Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Blessing of a Shower

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!


  1. that is a blessing! hugs to you...

  2. Thank you, Elizabeth. And to you!

  3. I can relate so well to this post. I can remember the moments on resting on the couch while Bunky nursed and the older two played together. Showers really do make you feel human again after a hard day (or two or three...). I am still in need of one today, but I'll jump in the shower when the big kids are in resting time. Then I should really get some "me time", at least for a few minutes. :) I'm glad you were able to get some!

  4. How wonderful!

    It's also funny: I grabbed a "guilty shower" at ten this morning when things sounded relativly quiet. Aaahhhhhh....

    I don't stress over late dinners anymore either.

  5. The only reason I was stressing over dinner is because we've dropped our nearly-three-year-old's nap and she gets grumpy or hyper if bedtime is too late, and the next day she is sleep-deprived, making it even LESS likely that she'll make it all day without the nap. :) Whew. Makes me tired just thinking about it. With three, we NEED her to go to bed promptly, and she can't do that if she's not tired enough to fall asleep until 10PM!

  6. I've kept the one-hour nap in the afternoon for everyone. The only one who really needs to sleep is the 3yo, but the others have been known to nap too, especially if sick. The rule is, you are in your room, preferably in your bed, reading or doing something else quiet from 1:30 until 2:30. This gives Mommy sanity. I find this especially needful in the summer, when it doesn't get dark until so late. My family growing up always had afternoon naps in the summer, for everyone. Things work differently for every family!

  7. Mandatory afternoon quiet time sounds lovely. Unfortunately, if I do that Susannah would be up until 10 or later and I would be going nuts! As long as I close the blinds, dim the lights, and pay attention to the time and to the energy level of the almost-three-year-old (is she in the hyper-active-mommy-missed-the-sleep-window stage?) she goes to bed by 7:30, and the older one either goes with her or is asleep by 9 or so.

    This is sort of disruptive of our dinner time (which my husband and I don't like) because of when he comes home and when bath needs to happen for bed to happen, but the lack of whining (and lack of children in awake in the evening) is worth it for my husband and I!

  8. Patty, have you considered nighttime showers? I like them because I go to bed clean, it's relaxing, and it's one less thing to do in the a.m. Of course, that means one more thing to do at night. =)

  9. Laura, I love the idea, and at certain times in my life it has worked. We are not quite in enough of a bedtime routine with all three yet to try it, and by then, all I want to do is veg and a shower seems like work! But I may go that route in the near future, who knows? Actually, I'd love to get up with my husband around 6am and get my shower in while he's around to hold the baby. :)


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