Hold the Phone

Stop the presses. Record scratch. Brake screech.

What is happening?

Ali was in his little play gym, lying on his back, about an hour and fifteen minutes after he woke up this morning. He was starting to get this glazed look in his eyes and looking off to the side, ignoring his toys. Nap time.

Just for a lark, I put him in his new crib, not expecting much. I dug out the white noise machine (it got misplaced when we installed the crib and moved things around), turned it on, and patted Ali a few times. He smiled and pulled his legs up toward his chest and flopped back down and generally acted cute. He started meeting my eyes, and I figured the jig was up, but I patted him a little more anyway and left.

He was quiet for a little bit but then started fussing. I went back in, patted and smiled and rocked him gently back and forth for a few minutes (with my hand on his ribcage), and he acted a little more unfocused, chewing on his hand or staring at the wall. I left again. Again there was a bit of quiet then a bit of fussing. I waited a little while and was about to go back in when I realized it was quiet again. My eyes widened. Hardly daring to hope, I crept back toward the bedroom and peeked around the door.

HE WAS ASLEEP.

Asleep! Just like that! No 25 minutes of bouncing and shushing. No 20 minutes of swinging and holding. Just five minutes in, five minutes out, five minutes in again, and five minutes later he was out! It’s a kind of miracle.

Now, I’m not naive enough to think all our daytime sleep struggles are over. It might just be because he’s still completely exhausted from his first Fourth of July. He napped twice yesterday, and the second time he napped, after I “managed” his sleep (in his swing) after he woke early, he just kept sleeping and ended up with a 3 hour nap before we had to wake him up to take him to visit one of my (genetically half-)brother’s step brothers in Broken Arrow. (I have two siblings and my brother has eight. Yeah, you need a detailed map to figure out how everyone is related — or just “family anyway” — in my family.)

A whole bunch of my brother’s side of the family meets up there for the Fourth, and they have a big backyard and an above ground pool and shoot fireworks and have burgers and hot dogs and chips and homemade ice cream and brownies and cake and chili and it’s just as American as you can imagine. And it’s just good to see everyone, and nice to introduce Ali to everyone. They also get together for river float trips in the summer, and we hope to take Ali along next year.

The boy was delightful on the half-hour car ride over there, but as soon as we got in the house and changed his poopy diaper and then everyone wanted to pet and hold him, he lost his little marbles. Even when my sister-in-law, the baby whisperer, took him so we could eat dinner, he could not be consoled. They took him outside to try to calm him that way, but every time the door would open, we’d hear him wailing.

I couldn’t stand it for long, and I took him back until Ahmed wolfed down his meal, then I handed him over and Ahmed walked him around the back yard far from the madding crowds and he calmed down and turned back into the cool guy we know. Until someone would approach, and his little lip would tremble. Not sure why he was like that, but hey, if you don’t feel like socializing, you don’t feel like it.

A few people did manage to hold and pet him to some extent without him crying, but he was unusually fragile.

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So anyway. We get in the car to come home, and he animatedly talked to me for about five minutes then passed out cold in his car seat until we got home. We thought we’d take the whole seat inside so as not to disturb him, but he woke up as soon as we pulled in our parking spot at almost 8pm. Tried to put him down for a nap again before the fireworks, but he was having none of it.

So at 9:15 we walked down the river trail toward the casino where there was a good view of the biggest fireworks display in Tulsa over the Jenks bridge. Ali was completely exhausted and just staring up at Ahmed (who was holding him) unblinking, like a little zombie or someone dumbstruck with infatuation. We arrived at the bend in the river outside the casino right at 9:45, when the fireworks started. Ali stared at them with the same glazed look, occasionally making little noises.

By the time we got home and gave him his bath, it was almost 11pm, and it was no trick to get him to sleep. Then he woke up this morning at 8:30am ready to go. But then, yeah, exhausted again by 9:40 and asleep by 9:55.

And here we are. It’s 10:44, and I just came back in from patting and shushing him back to sleep after he woke up around 10:36. Hoping he can sleep until 11:30 or so for a nice 1.5 hour stretch of sleep.

I hardly dare hope this will be a trend, but I’m amazed to know it’s a possibility!

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In other news, someone from the California Conceptions Facebook group remarked that my son looks a bit like Ben Kingsley — “Those eyes that are full of light” — and I can totally see it! Sir Kingsley is half-Indian, too, born and raised far from India.

On a totally unrelated note, I’ve had a thought lately and I’m not sure where else to put it. Basically, the power of being a parent is absolutely terrifying. Not for me right now, since I’m completely committed to making my son’s childhood as secure and happy and healthy as possible. But it could so easily go the other way. I’m alone all day with a being who is completely helpless and completely dependent on my good will and mental and physical health.

If I wanted to abuse or neglect him, there would be nothing to stop me unless I was so shameless or so stupid that I attracted attention and the authorities were called. Or if I was just depressed and didn’t know what to do and didn’t have enough interest or resources to find out, I could simply do the bare minimum to help the kid survive and wait out his protests until he was too exhausted or cowed or unhealthy himself to make a fuss anymore. Or if I hated myself and saw him as an extension of myself, I could transfer my hatred onto a helpless and innocent being.

The thought of it — of so many people not necessarily prepared to be parents in charge of so many perfect innocent babies who need not just food and shelter but also attunement so desperately to be healthy themselves — can overwhelm me sometimes. I wish I could somehow be there for them all. I wish our society treated parenthood with more respect. I wish women who didn’t want to be mothers had more readily available options, and I wish women who are mothers had more time and more resources to find their footing as new parents. I wish our society weren’t so geared to make women hate themselves.

A Facebook friend of mine was recently put in charge of a newborn whose parents are substance abusers, and they don’t even visit the sweet little girl. It breaks my friend’s heart, and it breaks my heart. At the same time, I’m so glad and grateful my friend is there to nurture that wonderful child, who doesn’t yet know the difference. She just knows she’s loved. And God I hope that love isn’t yanked away from her at some point. Oh God how can I live in a world where innocent babies just as perfect and open and sweet as my Ali are abused?

UPDATE: Holy sneezeballs. So I put him down again for a nap as soon as I could after driving my husband back to work. (He came home at lunch to give me the car so I can go to rehab this afternoon.) He was about an hour overdue for a nap and a bit over-tired, but I fed him and put him down, and he went down pretty easy. Just about five minutes. He woke up again 25 minutes later, and I went in and patted and shushed him again, and he smiled and bunched up his legs at his chest and flopped out again, drowsy but happy. (This made my heart so happy, by the way.) But he didn’t go back to sleep after about five minutes. So I just quietly left. Again, just for a lark. I had no expectations.

But again, he was quiet a little, fussed a little, and then PUT HIMSELF BACK TO SLEEP.

When people talked about babies doing this, I was like, “Yeah, right.” But it’s true! Or at least truly possible. I saw it with my own eyes!

I can’t help but suspect this is possible for our happy, alert boy because we’ve striven to meet his every need and whim in these early months. He feels secure enough — rather than resigned enough — to put himself to sleep, without any tears or harsh sleep training methods.

I know I’m getting way ahead of myself, and he could completely revert tomorrow, or this could just be his temperament and it has nothing to do with us. But I can’t help but wonder, and have my own suspicions.

Ah, this parenting, it is far more art that science. A kind of never ending witchcraft.

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