Monday, August 14, 2006

Instead of wine, whine

This is not the post I was planning to write. The one I was planning to write was sort of witty. Failing that, it was at least non-baby-related. And non-whiny.

But, as I said, that post is not getting written.

Instead, you're getting yet another whiny baby post, in which I admit how miserable I feel these days about my role as a mother. Mondays and Tuesdays are my days alone with Ess. D works from 11 to 7 or thereabouts, meaning that if he goes straight to work and comes straight home I am on my own with her from 10:30 to 7:30. This morning, I had a chiropractor appointment and then some errands to run, so I left the house with her at 9. A friend met me at the chiro's office to watch Ess while I was treated; she and I chatted in the half-hour we waited for my appointment. (News flash: I have carpal tunnel from holding the baby and need to be fitted for wrist braces. Yippee.)

Then Ess and I went off to do our errands. She slept for about an hour, and then was awake. We came home, she later napped for 30 minutes, and we spent some time hanging out in the backyard. Getting a bit bored and stir crazy, I called a friend whose baby doesn't sleep, either, to see if she wanted to go for a walk. Ess was just falling asleep when they arrived at our house, so I popped her into the stroller, where she slept for much of our walk. K and I discussed sleep schedules, our frustration, the difficulty breastfeeding creates for the mother who wants to accomplish anything besides nursing the baby, etc. etc.

I came home at about 3:30. I'd had two good social interactions with understanding friends. I'd gotten some exercise, had a good lunch and even gotten some things accomplished -- together, typically the sign of a good day.

But by 5:30, when Ess was clearly overtired and still would not nap, despite about 45 minutes of effort on my part to help soothe her to sleep, I was a basket case. On the verge of tears, at a loss for what to try next and resentful of the crying baby in my arms. Even before we'd gotten to this point -- and this is one of the things I don't like to admit -- I was looking forward to going to work on Wednesday, to having someone else be responsible for her.

My mom called in the midst of this to see how we were doing, and I lost it. Cried, confessed to dreading the days I am on my own with Ess and looking forward to work. She suggested I call my sister and ask her to come over and help. I didn't want to. Ess screamed, I cried some more and my mom took over. Called my sister and sent her over. I later learned she told my sis that I was having a nervous breakdown... a little melodramatic, but effective in getting a fresh pair of hands on the scene.

So my sister held the screaming baby while I drank a huge glass of water and got started making my (very simple) dinner, which I hadn't figured out how I could manage without someone else there. Ess screamed more, my sister bounced her and danced with her and was just about to take her for a ride in the car when I decided to nurse her once again, just to make sure that if Ess was screaming in the car, it wasn't because she was hungry. She screamed and refused to latch on, then eventually settled... and had a nice big poop while she nursed. That seemed to help, so after I changed her diaper and gave her a massage -- just about the only thing that reliably helps her sleep -- I put her to bed. It only took about 15 minutes -- astonishing, after the hours I'd just spent trying to soothe her.

Still, I feel incompetent all the time. I feel like I'm not learning anything about how to help Ess get to sleep more easily, or stay asleep longer. (We are still looking at three hours, and occasionally four, as the longest she'll go between nursings at night.) I hate how easily I get frustrated, and how much I resent her -- not all the time, but with some regularity -- for keeping me from reading or eating or sleeping when I want to. I fantasize about going back to work full-time and then hate myself for wanting to. I feel like I am just not cut out for this job, and yet I've got it for life.

I know that a lot of this is temporary, that presumably at some point Ess' sleep schedule will improve and I will get a bit more rest myself. I know that I really enjoy toddlers, and that in the grand scheme of things this infant stuff doesn't last for long. And I am trying to keep all that in perspective. But on days like today, it's really difficult.