How a night nurse saved my marriage (and my sanity).
I’m writing this from a comfy hotel bed. I have the family dog at my feet, my husband has left for work, and I can say for the first time in four months, I woke up according to my body’s internal clock. Which is pretty incredible considering that my clock has been completely twisted and smashed since the birth of my second son in May.
My kids were at home last night with my night nurse, Clavia. I want to call her Clavia the Great and Powerful because she is just so great, and also because she pretty much singlehandedly saved my marriage.
This hotel thing was her idea. At four months, we decided that Baby G was ready to cry it out. Like most mothers, I am a fragile flower when it comes to hearing my baby cry. So Clavia urged my husband and I to get a hotel for a night or two while she stayed at our place and did the dirty work.
Of course, this hotel stay is only the tip of the Clavia the Great iceberg. She’s been staying with us every weekday night, getting up for every one of my baby’s whimpers while I sleep soundly.
This is worlds apart from the experience I had with my first baby. Flashback to three years ago, on the floor of my husband’s grandmother’s house in Queens, where we were staying while our apartment was under construction: My breasts are hooked up to the breast pump, my dog is biting my dirty pajama pants trying to get me to throw him the baby’s pacifier, which he has appropriated as his own new chew toy. My colicky son is in his bouncer crying hysterically, as he seems to always be doing. And so am I. Desperate cries, from exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
With my first baby, I thought I could handle it all by myself, and besides, I thought, there would be family around to help. But “family” isn’t there at two in the morning when your colicky newborn falls asleep nursing, then pops his eyes open like one of those vintage baby dolls with the scary plastic eyelids the minute his body touches his mattress. Family likes to come over to “visit,” which means holding the baby while he sleeps. And family is usually off having a quiet dinner at their own homes while you and your husband are playing hot potato with your screaming, red-faced baby, trying to shovel in takeout and making passive aggressive comments about who had the harder day.
For months, I not-so-quietly resented my husband. He got to sleep at night, leave for work and have a sense of agency and independence for 8 hours every day. He wasn’t being drained of life from an infant suckling at his breasts every minute of the day. I hated my life. I strongly disliked my baby. I cried multiple times a day. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. My husband and I were both so tired, we never did anything together at night besides rush through eating before I power-showered so I could climb into bed as soon as possible because I’d be getting up an hour later for the baby.
This time things were different, with Clavia at my side. Nights started with smiling and laughing, and included quality time with both of my children. There was dinner, wine and Netflix with my husband, and then there was sleeping. Sure, a little less of that--I probably lost an hour or two a night while nursing during those first few weeks. But not long after, I was able to sleep the whole night without pumping or nursing; Clavia fed the baby bottles of pumped milk and I slept straight through until my toddler’s 5am wakeup.
This time around, my husband and I actually enjoyed each other’s company during these first few months of our baby’s life. There was no resentment. And since Clavia was there already, we would go on little date nights during the week. Sometimes just to get ice cream at Ample Hills or to take the dog on a walk together. Or occasionally, like last night, to escape to a fancy hotel for drinks and dinner and a full night’s sleep.
These are Clavia’s last nights with us--it is time to cut the proverbial cord. Hopefully the baby will be sleeping through the night soon. Sleep training has been going pretty well, so far (reports Clavia).
I know it is unconventional to outsource dealing with the crappy parts of having a baby, and it is something not everyone is able to swing financially. Of course once in a while, I feel a little guilty for not having had to rough these stormy seas of early motherhood like almost everyone else I know. But I also know I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I am happier, I didn’t get postpartum depression this time, and my marriage is so much healthier because of it.
My postpartum memories this time around are filled with images of quiet nights at home together with my husband, and cuddle-filled mornings with our two sons. And also, delicious mornings like this one, with me alone in a sun-filled hotel room, cup of coffee and a dog beside me, and nothing but the rumble of traffic on the Bowery below to disturb me.