Coming up Short
Last weekend, while visiting family, we stopped at a local park to eat lunch. Across the way from me I spotted two women, approximately my age, both nursing babies while eating a delicious looking picnic. They both wore fashionable breastfeeding drapes and parked beside them were top of the line strollers. They looked remarkably clear-eyed and well-groomed for new mothers. I could tell from the sound of their infants' cries and the size that their babies were younger than mine. My first feeling was of a kind of new mother pride--here they were, these young women, nursing their babies in the summer sun while their husbands tossed a football back and forth nearby while my baby lounged on his quilt under a tree. How grand it seemed.
I was interested in the type of stroller one had, so I approached them, carrying my own babe alongside, to give me "mommy cred." I inquired pleasantly and learned the make and model and I should have stopped there.
But I wanted to be polite, so I asked how old their babies were. Both were two months.
"Are you getting much sleep?" I asked smugly, already knowing the answer. What mother of a two month old gets much sleep?
"Not bad," one said. "He sleeps three hours at a time." Hmmm. My boy didn't sleep three hours at a time until...well, he still doesn't sleep consistently in any pattern. Sometimes I'm lucky to get those three hour stretches, but occasionally he can still gladden my night with an hour and a half waking.
"Mine sleeps in four hour chunks," the other woman said. "And I wake him up for a midnight feeding."
"You wake him up?" I asked, in awe. "Why would you do such a thing?"
"So I can be sure he gets enough food, and to keep up my milk supply," she replied, smoothing an imaginary hair off her face.
Of course, because she's a good mother, rather than me--who would let my child sleep for two days if he so desired just to get the rest I crave!
The women were so poised and lovely, so calm and serene, that they could have been posing for a television ad of some kind. I came away remembering that sometimes it's better not to know how other people's babies are, or for that matter, how other mothers are. There's too much room to come up short.
And if another person glibly says, "Oh, well my baby slept through the night at 4 weeks!" I'm going to kick some shins.