I’ve been sleeping on the couch for almost a week. Not only that, another man has taken my spot in the bed.
I’m not in the proverbial doghouse; I haven’t done anything to make Trudy upset with me, although one of our doormen seems to think I have.1 There’s also nothing wrong with my bed; I’m not on the couch because the mattress has a spring sticking out or anything. The couch is just where I’ve been sleeping recently. It’s actually really comfortable, but, of course, I’d rather be in my bed.
As with so many parenting situations, I have to sleep on the couch because of my children.
Shayna was terribly sick two weeks ago. She was congested, coughed up a storm and had a fever for over a week, which occasionally rose as high as 103 degrees. She saw doctors on four straight days at one point to monitor her temperature, get an x-ray to check for pneumonia and to make sure the rash that suddenly broke out all over her body wasn’t an allergic reaction. The doctors concluded, after ruling out the more serious and terrifying diseases, that she had fallen victim to approximately seventy-five viruses all at once.2
Shayna is fine now. Her fever finally broke (on day eight!) and the rash that made her look like a mutant faded after a couple of days. Her sleep schedule, though, had been thrown completely out of whack because she kept waking up from the coughing. The quickest way to get Shayna back to sleep is usually for Trudy to nurse her, which makes sense when Shayna’s sick and needs the comfort, but is sort of annoying when she’s healthy. Shayna knows how to sleep through the night, so Trudy and I would rather not wake up if we don’t have to. Sometimes Shayna’s sleep patterns get altered, though, so we need to remind her how to go back to sleep without nursing.
That’s where I come in.
I usually get up with Trudy anytime she nurses Shayna at night, in case Eitan starts stirring while we’re in the room or Shayna finishes nursing but doesn’t fall asleep right away. Whenever we’re sleep training her, though, I have to be the only person Shayna sees in the middle of the night. If I come in and close the door behind me then Shayna knows she won’t be nursing. This leads her to start protesting, usually fairly loudly. We would rather not take the chance that Eitan get woken up by her crying so he sleeps on my side of the bed for a few days and I sleep on the couch. That way, Eitan and Trudy don’t get woken up whenever Shayna’s whimpering starts coming through the baby monitor and Trudy saves up a little more energy for dealing with a sick child3 the next day.
The time it takes for Shayna to fall back to sleep varies. It helps that Shayna actually understands instructions now because I can come in to her standing in the crib, tell her to lie down and she usually does it. Or, if I’ve picked her up and she points to the door to say that she wants me to bring her to Mommy, I can say, “No, we’re not going out,” and she leans her head down on my shoulder. Sometimes she puts her head down right away and sometimes she keeps crying for a bit. I was up with Shayna for close to two hours for the first two nights but it was less time after that. She slept straight through last night so we’ll probably give her at least one more night just to make sure. My fingers are crossed.
This is one of those processes that new parents don’t find out about until they’re faced with it. Everyone knows that parents of young children are deprived of sleep, but it usually gets discussed in terms of newborns waking up three or four times each night to eat. Afterward, the discussion becomes all about training the baby to fall asleep (and stay asleep) on his or her own. Countless methods have been developed on the subject, all of which claim to be effective, even though many of them contradict each other. Even with all of that research, however, I don’t remember reading any references to the effects of baby sleep training on the trainers. It seems that the real message here, outside of describing what it’s like to have a sick child and the teamwork needed to survive it, is a tip for expecting parents:
Invest in a comfortable couch. You never know when it’s going to come in handy.
1. I walked in with flowers last Friday and he gave me a wink and a smile. “Flowers for the lady, eh? What’d you do wrong?”↩
2. Okay, fine, they said it was three or four viruses. But they definitely all came at once and that rash was freaking scary so, for Trudy and me, it might as well have been seventy-five.↩
3. Or sick children, as things usually work out.↩