10 July 2013

Shaking the Invisible Air Baby

Tomorrow is Annaïs' 2nd birthday. Or as we call it, "The First Anniversary of Regaining our Sanity." You see, she was one of those babies. Cried all night. Never happy. Always bounce-nursing. It was bad. And I had almost forgotten until I read this amazing article, Before I Forget: What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood.

Our firstborn Charlotte was the perfect baby. Of course, we attributed her behavior to our expert parenting. We rolled our eyes at all those parents whose kids were up all night and never happy. Those fools obviously had no idea what they were doing.

We took perfect Charlotte back to Congo when she was 3-weeks-old. Soon after, our half saint, half sage neighbor with grown children of her own, sat me down and said if I ever felt overwhelmed and "well, you know..." I could bring Charlotte over to her house any time of day no questions asked. I thought she was crazy. I could never be overwhelmed by a baby. So needless to say, I never took her up on her baby amnesty offer.

(Coincidentally, this neighbor is also the source of my favorite parenting tip ever: If you're worried you might roll over on your sleeping baby in your bed, just put an upside down laundry basket over them. Genius. )

Then precious Annaïs came along. And when I say "precious" I mean horrendous. That child was just never happy. But I wouldn't put her in the colicky category. She didn't scream and cry. She was just perpetually pissed off and fussy.

Perfect baby v. Crazy baby

In fact, I fantasized about having a colicky baby. Then I could go to work and tell co-workers, "Yep, up all night with that colicky baby again." And then they would say, "Oh no! Colic is the worst. I'm so sorry. It will end." There's no real way to garner sympathy by saying your baby is just undiagnosably always pissed off.

Sleep deprivation is not kind to marriages. I distinctly remember telling Adam he was lucky our house was surrounded by a 10-foot wall topped with razor wire or I would have been outta there. In the mornings we argued over who got less sleep. Adam claimed his sleep didn't count because it was "guilty sleep."

As I bounced the nights away and she fussed I wondered if the guys at Gitmo knew about this very effective form of torture. I could feel myself going crazy. My sweet amnesty neighbor was gone and in her place useless non-parent neighbors. I imagined taking Ani over there and saying, "You see, the people who lived here before you had this amnesty deal with me if I was ever feeling 'you know'...so here's my baby."

It's the type of crazy only people who have been there can understand. You never stop loving your baby, you just start hating your life. Sometimes when it got particularly bad I would kiss my sweet crying baby on her forehead, put her down (which she hated more than anything) and shake an invisible air baby until I felt like I could safely pick my real baby up again. This is the fine line between moms who by some miracle have presence of mind to put their baby down, and moms who spend the rest of their lives in prison. It's a very fine, but important line. And a technique that should be taught in parenting classes if no one would judge.

This was when I finally understood what my neighbor had meant when she said if I was ever feeling "you know." She meant if I was ever feeling like shaking an invisible air baby.

So on awful Ani's (I mean the baby we loved more than anything, including sleep) 1st birthday we decided the jig was up. She was no longer a baby and could scream her head off, but she would need to learn how to deal.

Happy 1st Birthday Ani. Good luck with the night you're about to have.

I swear it was only one night (Adam says two), but that child cried and cried and we counted the seconds between the screams until she was done. And then she sighed and laid down. And I swear in that sigh she said, "Oh, I thought you wanted me to be up all night to keep you company. No? Okay, I'll go to sleep."

And just like that it was over. Exactly one year of no sleep, midnight divorce papers and invisible air babies were over.

Happy Birthday sweet Annaïs. The best/worst baby we've ever had. 

Photo credit: Jill.


  1. Thank you for this incredibly honest post about the torture of sleep deprivation caused by a person you love more than anything else in the world but also the person that you want to give to someone else more than anyone else in the world. Our daughter Rachel slept in 1-2.5 hour chunks from 5 months to 9 months. It was the worst four months of my life. I wish someone had taught me about the air-baby to shake :)

    1. Isn't it amazing how the best thing in the world can be so torturous! Glad to hear it wasn't too long for you. If only we could know in the middle of it how long it will last...

  2. I love the phrase "guilty sleep" and will now be stealing it for my own use.

  3. Better the air baby than the real baby any day of the week. Whatever it takes to get through this phase with the real baby unharmed. I have SO been there and felt for you through every word of this post!!

  4. Ugh. So been there. I used to wonder if I would survive the first year, and then I would wonder if I even WANTED to survive that first year. I'm pregnant with our second now. Please, oh please let this one be easier.

  5. Holy COW I remember that. I'm campaigning for a third kid right now and my husband looked me squarely in the eye and told me he didn't think our marriage could handle it. THIS IS WHY. Great advice about the air baby, btw.

  6. WE HAVE ONE OF THOSE. That is why I am laughing/crying so hard right now. He is 5.5 months.... sleep still elusive. Thank you, thank you, thank you for much-needed humor and the special bond I now feel with a random blogger in another country.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...