Month 4: Where Does the Time Go?

A single friend came over for dinner recently. He asked whether I was doing any freelance writing these days. I said I planned to start again at some point, but I just hadn’t found the time yet. “I don’t get that. Don’t babies sleep all the time?” he said, genuinely puzzled.

Even though I now know otherwise, there was a time not too long ago when I shared our na├»ve friend’s perspective. Surely I could continue to write and raise our child, I thought – you know, during naps and in the evenings when the baby’s gone to bed. I wouldn’t even need to pay a babysitter since I work from home. Ha. Let me repeat that: HA.

It is in fact true that early on, newborns sleep most of the day. Their mothers, however, not so much. At first I was so exhausted that I tried to follow that age-old advice: nap when the baby naps. Easier said than done. Inevitably, each time I would lay down my weary head, the doorbell and/or phone would ring, the dog would bark, and a car alarm would go off. No amount of white noise could drown out these distractions, nor could a sleep mask completely block out the noonday sun streaming through the blinds.

Besides, Miles’ nap times are the only chance I have to get stuff done. Pre-baby, I foolishly imagined this “stuff” to be writing, preferably the income-generating kind. Silly, silly me. I still remember the day I was paralyzed with indecision when the baby fell asleep at last. Should I eat, shower, or sleep? If I could’ve figured out a way to do two of these things at once, I would have. In the end I chose a shower.

Which brings me back to our bachelor friend. How can a person not even have time to shower? he wondered, incredulously. Let me walk you through the following snippet of my daily life:

5:29 a.m.: Awake to the sound of baby’s hungry cry.
5:42 a.m.: Cries getting louder. Guess he’s not going back to sleep.
5:44 a.m.: Feed baby.
5:56 a.m.: Burp baby.
5:58 a.m.: Feed baby.
6:08 a.m.: Burp baby.
6:09 a.m.: Realize too late that I forgot burp cloth to catch spit-up spewing from baby’s mouth.
6:10 a.m.: Another bodily fluid spews from another part of baby. Still no burp cloth in sight to absorb leakage.
6:12 a.m.: Wait for next diaper explosion sure to follow. No sense rushing to change it too soon.
6:15 a.m.: Change baby’s diaper, clothing.
6:20 a.m.: Change mother’s clothing and, if necessary, bedding.
6:25 a.m.: Baby dirties another diaper. Should’ve waited longer to change previous one.
6:30 a.m.: Realize we are out of baby wipes. Make mental note to bring some up from downstairs later on.
6:31 a.m.: Bright-eyed baby shows no signs of going back to bed. Go downstairs.
6:33 a.m.: Baby plays in bouncy seat while mother forages for coffee and cereal.
6:35 a.m.: Realize we are out of milk. Make mental note to ask husband to buy some later.
6:36 a.m.: Baby spits up on shirt.
6:37 a.m.: Change baby’s clothing.
6:42 a.m.: Play with baby on floor.
6:59 a.m.: Baby falls asleep on play mat. Transferring him to crib will allow mother to shower and/or eat breakfast, but will almost surely wake and anger him. Decide not to attempt it.
From 7 a.m. on: Repeat above sequence many, many times throughout day. Remain unshowered. Forget about wipes and milk.

Of course, it eventually gets easier. Sort of. I can now shower while my baby’s awake. I park him in front of the open bathroom door in his bouncy seat. He usually entertains himself long enough for me to do a cursory cleansing of most parts of my body. Not long enough to fully rinse the conditioner out of my hair, mind you. And shaving my legs is out of the question.

On a good day, I can start a load of laundry (“start” being the operative word), load or unload the dishwasher (but not both), and finish eating two-thirds of a sandwich before baby duty calls again. One rainy afternoon I managed to watch the first hour of “Memoirs of a Geisha” and open the mail while Miles slept. It was a banner day.

As for my writing career … maybe I should take up haiku.


Month 3: Milestones

Miles has achieved a lot of firsts in his third month of life. He went on his first trip (a 7-hour car ride to visit both sets of grandparents), rolled over for the first time, and started sleeping in his crib in his own room.

Yep, once he surpassed the bassinet’s 15-lb. weight limit, I couldn’t put it off any longer. This nightly separation is definitely harder on me than on him. It took me a few nights to stop tip-toeing into his room every 20 minutes to make sure he was still breathing and hadn’t wedged a body part between the crib rails.

This month also marks the first time I’ve left Miles with a babysitter who’s not related to him by blood. It was easy enough to leave him with my dad while my mom and I went off to a yoga class. (Easy on me, that is. When I called to check in, my dad sounded frazzled. By the time we pulled up to the house, he was waiting outside with the baby in his arms, frantically scanning the street for our car!)

But leaving my precious child with a stranger is another matter entirely. OK, so she’s not a complete stranger; she’s my friend’s mom. Let’s call her “Scarlett.” Scarlett positively oozes gentleness, patience and Southern charm. I’m in desperate need of a few baby-free hours a week. And I plan to be right upstairs most of the time she’s here, catching up on e-mail, bills, etc. Yet I’m still a little uneasy.

For the first hour after Scarlett arrived yesterday, I ran around doing laundry, putting away clothes, and wrestling with the confounded crib sheet. They make those things so snug you almost need pliers to get them around the mattress. Which is why my poor son has been sleeping on a soiled crib sheet for two nights. You try changing that thing with a sleepy baby in your arms at 4:30 a.m.!

Then I figured I should probably leave the house to make the most of my precious few hours of “me time.” Destination: Panera. Goal: An asiago bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese. Since I’m used to scarfing down my food while standing in the kitchen, I finished my bagel in approximately 4 ½ minutes. Not exactly the leisurely, adult meal I’d envisioned.

As I sat there sipping my lemonade, I realized I felt vaguely guilty. Guilty for paying someone to watch my child while I sip lemonade and stare into space. Guilty for leaving a poor, unsuspecting woman with Miles, who’s recently started this new screaming thing. (If anyone but Mom holds him for longer than a few minutes, he screams.)

Guilty for not showing Scarlett how to turn on the TV because I don’t want Miles watching it, even though that makes me a hypocrite because I often have the TV on when I’m home with him. But, really, was I going to insult the sitter by instructing her how to correctly position the bouncy seat so the TV screen is just out of the baby’s view? And did I really want her to discover that when Miles spots the TV, it often stops the screaming thing and gives you a whole 5 minutes of peace while he fixes a glassy stare at the screen? The answer is no, my friends.

I just remembered I also forgot to show Scarlett how to turn on the baby monitor, where the fire extinguisher is (do we even own one?), or where we hide the spare key in case she gets locked out. Plus, our fridge is practically empty, and she didn’t seem all that comfortable with the dog.

Remind me again why I thought hiring a babysitter would ease my stress?

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