The other day Kadin passed by the front door of one of our neighbors, who have a newborn. The husband was standing in the doorway bouncing the two-week-old baby boy, who was screaming at the top of his lungs in a way that seemed he had no intention of ever stopping. Kadin smiled at the guy and asked him if he was doing alright. He replied that he was exhausted and that bringing home baby was giving he and his wife a serious and unexpected run for their money. Kadin said, "I promise it gets better. In about six months or so, he'll calm down and you guys will get more sleep." The guy replied, "Six months? He's only twelve days old."
This is exactly how I felt when Sabine was itty bitty and cried way too often no matter what I did to comfort her. She took twenty minute naps, woke up and cried. I fed her and she cried. I rocked her and she cried. I sang to her or gave her a pacifier or put her in a swing or the car or the stroller and she cried. The only time she cried a little bit less was when I held her upright in a sling and walked for hours around our neighborhood. People told me to just sleep when she sleeps. But when she was sleeping for twenty minutes at a time during the day and no longer than an hour and a half at a time during the night, that was impossible. So sleep I did not get. For days in a row.
I remember driving with her in the backseat and trying to invent ways to keep my eyelids propped open. I remember being so tired that I turned around and drove home for fear that I would fall asleep at the wheel. I remember Kadin shaking me awake at 2 a.m. while I was sitting upright in the rocking chair and feeding Sabine--he was terrified that I was about to drop her. And honestly, there was no way around any of this extreme fatigue. We had very little resources in the way of help and I was breastfeeding which meant I had round-the-clock baby duty no matter how often Kadin wanted to help or woke up with me in support.
Things are completely different now. Sabine sleeps from 9 to 7 at night and naps from 1:30 to 4:00 during the afternoon. I feel human again and the starry-eyed way about Sabine that you read in books and see in movies--a swooning way that is unimpeded by sleeplessness and anxiety. But when Kadin told me about his exchange with our neighbor, I laughed for a long time in a sort of manic way because I was reminded of just how terrifying and brutal those first months are. When someone says that you will sleep again in six months when you've been sleeping not at all and your head and your heart are a desperate, foggy mess, six months feels like a lifetime. How can a person not sleep for six months? Wouldn't you die? I mean, people in China die from working too many round-the-clock shifts. All I'm saying is I felt Chinese during my first months with Sabine and at times didn't feel like I would survive the crazy and inevitable fatigue.
I'm hoping with everything that I have that this second baby sleeps or sleeps more than Sabine did. Or that I am more calm and better able to find a way to help this baby sleep. Or that the sleeplessness is less painful this time around because I've been there once before. I know now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The second time can't be as difficult as the first, right? Right?