John fussed a lot yesterday afternoon. Maybe it was 0 - 3 month-sized onesie I squeezed his well-over-ten-pound body into. Maybe it was all the fresh garlic I put in the salad the night before—or all the cheese. Maybe the four or five poops in a row or his diaper rash had something to do with it. Whatever the cause (a combination?), he was not staying soundly asleep for me, and that was upsetting him further.
I finally settled him slightly, though I could tell he really wanted to be asleep, and set him in the swing. I hadn't showered in a day or two, and anyway, it was already afternoon and I was still in my pajamas. I sprinted for the bathroom with a change of clothes. Flinging off my pjs and stepping into the tub, I felt the hot water relieve my tense body. I realized that with the closed door and the sound of the water, I could only hear John if I really listened. He hadn't been crying when I entered the bathroom, but by now I could occasionally hear his wail. But only just barely.
I realized how tense I'd become that afternoon, how frustrated with him that I couldn't figure out what was wrong. And not because I couldn't comfort him, but because I was selfishly impatient to start dinner, to get myself dressed, to clean up the house a little. I wanted to set him down to get some things done. I tried to only listen to the sound of the water. He'd be OK out there in his swing. The kids' crying doesn't get to me as much as it used to—hours and hours of toddler and preschooler whining and crying has desensitized me just a bit. I realize that he's a baby, but I knew he'd be OK once I emerged and comforted him.
I hadn't intended my shower to be a "break" or "me time," but that it certainly was. It was the difference between me dissolving into tears of anger that afternoon or tears of frustration and exhaustion when my husband came home. It meant I'd be less likely to be yelling at my girls in the next few hours. It was the break I needed, and I hadn't even realized it.
Once I was clean, mostly dry, dressed, and my hair combed, I came out and attended to John. He'd been crying of course—had even worked up a few tears to run down his pudgy cheeks. I held him close, and sat down in a chair with nothing to do but nurse him. I didn't try to read, check email, or whatever—I have no problem with these things, but I figured I owed it to him to focus on him after leaving him on his own screaming for a while.
It worked. He finally drifted off to sleep at my breast. As the girls played their elaborate sibling games around me, I put my head back on the chair and dozed a little, waking up just enough to mediate a noisy squabble here and there. But I stayed in my chair and let my overtired baby claim the sleep that had been evading him that afternoon, breaking the cycle of missed sleep that ironically makes it even harder for children to finally switch off and sleep. "Sleep begets sleep," say the seasoned parents.
My little shower break gave me the patience to sit there with him and make dinner a little bit late, which resulted in slightly later bedtimes for the girls, but it was worth it! For much of the evening, all our children slept simultaneously.
There is peace after childbirth!