When I was expecting my little princess, she woke me up every night kicking her tiny feet within my belly in a very distinct rhythm. I was convinced that not only was she dancing in my tummy; she was dancing to the tune of the Olivia Newton John song, “Let’s Get Physical”.
Every night, I would awaken from a deep slumber to the steady beat of her kicks and before long I would be quietly singing, “Let’s get physical, physical…let me hear your body talk…” I did not mind these nighttime dance parties. I loved feeling her move and I could almost picture her laying in my belly wearing a miniature leotard, headband, and leg warmers.
It was my husband’s idea to give Madeline the middle name of Olivia to pay homage to her midnight dance recitals. I thought her nocturnal desire to “get physical” would come to an end once she arrived.
Madeline Olivia came into this world wide-awake and ready for action. She was delivered via cesarean section and I was concerned about her being too drowsy from anesthesia to nurse after her birth. I need not have been concerned. After the surgery, the nurse placed Madeline in my arms for the first time and I asked my family to give me some time alone with my newborn daughter.
Madeline allowed me a few moments to admire each of her beautiful and perfect features before she awoke in search of food. Despite all of my worries about breastfeeding, Madeline seemed to be a natural and latched right on. In fact, she latched on and decided to camp out for over an hour. You would hear no complaints from me.
As I held my daughter for the first time, I reflected upon the long and difficult road we had traveled to reach this very moment. I delicately curled my body around hers and silently wept tears of joy.
It was in this position, Madeline laying against me, skin to skin, my body encircling hers and wet tears still upon my face, that the nurse found us. She gently reminded me that I needed to nurse every two hours. I boasted, “Oh, I know. I took two classes on breast feeding and read eleven books.” The nurse nodded knowingly and clarified her previous statement, “You need to nurse every two hours from when you start.”
Say what? My new nursing machine liked to nurse for over an hour. That meant by the time she was finished nursing, there was an only an hour in between and then it would be time to start again. Madeline fell easily into a pattern of nursing for an hour and then sleeping for an hour.
While in the hospital, the nurses encouraged me to allow Madeline to spend some time in the nursery, so that perhaps I could get some sleep. I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way I was letting my baby girl out of my sight. I would sleep later…or so I thought.
I recalled the day Jerome put Madeline’s crib together in her nursery. It took us months to select the perfect crib. We wanted the crib to be both safe and beautiful. It needed to eventually convert into a toddler bed to ensure we got our money’s worth. We found a gorgeous crib in weathered grey that would match her pink and grey elephant themed nursery perfectly.
It took hours for Jerome to put it together. I sat on the floor and held all of the parts, so that his assistant, our beagle, would not eat anything important. After the crib was assembled, we attached the light pink bed skirt and covered the mattress with elephant print sheets. We hung a mobile adorned with elephants above the crib and listened to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as we stood, arms entwined, and imagined our daughter sleeping peacefully in her bed.
Our first night at home, I nursed Madeline and rocked her in the rocking chair in her nursery. She fell asleep in my arms and I continued to rock her, savoring the feeling of being home with my little miracle. I gently placed her into her crib and…she began screaming bloody murder. I really thought she was going to sleep in her crib.
Seriously, I really thought that you brought a baby home and place them into their beautifully decorated, yet safe crib and they go to sleep. I knew she would not sleep for long, as she was still on her nurse for an hour, sleep for an hour rotation, but I thought she would sleep for those one-hour increments in her crib. I actually thought this.
That first night, I continued to believe that eventually Madeline would sleep in her crib. I would nurse her, she would fall sound asleep, and I would attempt to put her down. I would think, “This is it. This time she will stay asleep.” Nope. I worked so hard to keep her somewhat awake while nursing by tickling her feet and blowing on her face, but she would pass out before I knew it.
The second I attempted to put her down; she would become fully awake and scream at me like, “Exactly what do you think you are doing?” It was hard for me to sit upright, as I was still recovering from the surgery, and I was exhausted. Desperate to lay down, I made a make shift bed on the floor of her nursery and surrounded us with pillows.
I thought maybe I was onto something when I finally got it all set up, with my strategically placed pillows, but the second I laid down with Madeline in my arms, she started to cry. I stood up and paced back and forth in her nursery and she fell into a peaceful slumber. We ended up spending the night in the rocking chair, alternating between me trying to keep us both awake during nursing and her sleeping contentedly in my arms for exactly one hour. Only days old and this tiny creature had bested me.
In the wee hours of the morning, Jerome found us still rocking in the nursery and I explained that a battle had ensued that night. Mama versus Madeline in the land of cribs and Madeline had prevailed. Since I had been up all night, I did some research on my phone on possible sleeping arrangement alternatives. While I was pregnant, I researched co-sleeping and worried about its safety merits.
What if we rolled over on her? What if Gracie jumped on her? Friends tried to tell me that I needed a bassinet or swing to put in our bedroom until she was ready to sleep in her crib. “Why would I spent extra money on something that we would only use for a few months?” I reasoned.
