Sleep, my baby, and I have a complicated relationship. It is a love-hate relationship that can change radically from one nap to another, from one night to the next. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing your baby fall asleep in your arms. There is also nothing more infuriating than him being fully asleep in your arms, and the second his head touches the mattress, he wakes up crying as if you were abandoning him forever.
Most of the time, when we talk about babies and sleep, we talk about waking up at night, sleep-deprived parents, how difficult it is for them to take naps and sleep in their own space, and all of that is true and very exhausting. I counted on all that when I decided to have a baby, it was a small price to pay. What I wasn't prepared for was the rage him not being able to fall asleep can generate. Yes, RAGE.
The first 10 or 15 minutes in which you rock him back and forth, up and down, sing and shhhhhh, everything is fine. You even enjoy having him so close to you, but as those 15 minutes turn into 30 or 40, that lovely feeling starts transforming. I close my eyes so that, according to me, I set the example, and right there, I am alone with my mind. When he is calm, and I feel like he begins to relax, I also relax. On many occasions, the ideas that come to mind are those that later end up being what I write; in fact, that is how the concept of this space arose. When he was a newborn and sleeping him only required my breast and heartbeat, those moments filled me with emotions and inspiration. As he grew older, and it took more work for him to fall asleep, those feelings were superseded by frustration and anger. The moment he starts crying, and I can't get him to calm down, and I see that he is exhausted but can't fall asleep, my mind wanders and wanders in a horrible direction.
I am filled with a rage that can be focused on anyone who has crossed me. Someone like the DHL guy who rang the bell at the most inopportune moment, or the guy at the dry cleaner who did not make the slightest effort to understand my German even though his German is also terrible.
It has also sometimes been directed towards my mother because I hear her voice in my head saying, "let him cry," "you are going to pay the consequences of rocking him to sleep," "he has you in the palm of his hand, and he is toying with you." I start to think: "I decided this, I decided not to use that technique, and now I must bear the consequences." Two seconds later, I think, "what if my mother is right? What if I am not doing him any favors by not teaching him to sleep on his own? ". In moments of calm, I never question myself, and I am sure that the decisions I have made are correct, at least for now. But, in those moments, while Maximilian cries and screams from the top of his lungs, it is difficult to control my head.
In the end, not my mom, the dry cleaner guy, or the DHL guy are there when I finally leave the room triumphant or, on many occasions, defeated. Not having to see them gives me time to breathe and calm down.
However, my husband is not so lucky.
90% of the time, my "rocking rage" is directed at him. Because if Max doesn't want to sleep in the middle of the night and I turn around and see Marco drooling and dreaming, the rage is uncontrollable. Even more so because I know that, without a doubt, he will complain that he did not sleep well, and he is tired the next day. If it's nap time, I start to think that what he is doing will always be a thousand times better than spending 40 minutes suffering because Max doesn't want to sleep. In my head, it sounds something like this: "How easy for him, he for sure is watching TV, and I'm here fighting with HIS son" or "how easy for him, he goes off to work and is distracted all day, talking to grown-ups, and he gets to just join for dinner and the bath time, which are the fun times of the day."
Usually, I get out of the room to find a loving husband who has dinner ready and has already poured me a glass of wine. Then I find something else to fight about. Once my anger passes, I feel guilty because not only did he not deserve it, but also because I managed to ruin the few moments we have alone.
After weeks of these fights, I managed to identify and put words to what was happening to me. This does not mean that the anger is under control, but I understand the source, and it is easier to calm down before opening my mouth. More than anything, talking to him about it has helped. He now knows what is going through my head and that if I bark at him because he left his shoes in the hallway, it is because I am exhausted and desperate. I explained to him that I have something that I call "rocking rage," which is nothing more than expressing the frustration I feel when Max can't sleep. I asked for patience, I asked him for help, and I asked him to be understanding.
Furthermore, I told him that when I get my rage under control, I am aware of how difficult it is for him that when Max starts crying, he only wants Mom, and only my arms and my breast can calm him down. And that although I may think that it would be easy to go work all day and leave them alone, the reality is that I couldn't. I know that when he is away, he misses us and that it hurts him to miss special moments. And that I also understand that even though he doesn't have the biggest night burden, he does not sleep the same, he still gets woken up, and he carries the stress of work, and that his wife unloads all her emotions on him.
Since then, the situation has improved. Marco tries to do more of the things I don't like to do and give me more time for myself, and when he sees me furious, he tries not to engage with me. I have also decided that this anger is not what I want to convey to Max, and I realize that if I am agitated, he is too.
I have learned where my limit is and to be more flexible. Yes, I know about his wake windows and that he needs rest to process everything and grow. But, if after a while of rocking; after he pulled my hair and picked my nose; just before I start hating the world and I go from thinking about the next project to thinking about everything negative in my life. I take Max out of his crib, let him play for a while, and relax. I try to focus on thinking that every time I put him to sleep, our bond strengthens, that one day he won't need me to sleep, and that these moments between him and I will never come back.
The stage of bad sleep has an end, but the challenges of being a parent do not. These challenges are inevitably a pressure point for a relationship, so it is essential to learn to deal with them together and communicate appropriately when something is not working. The mind is powerful, and if we let our emotions cloud us, we forget all the good things and lose perspective. In the end, my "rocking rage" is ephemeral, but my marriage is not.