Part I here.
After a few disastrous weekend outings which saw either me or Ralph rescuing our screaming baby from the pram every 30 seconds, I decided it was time to train Michael to chill out and (even better) take a nap while being strolled around. So when he was around three months old, I started putting him in his pram and bringing him downstairs for his first morning nap. After one week, I learned a few things:
1) He will only sleep if the canopy is drawn over completely, so he can’t see a thing.
2) He will only sleep if the pavement is bumpy.
3) Miracle of miracles: he will be able to fall back asleep after he wakes at the 30 minute transition, and stay asleep, if I push and rock him vigorously and continuously through and after the transition like a crazy person. Hooray! This didn’t happen right off the bat. It took about one week to condition him to this.
The first time Michael extended his nap in his pram, I ran back home and started plotting to turn this…
… into a complex and hideous contraption that could rock him back and forth in the pram, horizontally, over a bumpy mat, freeing me forever and ever.
Tragically, an engineer I am not. And anyway, I was just too tired to bother engaging in advanced yao lan tinkering. So instead, I got a bunch of plastic clothes hangers, scattered them across my living room floor, and pushed his pram over the “bumpy bumpy pavement” for every single nap from then on.
I soon refined the system by replacing the hangers (which kept shifting annoyingly) with two bumpy plastic bathmats placed side by side. This worked pretty well, but I still needed to push him endlessly back and forth, from about 20 minutes into his nap, through the 30 minute transition and right to the end. His sleep after the 30 minute mark was too light and fitful for me to just leave him stationary.
Although this was far from ideal, I’d managed to buy myself a few more minutes in the day, and also my arms were pretty much freed up (if I used my legs to push him back and forth while sitting on the couch). My plan was to train Michael to get through the transition with less and less rocking (I would decrease the intensity gradually) and then voila, one day he would transition all on his own in his stationary pram.
A good plan, except that after two weeks, Michael decided that stroller naps sucked. He would knock out for the 30 minutes, and then at the transition, all hell would break loose. I had to take him out, screaming and red faced, and attempt to rock him back to sleep, which usually just got him to scream harder.
I shed a few tears, and returned to rocking him to sleep in my arms. Until it became clear that sleeping with mama also sucked.
The problem was that my three and a half months old baby boy was growing up. I could tell that he wanted to be put down on a mattress for his naps. The pram had become too claustrophobic, and he was also uncomfortable in my arms. Under other circumstances, I would be happily putting him down to sleep in his crib. But I couldn’t, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to resettle him after he woke at the transition.
On one memorable occasion, my mother walked in at noon to find Michael screaming blue murder, and me attempting to rock him, sobbing, with one boob hanging out. He’d cried out upon waking up at 30 minutes and all attempts at resettling him had failed – even nursing had just made him more furious. My mother had heard his screams two floors down, before she even entered the building. I handed him over like a hot potato, furious at him being furious, and walked away to cry my heart out.
I was crushed, disappointed, immensely frustrated. I had no idea what to do.
A few days later, my mother called to say that it was probably time that I got a full time helper. I’d been thinking the exact same thing.
To be continued…