I had a lousy sleep last night. I don’t why. It could have been the howling winds outside, or the financial issues on my mind or the extra glass of wine I had to combat the financial issues, whatever the reason it got me thinking about you and newborn sleeping patterns.
The effort required to parent is enormous. The feeding, changing, walking, anticipating, playing, cleaning, changing again takes so much of our physical, emotional and mental well being that 7:00pm looks like a perfectly reasonable bed time for a grown adult. What makes it even more challenging is that some babies, (our son for example) become nocturnal. How is this possible you ask? Don’t they just adjust to the rhythms and flow of every day life? No my friend. No. You can swaddle them within an inch of their lives, adjust the temperature in their room to the perfect setting, wrap them in the softest blankets made from beluga tears and unicorn hair and still they’ll act like badgers and bats (I learned badgers were nocturnal one night while watching an animal documentary at 3:00 in the morning with a fully awake newborn) just when you need your rest the most.
I have no great words of wisdom here other than this – get as much sleep now as you can. Bank it, because you’re going to be making more withdrawals than you are deposits. That and remember nothing lasts forever, it just feels like it’ll never end when you’re in the moment.
There are a number of milestones as a new parent that will change your life – for the next few days until exhaustion renders you practically useless – that are worth reflecting on. Ask any parent for the exact day their child first walked or said their first word and I’ll bet they won’t remember. They will however remember the feeling associated with that moment. It’s pure joy, unlike anything you’ve experienced previously. Such was the case the first time my son smiled at me. While I don’t remember the date I do remember being in our living room, cradling him and just staring down at this incredible little person all wrapped up in his onesie. His wee chubby face went from a blank expression to this wonderfully robust smile. It started with his mouth as his lips curled up creating a bulge in the fatty mass of his cheeks squeezing his already shut eyes closer together. I was elated! I called out to my wife to share the good news. She was far more practical in her response. I learned right then, which I’ll share with you now, that babies have something called “REAL” smiles and “REFLEX” smiles.
Reflex smiles tend to be shorter and occur randomly, during sleep or fatigue. They’re similar to the jerky arm and leg movements your baby experiences as they test out their new equipment and tend to disappear around 2 months of age. Real smiles occur in response to something, your face or the sound of someone they love and you’ll see this emotion further expressed in their eyes.
As I look at the drawing I created when I first experienced this reflex vs. real scenario I’m momentarily transported back to those days when I could hold my son like a loaf of bread and pass the time just staring down at him. I encourage you in the early days of parenthood to put aside distracting bits of tech and do just that. Scoop your wee lad up, hold him close and sit down on the couch together staring into his perfect little face. If you do get a smile before the clinically proven emotionally specific time that confirms he loves you for you, enjoy it anyways.