Lucy was due to arrive mid-January. For Christmas, we were planning to visit my husband’s family in Ottawa. I wasn’t keen on the idea. I mean, babies come early, right? And I had an awesome midwife and birth plan in place, and didn’t want to mess that up. But there was no talking hubby out of it.
We booked our first-class Via Rail tickets. There was no way I was going to risk going into labour in a snow storm, in a Chevy Cavalier, in the thick of holiday traffic. And if you’re going to give birth on a train, you want to make sure you do it with class. We never made it onto the train.
My baby was premature.
Lucy arrived a few days before Christmas. She was a healthy six and a half pounds with wafer thin ears and teeny tiny feet. My midwife called her peanut. She was the most precious thing I’d ever seen. Definitely my best work yet. And then she discovered her lungs.
I’d heard that newborn infants slept all day. Mine didn’t. This peanut wouldn’t sleep during the day unless she was strapped to me and moving – so I kept moving. I walked for hours every day. And by night, here’s what I did:
How to get a crying infant to sleep in 7 not-so-easy steps.
- Put on some classical music and walk up and down your room of choice with baby held to chest.
- Turn TV to a channel with no reception in order to achieve white noise.
- Slowly turn the classical music down while simultaneously turning the TV up.
- Gently remove baby from chest, place into bassinet, and keep walking, swinging gently to the dulcet sounds of white noise.
- Turn on an electric razor and position it under baby’s bassinet pillow.
- Slowly turn the TV down while continuing to walk and gently swing baby.
- Head to bed and pray bundle of joy doesn’t wake up. ‘Til morning, I should add.
I went to the occasional mom and baby group.
You probably know the kind I mean. Moms sitting in a circle with their bundles of joy laid out before them, shaking their mini Whoozits above their babies’ heads and responding to their coos of joy. Not me. Lucy would have none of that. I’d pace the circumference of the circle with her strapped to me, wishing desperately that I could be a participant in this adult show-and-tell.
One afternoon, when she was just a few months old, a fellow baby-momma invited me to join her mom’s group for coffee at one of their homes and a strange thing happened. Lucy sat on the floor with the other babies, and made barely a peep. It was a beautiful thing. I enjoyed an afternoon of adult-talk. Maybe I should rephrase that. An afternoon of talking with adults … about motor skills, bowel movements, nursing and other baby-related things.
When I got home late that afternoon, I popped Lucy into her bouncy chair. Still not a peep. Too good to be true. I poured myself a glass of red wine. For the first time in weeks I was able to prepare dinner without being forced to stand two-feet away from the stove-top to prevent my baby sling and baby from catching fire. And then my husband came home.
I greeted him with a smile and a kiss, instead of the tears he had come to expect. Right then, he knew something was up. He walked over to Lucy and said hello. She didn’t respond. He snapped his fingers in front of her eyes. Still no response. “There’s something wrong with her,” he said. “How long has she been like this?” Sheepishly, I said, “she’s been quiet all afternoon.”
Five minutes later, we were on our way to emerg. Before I knew it, Lucy was being examined by a doctor while donning the most heart-breakingly small hospital gown. She had a fever. They gave her baby Tylenol and monitored her for a while. Nothing changed. Eventually we were told she could have meningitis, and preparation for a spinal tap began.
I know I don’t need to tell you how petrifying that was. I don’t think I said much in the hospital. I let my husband take control – extremely out of character for me – while my foggy brain tried to make sense of what had happened that day. If you haven’t guessed yet, here’s what I’m pretty sure happened.
My baby was quiet. Quiet for the first time in months.
Bless her little peanut heart, I was just so worn out from motherhood and I wanted to milk that peace and quiet for all it was worth. I saw my baby in a trance – and I ignored it. I abandoned maternal instinct and played dumb. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. It’s not my proudest moment, and that’s why it’s taken me years to come clean. In fact, I may have never come clean if it weren’t for the fact that just minutes before Lucy was due for her spinal tap, she took a massive, and I mean MASSIVE dump. Her temperature returned to normal. She broke out of her trance, opened her lungs, and belted out the most beautiful song ever.
All of this to say, next time you find yourself drowning in shame, know that you’re not alone. Yes, that’s my biggest parenting fail but it’s definitely not the only one. We mere mortals are going to get it wrong for time to time. Just learn from your mistakes and give yourself a pat on the back for the many things you get right!
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