up. I get up. Go downstairs to warm up a bottle. Bring it back upstairs and begin to change baby’s diaper. By the time I get the bottle in her mouth, about twenty minutes have passed since she started crying. It’s a funny trick of the universe that twenty minutes is about the amount of time it would take for my wife to hear the crying, get up, change the diaper, stick a boob in the kid’s mouth, and be back in bed. But I dutifully feed the kid. Sometimes she accepts the bottle, sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, it’s about 40 minutes from the time she originally started crying before I can have the little bundle of joy laid back in her bed; 40 minutes which my wife cannot sleep through because of first the crying and then the slurping and then the singing and fussing and finally the walking around as I soothe baby back (hopefully) to sleep.

If that was too much to follow: it takes my wife 15-20 minutes to settle the crying baby back down with roughly a 95% success rate, and it takes me about 45 minutes to settle the baby with more or less a 30% success rate, because even though the girl can take a bottle, what she really wants is a boob, and to a lesser extent, her mother. But I am trying to help, so I soldier on anyway.

Right, back to the point. Baby wakes up at 4 AM this morning. I have the brilliant idea that I’ll put the baby down, and, since I’ll be awake anyway, I’ll suit up and go for a run, then come back and go to sleep if time allows, and if not, well, the run will have woken me up.

But the baby knows, and she won’t take the bottle from me. I’m determined to pull my weight and let my wife get her last two hours of beauty sleep before she goes to work (she’s making bank while I’m home for the break), so I keep at it. Baby fights me for twenty minutes, drinking about two swallows of milk and drooling half the bottle down her onesie, which then needs changing. Changing the onesie makes her cold, which wakes her up even more. Then she poops, so I have to change her diaper, which makes her even colder.

Now it’s 4:30 AM, and the baby is wide awake. Sometimes she can fake me out and appear to be awake but actually be very very tired, so I lay her in the crib and decide to give her a few minutes to see if she falls asleep while I suit up for my run.

She doesn’t. She begins squalling louder than before. I trudge back in and try the bottle again, but she demonstrates surprising forearm strength and nearly swats it out of my hand. There’s nothing for it: she’s awake, but I’m going to insulate my wife from having to get out of bed, so I take her downstairs and watch her flerp around on the floor for a while. (“Flerping” is that uncoordinated rolling, scooting, flopping and stumbling that only a baby who’s surprisingly mobile but not yet able to crawl can accomplish.) This she does for fully an hour without showing any sign of getting tired.

So I can’t run, because the baby is awake and will cry like I’ve stolen every cookie from her entire life if I lay her in the crib. And I can’t go back to sleep, because if I close my eyes for an instant while the baby is flerping in the floor, she’s likely to pull the Christmas tree over, or gag herself on the tail of a cat, or somehow set fire to the drapes. This infant — brain the size of a baseball, remember — has not only pooped on my plan for a productive early morning, but destroyed my fallback plan of going back to sleep, and has made me feel like an idiot besides for now being stuck on the couch watching her flerp at 5 AM.

5:45 AM comes, and I hear my wife stirring upstairs. I take the baby up and relate the events of the morning, and share my opinion that the baby is probably still hungry since she hasn’t actually eaten in nine hours. My wife takes the baby into the nursery and within two shakes of a cricket’s whisker, the baby is asleep, drunk on breastmilk straight from the tap.

I go for my run anyway at this point, because I’m stubborn like that, and spend the rest of the day in a mind-fog that can only come from … well, from a sleep-deprived night with an infant who is, apparently, smarter than all of us. Or at least smarter than me.

The only rational course is to plan to wake up in the night to feed her. That way, when she foils my “plan”, she will play right into my trap of letting my wife and I sleep through the night.

This will work.

Please, let this work.