5/8/10 Getting Through The Night
By Mike Shinn
Soon my wife will be back to work from maternity leave. This signals many memories to me from just after our daughter was born. While my anxiety begins to climb knowing what is to come, I'm comforted by the thought that I made it through this stage once before. I'm talking about the semi-sleepless nights that I have so far been sheltered from with our new son. This time around, I have assembled for myself a few pointers that belong in the guidebook that was not provided after the birth.
Living in the digital age, we have at our hands options not made available to prior generations. Our TV has been one of the greatest saviors towards my sanity and need to stay awake for midnight feedings. The DVR is now an easy-to-use, publicly available option. I simply tell the box what my favorite shows are, or even ones that I'm curious about, and it meticulously stores them away for when they are needed. When I need to stay up, I have a glowing friend that lets me skip past commercials to talk to me and keep me up at any hour. For shows that aren't available to me immediately, I use a DVD-to-mail service or video-on-demand. The dramas and seasons of television shows that are too interesting to allow me to rest do their job well, and at a reasonable price.
For nights that the baby just won't sleep and I have enough energy, I have my Bjorn and excersaucer. We picked up our exersaucer for $25 on craigslist and it provides hours of entertainment to a child with low potential for injury. With the Bjorn, I've been known to do just about any chore around the house while my child enjoys the light bouncing, strapped to my chest. The Bjorn sling brings with it the potential for a cleaner house in addition to child care.
One of the tips that my wife and I heard at a PEP meeting was to "put your kid in the car and drive them around until they fall asleep". It seems that for many babies, the ride and white noise is soothing enough to knock them out. This may be the case, but it poses three very large problems. While it may be a very good short-term solution (which is sometimes all you can hope for) it becomes very addicting to your child. Soon they may not be able to sleep without first taking a few trips around the block. This regular driving about is also quite expensive. Gasoline costs more than three dollars per gallon now, and shows only signs of rising in the future. The final problem with this solution is that it causes long-term associations. My wife has trouble staying awake as a passenger for more than an hour as a result of this. Still, there are other options.
Finally, one of the best gifts that we received when my daughter was born was a Beatles CD done in light xylophone. The Rockabye Baby series comes in a large number of bands. We later used the Pickin' On series as well, recorded right here in Santa Barbara by local bluegrass artists. These covers of favorite musicians are great for keeping you up, as it gives you a focal point while you remain awake at night. For us it has become part of the nighttime routine for our daughter. Unfortunately I do fear that she will one day fall asleep every time she hears Strawberry Fields Forever as the decades pass. As the hallucinations and odd thoughts come and go during these periods of sleep deprivation, I am comforted by the thought that I am not the first person to go through this. Somewhere else in town are other parents in the same situation. Most comforting of all is knowing that this too soon shall pass.