Friday, January 22, 2010

An instance of comfort

I haven't blogged for a couple of months.

There's reasons and reasons.

The first reason is that I went back to work (3 days a week) on December 1st, which has been wonderful, scary, and full of organising. I express milk twice a day for Luka while I'm at work (in the archive room, gazing around at the history of Melbourne Uni's Student Union), and most of my thoughts have been centred around if I'll get a let-down and whether I'm leaving enough milk for Paul to feed him while I'm away. I've been 'topping up' his bottles by expressing between feeds on my days off and on weekends, but recently he's been scaling back his intake so I feel more confident that whatever amount I can "get out" at work will be enough for him. He's also been eating more (at last!) so that helps too.

I think I'm in the swing of it finally: I get home from work, sweep the boy up into my arms as he makes excited noises and bites my face (flattering, but kind of painful) while Paul puts the day's milk into the fridge. I cuddle the boy or play with him until he goes to bed, then if I'm working the next day I wash the pump and pack the next day's containers, my lunch, and the cool-bag. In the morning I feed the boy when he wakes (or occasionally I gently wake him first), pick up my bag, and go.

This doesn't include the time between putting him to bed and the morning feed. As those who know me can testify, Luka wakes up a lot at night. He always has, and now he has just turned 1, he shows no sign of changing the pattern.

But the mention of a 1st birthday is of course an excuse for gratuitous birthday-photo insertions:

Right. Back to the night times. Often I've got no idea how many times a night I go to him, but for the past few nights I've kept a piece of paper beside my bed, and each time I get up in the dark I grab the pen and make a wobbly slash at the paper. Luka goes to bed about 7pm. I usually go to him once or twice after that before I go to bed myself at 11pm. Between my bedtime and 7am the next morning the bit of paper says I get up between 2 and 5 times. I breastfeed him each of these times.

So, I'm a bit tired.

Now, here comes the contradictory bit. I reserve the right to whinge about Luka's sleeping, as I haven't had a night's sleep for over a year, and I wouldn't complain if he suddenly decided to sleep for...well, even 4 hours in a row.

But. Before you send me to sleep school, or recommend a controlled crying program (although I think it has the euphemism "controlled comforting" these days), I should say that while I can stand to listen to him cry, I'm just not willing to.

I've done it once. It was probably our worst night's sleep since he'd been born. He went to bed as usual at 7pm, fed at 8pm, 9pm and then after another hour just started screaming. Paul and I took it in turns for 5 hours between 10pm and 3am, and he still wouldn't stop screaming. I'd fed him, fed him again, walked him around, tried Panadol in case it was teething, given him some water, sung to him - and ran out of ideas. So at 3am we went to bed, shut the doors, turned on the fan, and waited. After 20 minutes of screaming (not crying or yelling, but screaming), he fell asleep.

He woke again for a feed at 4am, went quietly back to his cot, and I didn't hear from him again til his usual 6am feed. So. I don't know what all that was about, and he can't tell me. It was the first time that sort of thing had happened, and at the time I just didn't know what else to do. So I ran away.

That night made me think a lot about why Luka wakes a night, why usually a feed settles him, and why that time I couldn't solve his problems.

I've read some books that reassure me that I'm not 'weak' if I can't bear to listen to my baby cry at night. That's true, but the fact is I can bear it - I was really, really tired, and when I left him to roar for 20 minutes that night it didn't bother me AT ALL.

So I thought a lot more about teaching-to-sleep, or sleep training, or whatever you want to call it. It's worked for a couple of friends of mine. More than a couple, actually. And I'm glad it's worked for them.

But I Just. Can't. Do. It.

I CAN switch off from his cries, that's not a problem. I'm just not willing to ignore him. He's calling for me because he wants me - and while a feed settles him, I'm pretty damn sure that at over 1 year he's not hungry. But he wants me to be with him. He wants comfort. And I think that's a valid request.

Am I a softy? Probably. Definitely. Perhaps I just haven't reached the level of sleep-deprivation that would drive me to start a teaching-to-sleep program. But you'd think after having no more than 4hrs sleep in a row since 17th January 2009, I'd have peaked by now? Who knows.

And how does this relate to books, you ask?

Well, if I haven't mentioned it before, I'm really tired. And still reserving the right to whinge.

I've tried to keep reading the books on the favourites list. I started to read The Bourne Identity, and I stalled. So I started to read Captain Corelli's Mandolin, and I stalled.

All I want to do is read for comfort, and so I've mostly been reading Paul Auster. I'm aware I may be the only person in the world who reads Paul Auster for comfort, but from the first page of his books, I'm in a familiar place. It's a place where I can connect his allusions, his character names, and his images back and forth to his other works. It's a place where I know I won't be satisfied by the ending, but I also know that a 'satisfying' ending in one of his books would be a let-down. His books rough up against each other, they reference each other without creating anything you could call 'connection', and you're left with the feeling that if you just read them again, you might understand. But that's just part of the fun - because you wouldn't.

How strange that this discomforting kind of reading should provide my comfort.

But that's my story, my excuse.

Perhaps reading Auster provides a good correlation for my experience of motherhood: I don't know what I'm doing, but who does?

*This post brought to you between two feeds.