Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Surviving the witching hours and ghosts of the past

This week, for a few nights, Emily didn't sleep very well. She was also quite fussy in the evening. In and of itself, this is not unusual or anxiety provoking. She's six weeks past her due date, which is typically a fussy period for all babies. It will probably pass quickly. But for Julie, this sleeplessness has brought back the ghosts of past experience.

As I've said, Chloe was an extremely colicky baby, and Julie and I were first time parents just trying our best to keep our heads above water. I was working at the time. Looking back on it, there was no reason I couldn't have taken the time then that I'm taking now. I wish I had, but we hadn't even thought of it.

As it turned out, I stayed home many days anyway, despite feeling pressure at work. As difficulty became crisis, I tried to help in my typically male - typically Sutton way. I just wanted to identify the problems and fix them. I reassured Julie that everything would be fine, that the colic would pass. I got frustrated when she would say that she saw no end in sight, that Chloe would never stop crying, would never sleep. I'd say, "but of course she will. All babies do. It's just a matter of time."

The more she tried to express how she was feeling, the more I'd try to apply logic to help counter what I saw as irrational and counterproductive thinking. I was desperate to bring back the Julie I knew, to convince her that there was nothing to worry about, that it would all pass. Julie was desperate for me to listen.

I'd like to think that I was helpful and supportive during our darkest moments in the land of colic (an appropriate name for a fog of sleeplessness and chaos that we lived and breathed for weeks on end)and to some extent I know that I was. I did know enough to eventually recognize the real problems we were facing and to do everything possible to deal with them. But I could have done better sooner. Looking back on it, I know now that I was scared, but that I couldn't allow myself to acknowledge it at the time.

This time is different. Emily is starting to sleep better again, and Julie's fears haven't gotten the best of her. There were some fearful moments, but they've passed. No, this is unfair - fears don't pass, they are conquered. I once again began to fall into my typical pattern of trying to rationalize away the fear. But I also listened, and reminded Julie that I would be there with her this time, even if the worst were to transpire. I think just being present, all day and all night, has made the biggest difference, and for this reason alone, I'm happy to be right here and not somewhere else.

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