And then your four-month-old baby boy fusses and cries.
I tried to block out Sam’s cries as best as I could. My husband tried to soothe and quiet him and coax him to sleep. Sam finally fell asleep at 10 o’clock; I fell asleep several minutes later. I had to be at the testing center by 8 AM, so that meant waking early enough to be up and dressed, eaten breakfast, nursed Sam, and a 40 minute drive. Even going to sleep at 10, it would still have been fine. Not an ideal amount of sleep, but I certainly could have managed.
But I woke up again at 3 in the morning. I think Sam was making those cute little baby snuffling sleepy sounds that babies make. They used to wake me up instantly during those first few months. Sam fell right back to sleep, but now I was awake. Wide awake. I believe with conviction that one of the hardest things you can do is force yourself to sleep. I’ve been an insomnia sufferer for years. It got much better after buying a luxurious new mattress about five years ago, but it still strikes occasionally. Lying there in the dark, my thoughts were so sharply on the test that there was no way I was going to be able to fall back asleep. As I lied there awake and miserable, the more distressed I became. The more distressed I became, the more difficult it was to sleep. As the red numbers kept changing on the clock, the more distressed I became. It was a vicious circle. I awoke at 3 AM. I never was able to get back to sleep.
Jack drove me to the testing site. I cried most of the way. I cried with exhaustion. I cried with despair. I cried with defeat. And I hadn’t even taken the test yet. They walked in with me. I held Sam tightly and hugged him. Hug a baby for luck, I told myself. Then I took the test. I felt frazzled and unfocused the whole time. I made a lot of guesses, some of them random. Like a few times the words seemed to be hazy on the page; those were random guesses. I was so tremendously fatigued. I didn’t even manage to fill in all of the circles. On the LSAT, you are not penalized for wrong answers; you only rack up points with correct answers. It is always in your best interest to fill in all the remaining circles even if you have no time to read the questions.
When I saw Jack drive up, I climbed into the front seat quietly. He asked how it went. I said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Let me make clear, I was not using the tone of voice that says that I really do want to talk about it. I didn’t say another word the whole drive. I think I might have cried quietly. At home I went into our bedroom, climbed into bed, and pulled the blankets way up.
Sam started fussing again. I didn’t care. Jack could take care of him. I certainly didn’t harbor one ounce of negative emotion towards the baby at all; I just didn’t have any strength, physical or emotional, to take care of him at that point. So, Jack could take care of him. Except that Sam wouldn’t calm down. Perhaps he could sense the miasma of depression and failure in the air. Or maybe he just had gas. Either way, Jack knew that I needed to be left alone, I needed to rest, and that I did not need to be hearing Sam crying. The usual, feeding, burping, rocking, etc. wasn’t working. So desperate Jack—who hates pacifiers(see Battle of the Binky Part I)—gave Sam a pacifier. The effect was instantaneous; Sam calmed down, his face relaxed, and he fell asleep – with the pacifier. Just a one-time occurrence? Or was this the beginning of the slippery slope of pacifier dependence?
(I was awakened when Sam started stirring from his nap. I picked him up, and he gave me one of his sweet smiles. And I smiled. My boy could make me smile on one of the worst days of my life. That was pretty incredible. I was in a funk for days, but it was so much lighter than it would have been if it had not been for playing and laughing with Sam.)
Jack and I have wavered back and forth on this subject more times than I can remember in the past 9 months. Do we let Sam have a pacifier? I recoil from the idea of plugging up an unhappy baby’s cries with a pacifier. I’d much rather use holding, caressing, rocking, singing, nursing, really any number of loving methods to soothe my son. In those first few months though, I believe that infants have a desire to suck even if they’re not hungry. If we didn’t give him a pacifier then he would suck his fingers. I figured that later on down the road, it would be easier to break a pacifier habit than a thumb sucking habit. You can take away a pacifier more easily than you can remove a toddler’s pudgy fingers from his little mouth.
Jack was dead set against it though. He agreed with me about soothing our baby boy rather than shutting him up. He also hates seeing toddlers and preschoolers walking around with binkies stuck in their mouths, whining unintelligibly around a piece of plastic. He didn’t even want to start down that road. Jack felt much more strongly than I did about it, so I followed his lead on this one. No pacifiers.
First sign of pacifier trouble sprung up when my mother was staying with us. She came running from 700 miles away when I was 3 cm dilated and 75% effaced, kept me company while I remained that way for two weeks, was there when we finally had to induce, and was a lifesaver for the three weeks that she stayed with us after Sam was born. But of course every story has its bumps. My mom is an avid lover of a sucker. I was a sucker baby. Few photos exist of my first year that don’t show me with lips clamped around a sucker.
You can imagine my husband’s aggravation every time my mother kept trying to put a pacifier in Sam’s mouth. (We did have a couple of them as baby shower gifts.) Once I caught her giving one and she insisted that “he liked it.” It got to the point that Jack was angry not just because my mom disagreed on the subject, but that his mother-in-law was deliberately and repeatedly going against our wishes. Dangerous ground here, folks. On top of being exhausted, I had to negotiate the Battle of the Binky. Calm down my husband and get my mother to quit pushing the pacifier.
I kept telling my mom that we didn’t want to use the pacifier. I made sure that I always said “we” even though it was more Jack than me at that point. I didn’t want to let on to her just how much Jack was getting pissed off at what we perceived to be disrespect of our decision. Such a little thing to cause discord, a blue and white piece of plastic, but we certainly didn’t want to set any precedent of allowing our decisions to be steamrolled. Perhaps because it did seem like a little thing, perhaps because she was such an immense help and I loved having her there, perhaps that’s why I wasn’t as forceful as I could have been. I probably would have been more adamant had it gone on.
It turned out that I didn’t need to be any more forceful because this all lasted for a mere several days. We had to take Sam back to the hospital for a fever when he was just five days old. (A story for another day.) We were admitted into the children’s wing, and while there discovered that Sam wasn’t getting enough milk and he was losing weight. There had been problems with the nursing from the first day (again – a story for another day) and lactation consultants had been on hand to help in maternity. This time the lactation consultants were showing up for nearly every meal time, and one of them spotted the pacifier. (I don’t remember why the pacifier was there.) She picked it up in disgust and said, “This is really bad. You shouldn’t use this at all. It’s just going to cause even more problems for Sam. You’re trying to get him to learn to latch on and suck from your nipples, but then you’ve got this pacifier nipple that is a completely different shape.”
After the lactation consultant left the room, my mom picked up the pacifier and said, “I’ll throw away the horrible offending pacifier.” She turned to me and said, “I’m so sorry, here you are having all these problems nursing, and I didn’t even think, it didn’t even occur to me about the nipple confusion.” And she tossed the pacifier into the trash. True, it took a lactation consultant to get my mother to stop pushing the pacifier, but she did stop, and that was victory enough for me.