We seem to have been blessed with a baby that is easy to schedule. He must have gotten my overly-scheduled genes. From day one the Bean has been really consistent with his feeding and sleeping routine. His night time eating schedule is pretty awesome, I have to say. We feed him at 11:00 PM right before Chris and I go to bed. Then he wakes up around 3:30 or 4:00 for another bottle and then he goes back to bed until around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. All things considered, its a pretty easy night for us.
Well, most nights anyway.
Two nights ago we hit a little snag. Michael woke up for his 4:00 bottle, which I gave him as usual, and then Chris took him to rock him back to sleep so that I could get some extra shut eye. When I woke up an hour later, Chris was still rocking Michael who was wide awake. When I woke up an hour after that, I found Chris standing in the middle of the nursery wearing just his boxers and socks, rocking the Bean back and forth. And the Bean’s eyes were wide open. It wasn’t that he was cranky. He just wasn’t sleepy.
The problem though wasn’t that the Bean wouldn’t go back to sleep. It was how Chris and I reacted to the Bean not wanting to go back to sleep. My first instinct, my knee-jerk reaction, was that Chris was doing something wrong and that if he would just hand the baby over to me then I could fix the problem myself. This, I should clarify, is total crap. There was nothing Chris was doing that morning that I could have or would have done any differently. You can’t force a newborn to sleep when he’s not tired no matter how many different things you try, and I should have just kept my mouth shut and let Chris do his thing.
But I didn’t. I walked into the room making suggestions. Which is a nice way of saying that I walked into the room giving orders. He was holding him wrong. The lights should be off. He should be rocking back and forth instead of swaying side to side. He should be humming or singing. I had a list of things that should be done differently. And at 5:00 in the morning after a hour and half of trying to get the baby to go to sleep, the last thing Chris needed was to be told how to do things.
On the flip side, Chris at this point was really frustrated. He was irritable. He was tired. And, like anyone would be, he was out of the energy to make the Bean feel relaxed enough for sleep. He was on autopilot. What he should have done was ask for help. He should have come and gotten me after the first hour – even if it was just to have someone to sit with him. He shouldn’t have tried to push himself to do it alone. Because at 5:00 in the morning, EVERYONE needs help with a baby.
Eventually, after I quit giving orders, I ended up standing behind Chris with my arms around him, rocking back and forth with him and Michael. I learned that sometimes the best thing I can do for my baby is to be there for my husband.
Before the baby, Chris and I were used to taking care of things for each other. If I wasn’t feeling well, Chris picked up the slack for me. And if Chris wasn’t 100% for whatever reason, I took over and did it for him. We love each other and we did whatever we could to make things easier for the other person. What I am learning about parenting is that we have to now be able to work together to fix things. We can’t fix them for the other person all by ourselves anymore. We have to recognize that neither of us is able to give 100% right now and so we both have to work together to take care of this baby at the same time. I have to be able to say to Chris that I need help – not that I need him to do it all for me. And he has to be able to do the same for me.
Parenthood has come easily to both me and Chris. I was surprised by how quickly we both just knew what to do. But we knew what to do independent of each other. What takes more effort is adapting to parenting as a couple. And that process starts with learning to ask for help from each other. Especially at 5:00 AM.