Sunday, January 15, 2006
Knitting the ravel'd sleeve
Sleep. Ask any new parent what the most important thing in life is, and you're likely to hear "sleep". Kids, bah. Ethics, bah. Peace in our time? Bah. Sleep. On the Chinese adoptive parents email lists, one of the most frequent questions posted is, "We just arrived back from China this week with our precious Bu-Bu, and now she won't sleep! She slept beautifully in China--what's changed her?! Help! We're desperate and looking for some suggestions! Signed, Sleep Deprived Regina in Ohio". This is followed closely by, "Our darling Xiao Mei has been home for (insert number) months, and she won't sleep in her crib any more! What can we do? We need help, because we're not getting any sleep any more! Signed, Sleep Deprived Julie in Albuquerque". Yesterday, OmegaMom foolishly crowed to the world at large about two things: predicted snow (6 to 10 inches) and the fact that OmegaDotter had actually slept through the night! Anyone who follows OmegaMom's commentary on life knows already that the predicted snow dribbled down to one to four inches (and now, maybe, just maybe, a trace, sigh). The sleep victory was, of course, immediately followed by a sleep defeat. OmegaMom was rousted awake a few times in the night as we played "Musical Beds". OmegaDotter goes to bed in her bed. OmegaMom and Mr. OmegaMom snuggle up together. OmegaDotter comes padding in at some point to join us in our slumber. Mr. OmegaMom tosses and turns, then evacuates the bed. OmegaDotter proceeds to do the Foot Thing to her mother. OmegaDotter wakes at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. on Sunday and starts pissing and moaning that she can't find her new horse. And on and on. So OmegaMom sits here at the computer bleary eyed and groggy, thinking longing thoughts of long...uninterrupted...soulful...sleep. Hours and hours of it. Days, even. Anyway, a word of advice to people adopting from China for the first time: The first two or three weeks home from China with your new child are going to be hellish. Here's a clue: China is on the opposite side of the world. Another clue: jet lag. So be prepared for your darling Whytnie to still be on China's clock. This means that she will be waking up and wanting to play at, oh, 1:30 a.m. Take heart: this particular aspect of parenthood is a passing phase; the generally accepted knowledge is that it takes one day per hour of time difference for jet lag to go away. This equates to, approximately, 12 days. So Whytnie should be back on your clock's schedule soon. HOWEVER. Oh, yes, there is a "however". Remember that Whytnie is now in a place she's never smelled, heard, seen before. She's probably used to sleeping with other people--her cribmates, her foster parents. Do OmegaMom and Whytnie a favor: don't expect her to settle right down in a cold, dark, quiet, different-smelling, empty room by herself right away. Give that child time...time is what s/he will need. Time to adjust to a place where no-one looks the same, no-one smells the same, the food is different, and she's (possibly) alone. OmegaMom's personal opinion is that most parents adopting children from orphanages should put the crib in their room, and expect it to be there for quite a while. Yeah, yeah, there's this lovely cutely decorated new-paint-smell nursery for the kiddo. But s/he doesn't care about that. She's scared and upset and her world has been turned upside down. Having her crib in your room lets her hear your noises when you sleep, and gives her a little bit of assurance that she's not alone. ("Alone" can be a very scary thing. OmegaDotter's worst fear is "being alone". When people in movies are left alone, it disturbs her. And this child has been with us for three years now.) If need be, do please consider either having the crib right next to your bed, or taking Whytnie into bed with you. You will not smush her (unless you're in the habit of sleeping drunk or stoned, or have a water bed). Take it from someone who's been there: being able to reach out, pat your child, and go, "Shhh, shhhh, Mommy's here," can be immensely rewarding for child and for parents. Y'see, this is quick and easy, and baby can go back to sleep right away, reassured, and, best of all, you can go back to sleep right away. Trust me, you learn pretty quickly to be able to do this practically in your sleep. Ahhhh. Sleep. Remember, no-one goes off to college still sleeping with Mommy.