I remember – to the day – when the dumpling’s sleep started to get better, when we started to leave the newborn days of rocking and swaying and nursing behind. Quite literally, it was all thanks to a hefty round of vaccines at his 2mo check-up. They made him drowsy enough that he conked out on his own and we’ve been encouraging that ever since. That’s not to say it’s been a bed of roses ever since. I would say that the dumpling has been on an average track for night-nursing (he woke up three times a night for the longest time, then gradually moved to two, then to one, which is where we’re hovering most nights). Beyond that, we still have regressions and the occasion when something goes wonky and the night brings howling and crying and hours of awake time. We had one of those nights this week.
First off, whenever the dumpling makes noise around 10pm (usually when Luffy and I are headed to bed), I mentally prepare for the worst. Even if he manages to get back to sleep initially, muffled grunts at such an early hour inevitably herald an early wake-up. On those nights, I’m usually getting back out of bed to attend to the dumpling sometime between 11pm and midnight. So when we heard muffled cries at touch after 10 Wednesday evening, I prayed that tonight would be different. Unfortunately, he worked himself up into such a state that I didn’t even get an hour’s reprieve.
When I went to check on him, I found an inconsolable baby. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but the dumpling is not a cuddler. He doesn’t really like to be held close; in fact, the only time he ever puts his head on my shoulder is when he’s exhausted. Otherwise, he must be up! and engaged! and looking at all the things! So trying to comfort him can be a challenge. I tried to nurse, but he wanted nothing to do with that. I tried to pat him or rock him; that was a no-go. I tried Luffy’s technique of sitting beside the crib, shushing him. Nada. Luffy and I took turns, shushing and patting and wondering what on earth had riled him up to this point.
Finally, around 11pm, I cried uncle. I turned off our monitor, told Luffy that he should get some sleep, and headed back to the dumpling’s room. I grabbed a pillow and blanket from the spare bedroom and made a little pallet on the floor. I pulled a still howling dumpling out of his crib and placed him on the floor with me, hoping that we could co-sleep in a safe manner. HAHAHAHA, oh Belle. Not only did he not stop screaming, he also decided that since he was on the floor, crawling around was a much better option. Sigh.
So back in the crib he went, still wailing at the top of his lungs. I had made my little pallet right in front of his crib and thought I would spend the night there, but I couldn’t get the dumpling to even begin to calm down. He was wound to 11 and I had no idea why or how to ease him down. Finally, in a moment of desperation, I crawled into his crib with him. The crib creaked and groaned under my weight, but thankfully held tight. I laid down on my side, curled up around the dumpling. Amazingly, he pretty much immediately quieted down. Not all the way, but definitely better. I rubbed his back a little bit as he tossed and turned and kicked me, lovingly I feel sure. And then, more than an hour after it all began, he was back asleep with me beside him.
They tell you to enjoy it all. You say you haven’t slept for more than three hours in weeks and they say enjoy it. You say your baby refuses to go more than two hours without nursing and they say savor it. You say my house is a mess and my infant won’t nap and I haven’t eaten a hot meal in days and they say cherish it. And that used to drive me crazy because how could anyone enjoy a screaming banshee? I realize now, of course, what they meant. They don’t literally mean enjoy the screaming and the crying and the random meltdowns. They mean savor the moments in between because your baby is already catapulting towards independence and these days – yes of diapers and bottles and tedium – will be gone in a flash. And you will miss them.
So when I found myself curled up beside my dumpling just before midnight, futilely trying to ignore my cramping neck and shoulder and praying to the furniture gods that his crib would hold us both, I did the only thing I really could at the moment. I watched him in the dim light. Watched his chest rise and fall, his eyes tightly shut. Watched his body shift in his Zippadee Zip. Since he was on his back most of the time, I followed his profile – his round forehead and adorable button nose. But most of all, I watched him physically relax next to me, my mere presence enough to snap him out of whatever caused his funk and lull him back to sleep.
I breathed and watched and waited for almost half an hour before deciding he was fine without me (he had rolled as far away from me as he could get by that point) and climbing back out of his crib. I still curled up on the floor next to him, just in case, before heading back to my own bed around two in the morning. Was it an Instagram-worthy moment? No, of course not (especially the next morning when my sleep-deprived eyes could have carried our groceries home with those deep bags). Was it a moment I savored? Yes, in a quiet way. I hope to never forget his tiny body next to mine, finally sleeping soundly after so much agitation.