Recently, I had the joy of caring for a newborn loved one, my niece. This was also a short adventure in parenting in which I gained a new appreciation for parents, babies and how families survive the parenting process. It’s all a miracle how any of the family unit stays together without committing crimes of insanity or stupidity from lack of sleep.
A newborn baby will not easily fall asleep if it hasn’t burped, because you know, gas happens. We adults know to take a Tums and or, get some peppermint tea and we’re good. My newborn niece doesn’t have these options. Parents, and or yours truly, must burp her for R-E-L-I-E-F. Not just her relief, but for everyone in earshot and desiring sleep. A gassy infant is a cute, but pained and noisy tiny human.
Parents are sleep deprived and they are lying if they say otherwise. Despite earplugs, I would wake to my beautiful niece crying loudly to tell us she was hungry, or wet, or both. Sometimes, she may be just whining. I’d wait a few minutes to make sure it wasn’t the former. She would typically go back to sleep after such noises. But really, I couldn’t stand much longer than five minutes of either because I’d think – “What if it’s really serious and what if her parents were too exhausted to hear her?!”
So, I’d go check on her and for at least half the nights visiting my family. I’d either begin/finish a changing or a feeding. I had some nights where I didn’t wake up. I felt so bad. What if no one heard her at her feeding time that night? Such guilt – and I’m not her mother! Madness, I tell you. Parental instincts seem to wake moms and dads.
There are other ways nature/God intervenes so sleep deprived parents don’t accidentally kill or misplace their child. Here’s some examples for why I believe this:
- I am a conversationalist. After a few nights of sleep deprivation I had no desire to talk. This was in part, because my ability to put a sentence together was declining rapidly. How do parents communicate over the longterm successfully?
- My memory was going to crap because of no sleep. How do parents remember if they picked their other child up at school, and if they really did commit to $1000s in organic baby formula?
- There MUST be something naturally induced in the human body that prevents feelings of going to a 24-hour party where you don’t recall having fun, you woke hungover and then you survive getting run over. My body and mind felt like this after three days of little sleep.
- I now know parents may be soothed by their baby’s scent. It ironically disappears before the child is potty-trained, so my sister says. My niece smells like a mix of baked goods and candy. I get why my sister or her husband don’t get angry or frustrated from 3 hours of sleep after a whiff from the top of her head. I also get why you hear parents say, “I could just eat you up!” It’s not a desire to pursue cannibalism. Their kid just smells like a bakery and and candy store.This fragrance creates some happy or relaxing feelings. Nice. A baby high. Side note – this smell DOES NOT cancel out/reduce a full-poopy-diaper smell. God/Mother Nature – you need to work on this.
To parents everywhere whose kids have made it to age five and are happy and healthy – you amaze me. Keep up the good work.