My wife and I have some friends who recently welcomed a baby girl into the world. A big congratulations to them and their bundle of joy, Sienna. But seeing their Facebook posts and reading all the well wishes they received kind of took me back to that time when we brought Ellie home. Those first few days.
I remember the drive home from the birth center. We were proud parents constantly gazing into the rear view mirror to watch Ellie sleep in her car seat. Even though we knew we weren’t, we felt like the first people to go through such an experience. All the planning, the preparation, the coaching, and the birth experience. We did it! And little Ellie sleeping in the backseat was our proof. We only had maybe two or three hours of sleep the night before, but in a weird way, we felt so refreshed. Although I felt relaxed and at ease, I was anxious to be home. We had only been away from our house for less than 24 hours at that point, but it felt like a week had gone by.
When we got home, my parents were there waiting to meet their first grandchild, and a bouquet of flowers from our neighbor was waiting on the coffee table. We all just stared at Ellie. We shared our birth story with my folks while we took turns passing Ellie back and forth. Within a few hours of being home, I realized my new favorite thing was just sitting on the couch, holding her while she slept. All snuggled up in my arms, so peaceful, so perfect. We were so caught up in the magic of it all we didn’t realize what was coming next.
Later that night, we put her in her footie pajamas for the first time, and then tried to figure out how to swaddle her. “How’d they show us before? Fold, fold, tuck? Or fold, tuck, fold?” Then we put her to bed in our room and we went to sleep happy. Actually, we passed out.
Maybe just more than an hour later, we were jolted out of a deep sleep from Ellie’s crying. I had never felt so tired before. My mind was still asleep and since I had never been in this situation before, I did not comprehend what was happening. Was this the alarm clock? The phone? The fire alarm? Why won’t this noise stop? And then it clicked. We have a baby. Our lives will never be the same ever again will they?
When Aya nursed her and that didn’t work, we really didn’t know what to do. Our playbook was pretty limited at that time. We were shouting to each other over Ellie’s wailing. “WHY DON’T YOU JUST BRING HER INTO BED?” I shouted. “WHAT?” “I SAID, WHY DON’T YOU JUST BRING HER INTO BED?”
We brought her into bed with us and that didn’t work either. We took turns rocking her in our arms, we held her, put her in the swing, we played music, we played white noise, we changed her diaper, and nothing seemed to help. Did we break her? What was this?
This is where my training began. During those first couple months, I became an expert on soothing Ellie when her mother's breast wouldn’t do the job. That first night taught me to start thinking outside the box. I started holding her in different positions, experimenting with different music, different sounds, and even different lighting. I wouldn’t stop until I figured it out. And most often, it was surprising to find what ended up soothing her. I have two patented moves, the armpit shake and the superman hold.
What ended up soothing her that first night? I have no idea. I don’t remember. I just know that I slept sitting upright on the couch with her sleeping on my lap, and I didn’t mind it one bit. But I was happy when morning arrived. Day one, we made it! I remember thinking that this probably wasn’t going to be a common thing. She was brand new and just needed a couple days to get adjusted to the outside world. Yeah, I know. That’s what I thought. Seven months later, we finally got a decent night’s sleep. Decent.
Sometimes I miss those first couple of months though. Everything was new and it felt like an adventure. It was difficult, it was stressful, it was exhausting, but it was exciting. I remember going to bed about 10 p.m., and then emerging from the bedroom at 11 a.m. feeling excited we survived yet another night. We had been in there for more than 12 hours but we sure didn’t sleep that long. We’d sleep for maybe two hours, then be awake for four hours, then repeat. We found out that white noise soothed Ellie, so we had that on all night long. It felt like we were on an airplane taking the red-eye every night. Then there were the times I got sent to at 4 a.m. for an emergency donut run. “I need chocolate, now!” When we finally came downstairs, it was like seeing the sunshine after a horrible storm. I was so happy morning had arrived.
I remember when other parents would say: “Oh, newborns are so easy. All they do is sleep, eat, and poop.” I wanted to tell them to shut up. Just because that’s all they can do, doesn’t mean that's all they do.
But those days are over now and there is a new set of challenges. There is always some new adventure around the corner. And now when Ellie wakes up unexpectedly at 1 a.m. and won’t go back to sleep, I think, “Oh yeah, I don’t miss this one bit.”