Have Baby, Can’t Travel…

Man, last night was rough.  I can’t complain because he is such an easy baby in every other way but, I’m starting to conclude:  Little Man is a homebody and he does NOT like to travel.

In that sense he definitely takes after me.  Daddy has a very adventurous spirit.  Not only will he go anywhere, any time, on any inconvenient mode of transport, but I’m pretty sure he actually aims for the least convenient modes of transport and travel times just to make it a more intense experience.  I mean this is a man who used to complain some years that the Minnesotan winters were not cold enough for him!  He also used to tell his swimming students – who were like 4 years old at the time – to repeat after him:  “From pain, will come pleasure.”  Now picture a chorus of swimsuit-clad four-year-olds echoing, in their sweet high-pitched voices, “From pain will come pleasure!”  That’s my man. 

Me, I’ve never liked anywhere as well as my own bed, and I generally favor avoiding pain if possible.  I went through a brief phase where sleepovers seemed magical, but by 7th grade I already dreaded waking up in a bed that wasn’t mine, with a breakfast over which I had no control.  This continued on into high school and college, where I never, not even for a minute, went through a phase of liking parties or bars.  Parties to me are one long uncomfortable experience of being in someone else’s home, with people you might not even know that well – and plenty of them.  Bars are slightly better since there’s less intimacy in a public establishment, but the only time in my life I ever found myself frequenting a bar was as a new lawyer in a firm where “happy hour” was expected on Fridays.  Eventually I came to tolerate it all right – if we went to the smoke free bar and if there was major work drama to discuss.  Which there always was…

Of course six months is a bit young to consider anything set in stone, but so far it appears:  Baby takes after Mama, in a major way.  I can’t complain:  I’ve now learned through many responses to facebook postings that my “travel baby” is how many other babies just are, in their own homes, all the time.  But as for mine, he’s a different creature when traveling and it cranks up the guilt factor on me, since I know it’s the travel and I know I can choose not to travel.

Ever since we got back from the hospital, baby has generally gone to sleep on his own, when placed in his crib.  Sometimes he’ll cry for a few minutes, but it’s a self-comforting cry – he’s rarely angry or alarmed, and if he is, it’s brief.  I’ve never once rocked him to sleep; we don’t even own a rocking chair or glider.  I credit (1) luck; (2) not having a glider; (3) not being able to comfortably sit or stand for very long for a good two weeks after delivery; but mostly (4) our cradle swing.  It did the rocking for me if he hadn’t fallen asleep nursing, and then I’d turn off the motion after a few minutes since The Sleep Bible says motion sleep is addictive and not as high quality as stationary sleep.  I would recommend this swing or similar to anybody.  Still to this day, if nothing else makes him happy, he can do a good 40 minutes in that swing, awake but calmed by the side-to-side motion.  And the transition to the crib was a piece of cake.  We just started using the crib for naps first, and used the same fan for background noise and blankie for attachment.  Smooth as can be!

Oh but my easy baby doesn’t accompany me on the road!  Before we left for Oklahoma, he was reliably waking just once a night (around 4-5 am) to eat, then sleeping until 8:30ish.  But in Oklahoma, all four nights, he woke up an additional time, about three hours after he’d gone to bed, crying.  It definitely wasn’t fun; I had to let him cry it out so as not to re-establish feeding him twice a night.  And his pack and play (portable crib) was right next to me so I was awake every minute he was, feeling awful for him.  But it was just crying.  Nothing that would strike panic into my heart or anything.

Fast forward to last night!  It was night #3 staying at Hillary’s parents’ home in Newton.  They need someone to stay with her dad when her mom is out of town, due to his M.S.  It’s a win-win situation – I’ll only accept much less than they originally offered, and have offered a free night before (tried to insist, but her mother paid me anyway).  Thus I get to feel like I’m helping friends, we make a little extra for the preschool fund (we literally have a preschool fund; the cheapest our friends could find out here was still $3,000/year for only 2 mornings a week), and Kristina and Dean – whom I love dearly – avoid the high costs of an overnight nurse.  Now if only I could explain to the baby how wonderful a setup this is!

Last night, for the first time ever, I’d say he literally screamed bloody murder for over an hour, around 1-2 a.m.  I’ve never heard anything like it from him!  It was like the Oklahoma thing but with the volume cranked up as high as possible.  And he’d been sleeping through the night back at home, every night. 

I tried to comfort him in the crib, like the books say.  This only made him more mad.  Finally, out of desperation, I broke every rule and turned the light on and held him to me.  I was so glad I did because even at that he took a good seven minutes to stop screaming – we were both crying for that.  When he finally did, he looked at me confused, as if seeing me for the first time.  Was this a night terror or just the travel, or both?  No idea.  I held him calm for several minutes, and then put him back down – where it all started over again!  It was sheer torture.  I ended up awake for two hours because I was too shaken up after the experience to fall asleep.  And then utterly shocked in the morning, to find he still smiles at me and appears to like, maybe even love me…

He seems fine today… but is his hearing permanently damaged?  Is he now less secure about the world in general?  Have I damaged his “baby self-esteem” by changing up the routine that allowed him to anticipate “what comes next”?  Have I planted the seed of mommy-issues that will plague him all his life?  Wait… don’t answer that last one.

Pretty sure parents are programmed so that their babies’ curdling cries inflict calculated emotional torture on their souls.  And I say parents, not just moms; Mark wasn’t even there for last night, thank goodness, but in the past has said that when the baby cries, he thinks it’s bad for his heart (his cholesterol condition).  It is brutal!  I remember those first few weeks back from the hospital, thinking of parents who were struggling with colic on TOP of their own physical recoveries and probable nursing issues and my heart just breaking for them because especially as a new parent, you really internalize those cries – your heart says “If only I were doing this right, my baby wouldn’t be suffering so!”  That was me last night, for 90 minutes.  So I say to any first time parents who had colicky or otherwise-difficult newborn:  My heart goes out to you, and you are my heroes.  I cannot imagine.

My homebody baby and I have three nights left in Newton.  And two back here (the readjustment is always hard), one in Chicago, three in Madison, one in Peoria, six in Madison, and six in Florida.  In my defense I had no idea the Madison and Florida portions would be that long; Mark planned the trip and he just got whatever tickets were cheapest.  But oy, here we go.  If the next three nights aren’t any better, do I go on the trip and subject my baby to seventeen nights of torture in constantly changing surroundings?  Or do I forfeit these plane tickets? 

Sigh.  Here’s to hoping for an easier night tonight…