This one is for the dads out there. All you dads who are looking at your stressed out wife and not really understanding why they are so stressed out, or what you can do about it.
My husband is blessed with the ability to fall asleep at a moments notice. I however, am not. In the early weeks of parenting, my inability to just fall asleep added to my torture. I would have about an hour before the girls would be up again and even though I was completely exhausted, it still took me about a half hour to fall asleep leaving me with only a handful of minutes to actually sleep. Once I did, I was woken up by crying babies and that feeling of crap that you get when you've only slept a few minutes. The cycle would feed on itself as I started fearing going to sleep because the moment I did, it meant the next thing I would know was screaming babies and the rush to prepare bottles and make the crying stop. In a way, sleep became very unappealing. It almost became more restful to just stay awake and futz around for those few precious moments of happy, sleeping babies.
Eventually my husband realized what was happening and came to my rescue. He bought me earplugs. We moved the baby monitor to his side of the bed. He started getting up in the middle of the night to tend to babies while I slept through. We had an agreement, if he needed me to help, he would wake me up, but if he could handle it alone, he would let me sleep.
At first, he generally let me sleep through one baby awake cycle per night and after that, I would have to get up when the babies woke up to pump while he did the feedings. That one chunk of sleep gave me some of my brain back. I still had issues, but they slowly started getting a little better. As time went on, the girls would sleep longer and we both got a chunk of sleep.
We still found it unpleasant to wake up to crying babies though. I mean really, who wants to wake up that way? So we started anticipating their wake up times, and we'd set our alarm to wake up about a half hour before we expected them to, prepped bottles, and did a dream feed. During this time, I would take my portable pump and would pump as we did the dream feed to minimize the time we both had to be awake.
I was still having trouble because I was still only getting bits and pieces of sleep. So sometimes, K would get up by himself and do the dream feeds alone. Then he started feeling the effects of all of these night feedings and lack of sleep so he would stop setting his alarm and just let the babies wake him up. As he got more confidant that he could handle it by himself, he stopped waking me up to help and the girls started rewarding him by sleeping longer and longer between feedings.
By allowing me to sleep several hours during the night, this made it almost impossible for me to assist when I did wake up because I was so engorged that the first thing I simply had to do was pump. The portable pump is great, but not as good as the one we rent from the hospital and when I was that full, I really needed to just sit down and use the hospital pump. So as we drifted out of night time wakings and into sleeping through the night and just starting our day early in the morning, K was still in the habit of taking care of the morning care cycle for the girls.
This brings us to now. Life is good and my husband is the reason. Lately, his work schedule is often the midshift so he doesn't get any time with the girls after work. He's often walking in the door a few minutes after I've put the girls down. Sometimes I can keep them awake long enough for him to rock with one for a few minutes, but usually they need to go down before he gets that chance. So he takes the morning shift with them and lets me sleep a bit longer.
Unless he has to leave early to open the store, we've fallen into a morning routine that works really well for us. The girls wake him up somewhere between 7:30-8:30am. Ok, I kind of wake up too, but he gets out of bed and takes the monitor with him so I can fall right back to sleep. He gets them changed and fed and does play time with them. They go down for a nap between 9-10am and he comes to get me up. Depending on his work schedule, if there's time, he'll go back to bed for a quick nap and I'll do a Starbucks run and then come home and do my morning pump. If the girls wake up while I'm stuck at the machine, he gets to work on their second breakfast (we're raising hobbits apparently). Then we'll share in the care duties until he needs to start getting ready for work and I take over.
I just love this. I love that he's cool with this routine and that he enjoys having some time with the girls. I love that I have a husband who found a way to help me and does it simply because he wants me to be happy, not because he wants some sort of credit. I love that letting me sleep a few extra hours is no longer a favor he's doing for me, but rather it's just the routine that works for us and I can count on it. I love that I have a husband who is just as involved in the parenting as I am and doesn't need me to help him do it. Other than a little more familiarity with their daytime schedule, there's really nothing that I know about how to care for them that he doesn't know. I love that I don't have to encourage him to interact with his girls, or to get off the video game and actually DO something, he just does it because it's a part of our lives now.
If I had married one of those jerks who thinks he shouldn't ever be a parent because he goes to work every day, who gets angry when the wife just begs him to take ONE night feeding a week so she can sleep for 4 solid hours, who has to "unwind" with 5 hours of xbox after work, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have survived the early months.