Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fighting a baby

Mimi likes to say that her life was "a happening." Without exactly planning anything, everything turned out nicely for her. She married my grandfather, who took such complete care of her that it wasn't until after he died that Mimi realized she didn't know how to put gas into her car—he had always done it for her. She says that she went directly from her parents' care into her husband's. (Almost immediately after marrying my grandfather, as they drove away from the wedding together, Mimi asked, "Bill, what am I going to do if I find someone I like better than you?" And he replied coolly that he would work very hard to make sure that didn't happen.) When Mimi says that her life was "a happening," she means that she never calculated its events or outcomes. They just happened.

Feeling a lack of responsibility for—or a lack of control over—your own life is a hallmark, I think, of depression. But Mimi is not depressed. Feeling that your life has made itself without your active, planned input might amount to a sort of ontological humility:  it's difficult to resist regarding yourself as the center of the universe—although I have heard that our first-person mode of being/thinking is a construct, I truly can't imagine it any other way—but maybe being the center of things just means that influences are pressing in on you from every direction all the time. If you're satisfied with the result of the pressing, I guess you could be called humble. Maybe Mimi is satisfied; maybe Mimi is humble. 

Before Eva was born, Aron and I went to lunch with Ashley and Paul, and during that lunch Paul asked something about putting a baby on a schedule—I don't remember what he said exactly, but I think it was a suggestion-disguised-as-a-question, like, Isn't it a good idea to start your baby on a schedule early so that she can develop at least a small sense of self-sufficiency by recognizing that there are times that are for you and the baby together and times that are for you and the baby separately. Aron and I essentially said that you don't impose a schedule on a baby; a baby imposes a schedule on you. A baby is a whole universe of influences.

But ...

I did some research on Google a few nights ago and became convinced that Graham has been experiencing night terrors. (I am not entirely convinced that he has ever truly had a night terror, and no one I've mentioned his "night terrors" to has been even slightly convinced that he's ever had one. I think the consensus is that I'm being a dramatic, panicky mother.) Within thirty minutes of putting Graham to bed each night, he wakes up screaming and is, for up to two minutes, inconsolable. (Night terrors can last fifteen minutes or more, so if Graham has in fact had night terrors, I am grateful that they are the brief kind.) What I learned when reading about night terrors is that babies who have them are actually asleep during the episodes even when they appear—because of open eyes and thrashing—to be awake. I also learned that a sleep-deprived baby is more at risk of having night terrors, so for the past four days I have been forcing Graham to take at least two naps, together totaling at least three hours, each day. A couple of weeks ago Graham started fighting his morning nap so hard that I thought he must no longer need to take one, but reading about the connection between night terrors and sleep deprivation has convinced me that his need for significant periods of daytime sleep remains. So I have, like I said, forced Graham to continue taking his morning nap.

Which means I did something. Did I exert a strong maternal influence? Did Graham have no other option than to submit to my napping commands? Well, only kind of. What does it mean to force a baby to nap? It means being as patient as possible through whiny, flailing protestations. It means giving up at least thirty minutes in struggling to calm a baby who is attempting to rub his sleepy eyes and crawl simultaneously, and then it means giving up another hour to be the mattress for the baby once he has been successfully subdued. 

Ensuring that Graham gets more sleep during the day is necessary for his wellbeing. He needs sleep, so I fight him for him. He is happening to me much more than I am happening to him. I would like to claim credit for the fact that Graham almost never pees on me during diaper changes anymore, but I don't think I had much to do with that either. It has just happened to work out that way.

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