Friday, February 4, 2011

On instincts

(Note: if I ever say "to make a long story short," I'm probably lying.)

Chloë's been waking up screaming around midnight pretty often lately. As previously mentioned, I'm finding it hard not to go to her and give her what she's asking for, even if I know she doesn't need it, because now she can ask, and the sad sound of a baby crying in the night is nothing compared to a toddler's piteous "Bottle! Bottle! Mama! Bottle!", especially to pregnancy-hormone-addled ears. She slept through the last few nights and I was so relieved, but last night I woke up around one to her screaming for juice.

We've been working on weaning her off bottles, and she now only has one for bedtime. Sometimes she doesn't even want milk when she gets up in the morning, preferring juice or not asking for anything at all. And she's not always asking for milk in the night, obviously. But we don't want to encourage her to have tooth-rotting liquids in the night, either. And we had discussed the night wakings previously and agreed that we should probably try delaying our response to see if she'll just go back to sleep.

So when I woke up, I checked the time. After a few minutes, I got up and waited in the hall for Eric (who was in the office on the other end of the hall, with Chloë's door between us) to get up to try to stop me. He did, saw me, and indicated "five minutes." So I went back to bed. Chloë continued to scream "Ju! Ju! Ju!" Then she started to slow down. The five minutes were up. There was silence. I started to cry because my baby was probably sitting in the dark with tears drenching her cheeks thinking that nobody cared enough to come to her, since I knew she could hear me get in and out of bed. Then she started up again: "Ju!" and "Bowah!" (her new word for bottle) and then, "Mama!"

I went. The five minutes were more than up and my maternal guilt was overflowing. Eric joined me as I picked Chloë up and stroked her back while she cried. Eric told her that juice was not for night time, but she could have water; did she want some? She wailed, "No," and went on crying, her little body shuddering with sobs. After a while I sang to her and Eric turned on her planetarium night light and brought her a doll and wiped her nose and cheeks with a Kleenex, and she calmed down. When she had stopped crying and had started pointing out stars, I put her back in her crib. She said, "No! Ju!" and started to cry again.

I retreated to bed for another few minutes, listening to the screaming continue to ramp up, starting to cry again myself. Finally I blew my nose, grabbed a second Kleenex, and went down to meet Eric in the computer room. "Would you put some water in her sippy and bring it to her?" I said, and he, probably afraid of the sleep-deprived weepy pregnant woman, agreed. I pressed the Kleenex in his hand--it was for wiping Chloë's face, though I'm not sure I actually communicated that to him--and went back to bed. In a few minutes I heard him go into Chloë's room, and the crying stop.

A few minutes after that Eric came in to check on me. "Thank you for waiting the five minutes before you did what came naturally," he said, which I hated him for, but he was right. I've been having a lot of mood swings this pregnancy, more than last time I think, and a lot of primal-mother-instinct behavior toward Chloë. I don't know if I'm having a worse time with the hormones this time around or if being pregnant while already a mother is just like this.

On the other hand, I'm a little conflicted on instinct in general. The first couple of months of Chloë's life I felt I had no mothering instincts whatever, but people all around me were telling me that I did and I had to trust them. (While other people were laughing at me for being stressed out when she was hungry, but never mind that.) Now, when I do have them, I'm being told to deny them. But I was pretty sure Chloë was truly thirsty last night, and I knew that she doesn't actually mean "no" half the time she says it and would probably have accepted the water if offered. That was why I eventually asked Eric to bring it to her, which I knew was against his own judgment. This is not to say that we should have given her a drink immediately, or even gone in to her at all; training is exactly about going against instinct; I know that. I'm just not sure when it's to be trusted and when it isn't. When I'm pregnant, it probably isn't, but not necessarily. So what's a hormone-riddled pregnant woman who's beginning not to be able to hold her toddler all the time to do?

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