Babies thrive on routine,” said the you-can’t-survive-without-it book that a friend presented me on her first visit to see my baby.
But baby doesn’t seem to understand that verity. She thrives on upsetting my routine and chortling gleefully at my puffy sleepless eyes. Everyone coos it’s cute but I know she is secretly laughing at me. I am planning my revenge.
Still, hope is something one desperately needs to cling to, since there is nothing else to cling to, with baby having separated me from husband and whatever else I liked to ‘cling’ to. So I decided to believe the book and focus on its golden statement that babies thrive on routine.
I placed the clock on a wall directly opposite my bed (so that baby could also start learning routine). I read up a few more chapters from the you-can’t-survive-without-it book and drew up a schedule. The next feed was due at 8 a.m. But why is baby screaming at 7 a.m? Doesn’t she understand routine since she’s supposed to thrive on it? So I let her be. But the screaming rose to such a crescendo I had to plug my ears. That helped but it brought the rest of the family and guests out of their bathrooms, bedrooms and balconies.
“Is she hurt?”
“Is her stomach hurting?”
“Did she fall off the bed?”
“Did she eat something that’s causing a gas problem?”
‘Grrr,’ I tell myself, and give them all a big smile. “No, she’s just hungry.”
“Oh.” That satisfied everyone and they melted away. Except for my mother. “Then why don’t you feed her?” she asked with nerve-grating logic.
I had no intention of explaining how babies thrive on routine, so I just said, “I was just going to,” and sighed when she exited.
7:15 a.m. Despite her breach of routine, I fed her hoping for better luck the next time. But clearly, baby had no intention of feeding at scheduled times. She believes in feeding and sleeping whenever convenient and no amount of discipline or reasoning works.
But I’m not ready to give in. There is something else to be tried, the bedtime routine. According to the survival guide, bedtime routines relax children who need daily de-stressing to induce them to sleep. Sounds good. But then baby gradually slipped into the routine of sleeping for only six hours at night. So out with the bedtime story books, lullaby CDs, and my soothing, pastel nightdresses.
I take out a bedtime story book.
“Here’s a nice story for you.”
So far, so good. Is the camera rolling?
Now… CUT! CUT! CUT! CUT!
Baby grabs the book and hits me over the head with it.
“No!” I yell. Then I remember. No negative words at bedtime. It’s unwinding time. Time for peace.
“Little darling (I hope she can’t detect sarcasm yet), come and sit with me for a story from that lovely book.”
She weighs the book and throws it at the wall. And chortles gleefully as it lands upside down with its pages open.
By now, my efforts to develop a routine for baby have become a major stress activity. Time for some music to unwind. But as I switch on the CD player, baby begins to bang the floor with her screeching, squeaky shoe so aggressively that I can’t hear a thing. That’s how the music-at-bedtime routine ended.
But recently, I have evolved a better bedtime routine. When it’s bedtime, I give the feeding bottle to the husband, baby and all, and lock myself in the next room with some novels and some dance music that I can enjoy in peace.
The music drowns out all noise from the other room. These days I get to read, and sleep in peace. Contrary to the message in the post-partum survival guide, it’s mothers who thrive on routine.