Dubs is 20 months old now. Here he is at Easter doing his Texas roots proud. If I wasn’t engaged in competitive child wrangling at the moment I snapped this picture, I could have cried. Taking Easter pictures in bluebonnets of my baby. My Texas pride was soaring, y’all.
Dubs, he is like a big kid now, people. I can’t even handle it. Can’t even. He talks in sentences, tells me when his diaper is dirty, knows his friends’ names, is addicted to Octonauts and can throw a temper tantrum like a boss.
He came home from school on Friday a little cranky. We went to the park on our way home and had thirty minutes of running from slide to slide, which probably wore him out. (Okay, the point was to wear him out. You know the drill.) As soon as we walked into our house, he was a little crankier than normal. After eating the smallest dinner, he was now having some sort of out of body, angry baby meltdown. So we read some books and watched his eyes get heavier. It was 7:30.
It made sense, we surmised. He’d been up late the night before being spoiled by grandparents while I was at a Bible study. He needed extra zzz’s tonight.
We got Dubs all read up and snuggled. We found the favorite paci and blanket, and put him to bed. He didn’t protest, but held tight to his giraffe, looking extra adorable.
Did I mention it was 7:30? My child usually goes to bed at 9:30. And it was 7:30. This was a big deal. To make things even better, a few days before I made a big Pioneer Woman spicy pork shoulder and cut up all the fixings. Dinner was already made! But it gets even better! That very afternoon, I purchased a perfect bottle of fine wine. It was sweet and bubbly and six whole dollars.
Friday night. And our child is asleep two freaking hours early! Dinner made. Wine. Can I get a hallelujah.
We were looking ahead to an evening by ourselves to watch a new Fixer Upper on Netflix, relax and get to bed early. (We party hard, y’all). Then something horrible happened. A mere 45 minutes of bliss later, Dubs woke up. Turns out all our sweet boy needed was a nap.
Once he was up, he was up. Commence Operation Exhaust Baby. We played with his zoo. We played catch. We read books. We chased. This kid was awake. Meanwhile, these parents were fading because being a grown up is hard. An hour later, and quite desperate, we turned off all the lights and turned on some baby crack, which in our house is Octonauts.
I walked by Dubs and The Professor laying on the sofa as a new episode began. After watching only a few frames, The Professor turned to me and said, “Sweety, I think the Octonauts are going to help an albino humpback whale with a sunburn in this episode.” Sure enough.
Thank you Jesus there is no singing on that show. Our Daniel Tiger phase was hard.
Mercifully, our little second-winded baby got sleepy. He wasn’t worse for wear, but we certainly were.
The rest of the night was fitful at best. I think an eye tooth is the culprit. Teething is the worst. He didn’t sleep well. We didn’t sleep well. At one point I pulled him into our bed and woke up to find me curled into a little ball near the footboard, and him in my usual spot, using every possible inch of my pillow.
I’m up late a lot, but it’s because I’m busy. It’s not often that I anticipate relaxation – that’s just not a part of my life anymore it would seem. When it was snatched away, all of my energy and will went with it.
Maybe that glass of wine had something to do with it, too. Being out of sorts reminded me of those tired months. The 24-hours-a-day months when baby ate or pooped or gurgled every few hours, and I rarely reached REM sleep.
Being that tired will mess with your mind. Of course, it can mess with it in serious, detrimental ways, which I’ve discussed in posts like this one about postpartum anxiety, and which should not be taken lightly.
Exhaustion can turn your brain into mush in the most awesome of ways, too. It’s like a hallucinogen without the magic mushrooms. A rave without the strobe lights and weird Russian dance music. It’s truly magical.
Once I was watching Dubs sleep, because that’s what you do when you’re a new mama and you’re supposed to be sleeping. He was three months old, and moving his arms and legs in a fitful, light sleep. I remember watching him thinking, But how do I know he’s alive? Like, how do I know he’s breathing? It was very perplexing. How could I tell? There were literally no signs. None. Something had to be done. I put my hand on his chest to feel the rise and fall of baby breathing, but I couldn’t tell…because he was kicking so much.
I did the only rational thing: picked him up. Woke him up. Verified he was breathing. And started the exhaustion all over again.
Another time I was nursing him in the middle of the night, and falling asleep myself. Then I woke with a start, panic traveling over my skin like a cold fog, heart racing with a specific realization.
Does he have ten toes?!? I can’t believe I forgot to check! You are a horrible mother, Sarah! Just horrible. You never checked. How could you forget to check? I ripped off his socks and made sure his toes were all accounted for.
Dubs was two months old. Or was it four months? Those months are too much of a blur for me to remember with any certainty.
Really. You can’t make this stuff up. I think four months is enough time to catch missing toes. All I can say is hallelujah that new parent exhaustion is a common experience, otherwise we’d have new mamas and dads committed!
Then there was the moment my love for classic literature and knowledge of pop culture resulted in *mind blowing* insights. I mean, I hope you’re sitting down. Here’s what I philosophized on a particularly late night: Many times in the past, George Clooney has made a fool of himself by pursuing women who weren’t so appropriate for him. Then he meets this classy, gorgeous, British human rights attorney whom he marries.
O.M.G. George Clooney is the real life Bridget Jones. #MindBlown
It’s okay, George. In the words of Mark Darcy, we like you just the way you are.
Exhaustion wasn’t limited to my own four walls, either. After I returned to work from maternity leave, I got a lot of quizzical looks the day I kept trying to pay at Chipotle by pushing the unlock button on my car key. After about 10 seconds of pushing my button and waiting for something to happen, and growing more frustrated each time it didn’t work, the cashier asked me what I was doing. Did I have maybe some cash or a credit card?
Spoiler Alert: the unlock button on your car will not buy you a half steak, half chicken burrito bowl. I don’t care how great the customer service is at Chipotle. It just doesn’t work that way.
The nights of no sleep are seldom these days. Looking back, I don’t know how I survived with so little sleep during the lean months, but I did. Some of those times were the hardest, the worst. The most unsettling and upending. That season reaped a lot of good, too. That’s usually how it works.
Here’s to you, the night watch. The new mamas and new daddies and caregivers and foster parents. You are the all-nighters, the fretters, the triple-checkers that she’s okay. This is a song that I am dedicated to you. You can do it! You can do it! (Oprah voice) YOU CAAAAAAAAAANNN DO IT!!!!!
I don’t know how you can do it, but you can. I think it’s a combination of hormones and Jesus and lattes with extra shots. Maybe you don’t feel like you have energy and fortitude in spades. That’s okay. You don’t need a storehouse. You just need enough energy for today. For this stretch until nap time. For this very moment.
On nights when I’m up, which are seldom these days, I hold you close in my heart. I sincerely hope you keep your own stories of exhaustion absurdities to bring a smile to your face later down the road. The silly reminders of real sacrifice are ours to to keep close and cherish, and to pull out of our pockets later, on unexpected sleepy nights.
I hope you share your silly memories. They are as much as a ministry to new parents as casseroles. They feed the soul with laughter and promises that you are not alone.
And don’t forget: You can do it! You can!