Sunday, August 28, 2011

When They Sleep...

So I go up to check on the kids and shut their doors (they both now ask for it to be left open a "crack" at bedtime) and I also check that their "special lights" are off.  They each have this night light that doesn't plug in, rather, like the Staples "Easy Button" on their commercials, it's a large, push button light that they can just push down on to turn on and off.  It gives them control, makes them feel secure, it's portable... yada yada.  Anyway, they are battery operated, so I always make sure to turn them off if they are still on because both kids now are in the habit of asking for new batteries the minute the light is no longer blind-you-completely bright.

I start with William's room and it's off.  I could hear him on his monitor (we still use the baby monitors since they sleep upstairs and we sleep down) reading to himself for a good hour after we put him in bed.  But he managed to turn out his light and set aside his book before falling asleep.  Whew!  One down, one to go.

I step into Dizzy's room and all looks clear.  She's face down on her pillow, Mickey Mouse on one side, Minnie on the other, snoring with the book she was looking at set aside on the little bench next to her bed.  I'm trying not to wake her as I lift up Mickey, Minnie, her blanket and her comforter to make sure she hasn't just shoved the light under something.  I'm about to leave when I see an eerie light from under her bed skirt.  Crap, it's under the bed.  Now I'm hoping it's close to my side.  I peer under the bed skirt and there it is CLEAR ON THE OTHER SIDE, smooshed up against the wall and no other way to reach it except crawl under.  Dammit!  Still trying to be quiet, I lay down on my stomach and do my best soldier-crawling-carefully-under-barbed-wire crawl to get as much of me under this dang bed as possible.  Pieces of her pack & play are under there and I don't want to move them since the pieces involve metal poles that will invariably clang together when I want to be quiet.  I'm also imagining large spiders and other loathsome creepy crawlies under there (it's mostly dog hair though as Yukon still tries to SQUEEZE under there) and steeling myself not to scream should I find one.  I get my head and shoulders under and am reaching as faaaaaaar as I can with my short little arms.  My middle fingertip catches it and I'm doing a kind of "tapping" number with it in an effort to flip it toward me because I don't want to scooch under there any further since I'm sure I'll get stuck and wake the household with desperate calls for help.  I finally grab it and army crawl backward trying not to bang my head or other various body parts on the bed or surrounding furniture.  Fighting a sneeze I sit up and look at Elizabeth... still snoring, hasn't moved an inch.

As I'm leaving her room I'm thinking, "hmmm, it's kind of scary that they sleep so soundly now... what if something happened and they didn't wake up?"  Then I stifle a giggle and thank my lucky stars for their deep sleep.  For I suddenly realize that for much of the past 5 years, since we brought our first little bundle home, I have done many a CRAZY thing as I've checked on them, all in the effort to either not wake them, to put them back to sleep, or to avoid being seen when I did wake them because babies are rather light sleepers.

I remember being so DESPERATE for sleep with little baby William that I finally braved letting him sleep on his tummy (A HUGE NO-NO according to Pediatricians nowadays who want kids on their backs in an effort to curb crib death).  Only, I was so paranoid about crib death that my mother (who was visiting) and I slept on the world's loudest, crappiest air-mattress on the floor of his room so I could check to make sure he was breathing every 5 minutes.  This mattress was so bad that, when inflated to proper support levels, you couldn't move without "popping" the other person up into the air and off the mattress.  It also made a loud sound resembling flatulence whenever you moved.  And I kept moving all night so I could SLOWLY peer over his crib bumpers to see if he was still breathing and yet pray he wouldn't see me and begin screaming.  Needless to say, I never got the sleep this whole elaborate plan was supposed to give me.

I remember checking on William when he was old enough to roll over and sit up on his own and the floorboards creaking under my feet.  He began to shift in his crib and, not thinking clearly, I "hit the dirt" right there on his carpet as though someone had just yelled "grenade!"  Of course, now I was lying flat in his room, breathing heavily and trying to figure out how to stay low enough to exit so that his crib bumpers would block me from his view.  I ended up slithering out on my belly and then closing the door as quietly as possible (still lying down with my fingers hooked under the door until it was closed enough that I could stand and finish).