My all-knowing friends would just shake their heads. It took one night for me to realize that they were onto something. I held up a picture on my phone of a bassinet co-sleeper for Jerome and said, “We need this.” I paused my rocking and waited. He looked at me and there must have been something in my eyes because he did not ask any questions. He just replied, “Oh, you mean like right now. Gotcha. I will go buy it as soon as the stores open.”
The Co-Sleeper in question is a creation of pure genius. It is shaped like a bassinet and can be placed in the middle of the bed. It has tall metal sides, making it impossible for moms and dads to roll over and into, but the actual walls are covered in breathable mesh, making it safe for baby to roll.
Not that Madeline had the ability to roll, as I had her wrapped up like a baby burrito in her swaddle. This invention allowed me to sleep for forty-five minutes or sometimes even a full, luxurious hour before Madeline would awaken ready to nurse. That’s right, I was excited about sleeping in one-hour increments. You take what you can get. I had a healthy baby laying next to me, how could I possibly ask for anything more?
Right, I get it. However, I had exactly one hour in between feedings to do things like use the restroom, grab a snack, pet Gracie, and maybe, just maybe take a shower. Something had to go and if was not the shower, it was sleep. I began resembling an extra on the television show The Walking Dead, but Madeline was thriving.
She was growing and gaining weight. As the months progressed, she grew too long for her bassinet co-sleeper and too curious to nap. The marathon nursing sessions were apparently so relaxing that once she got her fill, she would look up at me, her eyes wide and alert, her body craving information and interaction. There was no longer even the possibility of “sleeping when the baby sleeps” because this baby doesn’t sleep!
I decided to give the whole “sleeping in the crib” idea another college try. Like in “The Princess and the Pea” where the princess can sense the existence of a pea beneath a towering stack of mattresses, Madeline seemed to have a sixth sense for being lowered into her crib, no matter how deep her slumber.
Jerome and I decided to move her Pack and Play into our bedroom from the living room and see if we could transition her there at night, since she had outgrown her co-sleeper. It took lining the mattress with my already worn clothes to get her to sleep there, even briefly. Inevitably, she would awake in abject horror at being placed in such a contraption, when it was obvious that mama’s arms were the preferred location for sound sleep. What ever was I thinking?
Today, we are full-fledged co-sleepers. That’s right. Jerome, Madeline, Gracie, and I share one bed. Before you judge, Dear Reader, there are benefits to this arrangement. First and foremost, Madeline enjoys the all-you-can-eat 24/7 buffet of boobs. She still awakens and dines every two hours, as her pediatrician dubbed “her normal”.
I have heard tales from far off lands about babies who sleep through the night and can go four to six hours without eating.
I choose to believe that these babies are like Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, and do not actually exist. The second advantage is that I sleep. Yes, I am briefly awakened every two hours by the tummy rumblings and eagerly searching lips of a tiny human, but after she enjoys her boob buffet, we both return to dreamland.
Third, it provides snuggle time with a daddy who works very hard and very long hours during the day. Lastly, when I claimed that if my dream of motherhood ever came true, I would do anything for my child, I meant it. I am happy to sacrifice a few zzz’s, as long as my little princess remains healthy and happy.
One might think that a child who subsists on such a little amount of sleep would be cranky. On the contrary, Madeline is very happy. There is a moment of bitterness when she first awakens that she apparently inherited from me. My thought process goes something like this, “Do I have to be awake right now? Yes? Ugh.” Cue scrunched face and pillow over my head.
Madeline’s thought process, and I can only surmise, goes something like this, “Do I have to be awake right now? Yes? Yay! Let’s get this party started! Now where is that boob buffet that is so delicious?” Cue bright eyes, wide smile, and searching lips.
Madeline spends her day as miniature detective, investigating the world around her, pointing and clapping with glee as she discovers each new treasure. The ceiling fan. Gracie’s doggie door. An empty water bottle. Her mood does not darken at bedtime, but she does attempt to stretch her waking hours by doing something especially cute or noteworthy, just as I am putting her down.
Last night, she extended the goodnight kiss Jerome and I usually bestow upon her by returning the favor. She alternated between us, planting a perfect kiss upon each of our lips over and over again. I did allow the back and forth for a few minutes before insisting that it was bedtime. I know, I know. It takes a heart of stone to put a stop to those sweet kisses.
Madeline sleeping is such a rare occurrence; it feels akin to witnessing a solar eclipse. It is because these times are so precious, that I rarely am able to close my eyes myself when she drifts off to sleep. Instead, I take the time to appreciate her loveliness. I watch the flutter of her long eyelashes and the rhythmical rise and fall of her chest with each breath. I run my fingers along her baby soft skin, pausing to feel the steady beat of her heart. I feel my own heart swell with love for this perfect being and pause to allow myself to simply be grateful for her life, my little sleeping beauty.