I used to judge women like me. Before I had babies, I turned my nose up when I heard nursing women say they were the only ones who woke up with babies in the night. All of my burgeoning feminist instincts rejected this notion. Why should she be the only one waking up? She carries the baby for 9 months, then cares for baby all day, then gets up with baby solo all night. Uh. Uh. Not me.
Fast forward to today. Baby number 3. The third baby nursed, the third to be cared for by a half asleep mom in the middle of the night. Do I sometimes wish my husband was up with me, bringing baby to my side to nurse, learning to make it through the day on interrupted sleep, or needing to pee again at 2 am because baby woke him (and his bladder) up? You bet.
Here’s the fantasy:
Baby cries. Tim immediately awakes, rushes to baby’s side while I continue snoozing, content that baby is in his father’s tender care. Daddy changes baby’s diaper, softly singing lullabies, while baby coos contentedly. Dad delivers baby to my side, gently nudging me awake, and we cuddle until baby finishes eating. My husband then scoops our little one in his arms, carefully returning the slumbering infant to his crib, where he snoozes until it’s time for baby’s next feeding. Every one wakes up the next day, tired, but happy.
Baby #1: My husband is a student at the University of Washington working three part-time jobs, one in the middle of the night. He’s already exhausted and overextended. Even when his work schedule changes, I still can “sleep when she sleeps,” so I let him lie. As she gets older, he has midnight pacifier fetching duty and “It’s your turn. She isn’t hungry.”
Here’s the truth about my mild-mannered husband, though: waking him up is like disturbing a hibernating bear. He will not wake up to cries on his own and there is no simply nudging him awake. He won’t remember being cranky the next morning and his usual response is to wait it out to see if baby will go back to sleep on his/her own, which keeps me awake anyway. Plus, my kids seemed to have a sixth sense that causes them to stop crying the minute I wake dad up and to begin again once he’s asleep!
Baby #2: Much the same as the first, except Dad is out of school and has a full-time job. His official night-time job is to get up with our toddler anytime she cries out in the middle of the night or needs something. This isn’t as frequent, but it’s primarily his gig. Plus, if I’ve had a rough night with one baby, the “sleep when he sleeps” rule doesn’t really apply with 2. So, if Dad is fairly well rested, he can take over when he’s home and I have run out of steam at night.
Baby #3: Same as 1 and 2, but more so. I don’t want Tim up at night. I want him energetic the next day, able to focus at work, with enough left over at the end of the day to play catch monster with the kids and even take an extra turn putting them to bed if I’ve totally lost it by the end of the day.
In truth, what seems ideal in principle, isn’t always ideal in reality. Sometimes I still have that dream about the “perfect” night with baby, then I just force myself out of bed, scoop baby up, bring him to bed, and nurse him half asleep while my husband slumbers, oblivious, nearby.