“You better get all of the sleep you can now before the baby comes.”
If there is one piece of advice that you will get over and over again before having a baby, it is that you need to get as much sleep as you can. Of course, this advice is ridiculous, since you can’t store up sleep like a squirrel hoarding nuts. It is like telling a drowning man that he should have breathed a lot more last week.
Little did we realize that the roughly three hours of sleep we had over our first two nights in the hospital, waiting for Jen to give birth, would be just the beginning of our sleepless journey. Our little bundle of joy would add a new wrinkle to sleep deprivation that would make me long for a solid three hours of sleep on the vinyl love seat that would be my bed for the next four nights in the hospital.
Following the actual birth, there was a flurry of activity. Doctors, nurses, family and friends all passing each other in the revolving door to our room. But as the day drew on and our families headed home for the night, we were eventually left with just the three of us. I can’t be sure, but I think Matthew may have suspected that we didn’t know what we were doing.
Experts will tell you that getting a baby to sleep is all about the 5 “S’s”, one of which I can now assure you is not Sitting. The first “S,” swaddling, is the practice of making a baby feel as confined as they were in the womb by wrapping them up like a burrito. If the ingredients of that burrito had wildly flailing arms. I found that my swaddling skills were roughly equal to my gift wrapping skills. Which is not a good thing. With swaddling, unfortunately, it is generally frowned upon to use scissors to cut off the foot-long section of blanket that I would have left over when I was done. Matthew has yet to face one of my swaddles from which he could not escape.
What the baby books and TV shows fail to teach you, is that a newborn eats every three hours from the time they started eating, not when they finished. So after they eat, and you try to get them back to sleep, you are left with about an hour to get things done or, hopefully, sleep. This doesn’t seem like as big of a deal at three in the afternoon, but at three in the morning it will fry your brain. I think this is how the Navy Seals train, only with a diapered bag of flour to teach them about parental responsibility.
You know that you aren’t getting enough sleep when, not only do you watch a Discovery channel show about a toothless redneck assembling a Dream Team of fellow noodlers to catch giant European catfish with their bare hands, but you get upset when you doze off before seeing how things turned out. At least I think all of that really happened.
After several days at the hospital, with little sleep and irregular showers, I stopped caring about what I looked like on my daily jaunts to the cafeteria. T-shirt complete with spit-up? Check. Hair that looked like I had combed it with a Filet ‘o Fish sandwich? Double check. I’m sure my fellow cafeteria patrons were just happy that the glassy-eyed man at the Nacho Bar was finally at the hospital, getting the help that he so desperately needed.
In those first few nights in the hospital, I was left with one burning question: Why would anyone ever have a second child? I can only assume that going for round 2 is like my annual trip to White Castle, when I finish my meal by declaring, “I will never eat here again.” Then about a year later, my memory foggy from the passage of time (and possibly beer), I look down at the empty boxes and think, “Oh yeah, that’s why I never eat here.” But it is too late, the damage has already been done.
After four nights with Matthew in the hospital, the training wheels finally came off. We were free to go home to not get any sleep in our own bed. Our whole time at the hospital seems like a blur now. I guess the lack of sleep and free Graham crackers will do that to you. But we had our beautiful baby boy, and about 10 tubes of A&D ointment that I took from his bassinet daily, so it was all worth it.
We were parents now, and the real adventure was about to begin.