Now that I am a mother of two children, one infant and one preschooler, I feel suddenly qualified to dispense a bit of wisdom to those moms just starting out. If you’ve just had a baby, or are getting ready to have one, or are even thinking about having one, I have a few helpful pointers for you. Here is my personal, time-tested, step-by-step procedure for getting a good night’s sleep. Starting at…
8:00 PM – You’ve had a long day, chasing after one child and hauling around the other. If you’re in luck, Daddy is home. Hand him the oldest child for a bath, a sippy cup of milk, and a few stories before bed. Emphasize that the oldest child needs to be tucked in no later than 9 PM. Otherwise, she’ll be cranky as a bear the next day. Not that he cares, because he gets to blithely head off to work while you stay home to deal with the little monster.
8:10 PM – Take the baby upstairs. Put her in her basinet and listen to her fuss, cry, and then howl while you try to prepare for the next day. You know that if you don’t pull out your clothes, down to your underwear, for tomorrow morning, there’s no way in hell you’re going to get dressed before 5 PM tomorrow. You also know that this is your only chance to get a shower as well, so if you can stand it, let the baby scream until your ears bleed. The shower should muffle most of the noise.
8:25 PM – hop out of the shower with shampoo still in your hair. You can’t stand the screaming anymore and your husband can’t find “The Pigeon Eats A Hot Dog,” which is currently your eldest daughter’s favorite book. Locate the book, comb out the last of the shampoo and throw on some PJs. Realize you forgot to dry yourself off and toss the now soaking PJs in the hamper. Dry off and put on fresh PJs. Pick up your shrieking infant offspring and collapse in the glider for half an hour of breastfeeding. Try not to swear as your baby chomps down on your nipple in revenge for letting her cry for a few minutes.
8:30 PM – kiss your eldest child goodnight when she comes in to see you.
8:32 PM – kiss your eldest child goodnight again when she comes in searching for the sippy cup she’s lost.
8:37 PM – kiss your eldest child goodnight for the third time and tell your husband you’ve already got your hands full with the infant; could he please put the eldest child to bed before you get irritated?
8:53 PM – your baby has sucked the right breast dry and is too full to even consider the left breast, which is about to burst. At least she’s nodding off, so put her in her bouncy chair (because the only other place she’ll sleep is in bed next to you) and pray she stays asleep for the next two hours.
8:54 PM – take eldest child firmly by the hand and escort her out of your bedroom, explaining to her that the baby was asleep and she didn’t want to be woken up. Pick up the baby and let her chew on your already leaking left breast for ten minutes.
9:04 PM – put the now sleeping baby back in her bouncy chair. Head off eldest child at the door before she comes running into your room again. Take eldest child back to bed. Get down on your hands and knees and check for monsters under her bed. Assure her you’ve sent them all packing and they will not return tonight. Dig out extra night lights and turn the hall light on. Kiss eldest child goodnight again and head back to your own room, where your husband has already managed to fall asleep.
9:06 PM – lie awake for the next hour and a half, listening to your husband snore. Wonder where the hell he learned to make noise like that.
10:33 PM – the baby wakes up crying and hungry. Get up, change her diaper. Pick her up. Hear her make a horrible farting noise as she poops in her clean diaper. Put her back on the table and change her diaper again. Repeat twice more. Collapse in the glider with baby and nurse her until you fall asleep.
11:45 PM – wake up with a horrible crick in your neck because you fell asleep in the glider again. Put the baby back in her bouncy chair. Climb into bed and doze off.
11:52 PM – wake up as eldest child runs into your room screaming about monsters under her bed. Wonder why she always comes to you with these late night problems and not her father who, by the way, is still snoring loud enough to make the house shake. Take eldest daughter back to bed, check for monsters again and reassure her there are no such things as monsters, although secretly you think small children might qualify as such.
Midnight – lie awake in bed for another hour, listening to your darling husband snore some more. Wonder where you would hide his body if you really, really had to.
01:30 AM – the baby wakes up crying again. Nudge your husband and tell him to change the baby. Stumble around in the dark trying to find the bathroom because you really have to pee. Do your business and return to the bed, only to discover darling husband went back to sleep. Swear at husband, who is snoring too loudly to hear it, and change the baby yourself. Plop back in the glider again and plan to stay awake this time while you nurse. Promptly fall asleep.
02:28 AM – wake up in the glider with an even worse pain in your neck. Eldest child is tugging on your sleeve, crying about monsters again. Realize the cats are probably jumping into her bed and waking her up. Fantasize about crucifying all three cats in your front yard, not far from where you plan to bury your husband. Put baby, who is no longer sleeping peacefully, back into the bouncy chair. Take eldest child back to her bedroom. Chase out the cats with a few choice swear words that you hope afterwards eldest child will not remember and repeat. Explain to eldest child there are NO MONSTERS and she really, really needs to stay in her own bed for the rest of the night. Trudge off to bed only to remember the baby is now awake again and wants to nurse some more. Back in the glider you go.
03:47 AM – the baby refuses to fall asleep. Instead, she stares at you with one beady blue eye, daring you to put her down in the bouncy chair again. You do. She howls. You stick your fingers in your ears. No good. She’s still howling, loud enough to be heard over your husband’s snoring. Husband actually wakes up. Tell him it’s his turn to rock the baby and curl up and go to sleep. Give husband a kick if he doesn’t get out the bed.
04:12 AM – husband wakes you up and tells you the baby wants to nurse again. You get out of bed and take the baby. He climbs back into bed and starts snoring again. You realize death is too good for him.
04:28 AM – your neck is so sore and stiff you can no longer sleep in the glider. The baby seems to have permanently attached herself to your right nipple, while the left is leaking breast milk like crazy. In fact, you’re pretty much soaking in the stuff but are too tired to care. Climb out of the glider and crawl into bed with the baby still attached. Pray for some meager measure of quiet as you try to curl up around your sleeping lump of a child. Discover your husband lost his pillow in the middle of the night and stole yours because, hey, you weren’t using it.
04:58 AM – just as you are about to doze off, the bedroom door opens yet again. Eldest child runs in crying incoherently about cats and monsters. Get up with baby still attached to your right breast. Take eldest child back to her room and order her into bed. Tell her she can not get up again until morning. Go back to your own bed. Discover husband has now commandeered your half of the covers as well as your pillow. Swear at husband until you are blue in the face. He still can’t hear you over the snoring. Get back into bed and kick husband until he relinquishes his hold on the blanket.
05:16 AM – Eldest child sneaks into your room and creeps quietly to your side of the bed. In a loud voice, she announces “Mommy! It’s morning!” Open your eyes and discover that yes, the sun is actually rising. In China. Tell eldest child to go back to bed now. Feel incredibly guilty as she runs crying back to bed. Get up, put now sleeping baby back in her bouncy chair, and go to your eldest child. Give her a big hug and a kiss and apologize for snapping at her. Ask her nicely to stay in bed until you’re ready to get her up. Kiss her one more time and head back to bed. Baby is asleep, husband has quit snoring, eldest child has promised to stay in bed. Finally you can get some sleep.
05:30 AM – the alarm goes off because you, you idiot, had actually planned to get up early and get a jump on the day. Everybody except your darling husband wakes up. The baby is crying. Eldest child runs into the room asking if it’s time to get up yet. You sit on the edge of the bed and weep in despair. Hope you remembered to program the coffee maker, at least.
And that’s it, Helen’s step-by-step plan for getting a good night’s sleep when you have children. What’s that? You don’t see any sleeping actually written into the plan? Well what did you expect? You’re a mom. You can sleep when you’re dead.