I remember walking into Elizabeth's room to check on her and dying from the fumes because she had pooped and with her rashes, I HAD to change her.  So there I am lifting her out of her crib as though she's a bomb I can't shake and placing her oh-so-slowly on the changing table.  Then I'm cursing the damned 18-Million button, head-to-toe snap pajamas I've got her in because I have to unsnap all of them in order not to have to wrestle any limbs out.  She manages to stay asleep through the unsnapping, unwrapping, wiping, re-wrapping AND re-snapping and I think I'm home free.  I carry her gently to the crib, lower her VERY slowly in and juuuuuuust as I'm laying her head down carefully her eyes snap open.  I think I spent another hour walking her around the room and making up words to a lullaby that went something like, "Go to sleep, Go to sleep, or your mommy will cry now.  Please sleep now, please sleep now or your mommy will go nuts." After an hour, I believe some swear words might have snuck their way into the lyrics, but in my sleep-deprived haze, I cannot be sure.

A little over a year ago, I remember falling asleep in William's bed with him at 8:30 (go figure, I'm a tired mommy) and then trying to extricate myself from the bed when I woke again after midnight.  He was lying on my hair, his arm was across my belly and I was underneath his comforter and another blanket.  So I lift his arm carefully, holding it like a bug I'd rather touch as little of as possible, and set it gently down.  Then I have to wrestle my hair out from underneath his head and try not to scream as I have to leave a few hairs behind.  I very slowly lift the blankets off of me, and begin trying to sit up and not make the bed creak.  This takes such an effort, that I'm finding myself in weird, half-sit up positions and getting the kind of abdominal workout I've been wanting for months.  I've managed to get my body off the bed (leaving my arm pressing down on the mattress so it doesn't pop up and "groan" at me) and SLOWLY lift my arm off.  Just as I take a step toward the door, I knock over a pile of  books and he shoots up and says, "mom... can't you lie down with me for just a little longer".  Hmmmm.  Then... a stroke of genius.  Counting on his being so tired that he won't remember the conversation in the morning, I say "sure, just let me go to the bathroom first.  I'll be right back."  I sneak out and never return.  He doesn't remember a thing in the morning.

The worst, though, and Mike can attest to this... is putting a child down in their crib while they are still experiencing what doctors call the "startle" reflex.  This is a very important reflex for all young babies and the bane of all new parents' existence.  The startle reflex causes a baby, when put down on their backs, to FLING their arms out wide and kick their legs out.  As you might imagine, putting a baby down in their crib during this period SUCKS.  Even if you have a drop-side crib (as we did), you still have to do some awkward leaning over the rail (or at least when you're my height you do) while setting the baby down.  I can't tell you how many nights Mike and I spent rocking, singing, feeding, etc. both William and Elizabeth to sleep, cradling them in our arms, lowering them SOOOOOO slowly into their cribs that the muscles in our backs were burning, getting about 90% of their bodies laid softly down on their mattress, only to be stuck holding their heads and trying to remove our hands without the "startle" reflex kicking in.  Invariably it would take multiple attempts, much swearing, a couple of "tag outs" to the other partner, and a lot of sweat before the baby was successfully put down on their mattress without their arms SLAPPING out to the side and the whole process starting over.

So as I sit here, in a quiet house, able to check on my children without waking them and write this blog... I will be thankful for the deeper sleep age brings.  I can put behind me the days of sleeping only 4-5 hours (and that in 1/2 hour to hour long increments), trying not to creak floorboards, trying to stay hidden from sight, making up stupid lullabies, slithering on floors and under beds, crawling, creeping, tip-toeing, and breath-holding and be thankful that, short of knocking over objects or sneezing loudly, it's likely that I can check on my kids without waking them.

And they are so sweet when they are sleeping... because then they don't talk! :)


  1. Thank goodness that we didn't have those damn lights to fall under the bed. Wonderful tale and they do grow up as evidenced when my boy picked me up from the airport when I flew into Portland this week. We went back to his house and he poured a pint of a bourbon-chocolate stout that he brewed. He didn't have to read me a story after one pint I just went to sleep.

  2. You know with the whole sleeping position advice, we did it wrong with both kids. Ray was born when you were supposed to put kids tummy down to sleep. He would only sleep on his back. By the time Helen came along, things had changed.. Babies were to sleep on their backs, but she would only sleep face down. Fortunately, they both survived our lame attempts at parenting.

  3. We've also done the grenade drop, or the "freeze into any dark corner and hope they don't see us." I'm sure if someone was video taping, they'd think I was spazzy and possibly epileptic when trying to get my kids to sleep! Now I can move the older ones from bed to bed without fear of waking them, but Carter still calls for some quick reflexes.

  4. Mariska, I love that your stories are so similar to mine. I was thinking with our first baby that I was the only freak army crawling out of the bedroom and standing around holding baby's head for 20 minutes trying to slither my fingers from under her head to avoid the startle reflex. I love it - keep blogging! And, thanks Mike, for posting Mariska's blogspot on FB!