Our worst night of sleep with our young son was not in those first newborn weeks of waking every two hours around the clock. Our worst night of sleep was halfway through month seven. We were in China.
Our hotel room boasted a king size bed, a size that my husband and I look forward to any time we travel. With his 6’3 length and my wide sleeping sprawl, our queen bed at home just doesn’t cut it. As we opened that hotel door at 2:00 a.m., all we could think about was falling into its safe, white, cushiony expanse. And then we remembered we had a baby.
A baby who had slept a lot more than we had on the fourteen hour flight. A baby who couldn’t care less that his parents wanted six hours of uninterrupted sleep. A baby who hadn’t the slightest clue that we had just passed through multiple time zones.
Those first three days and nights in China were a combination of nursing, crying, baby Tylenol, reading, yelling, playing, suffering and team building. If my husband and I weren’t a team already, that trip threw us into the toughest parenting boot camp we had participated in. While I nursed the baby, my husband would get some shut eye. When I was at my wits end, he took the baby for a walk so that I could have a couple hours of quiet.
The worst was night two. Somewhere in the middle of the morning our son woke up. We were ready for this. Nursing was my answer to end all moods, tears, screams, etc. It was my son’s safe haven and afterwards he would either be happy or asleep. That night we were banking on the latter. As I offered up my breast to silence the crying and summon that elusive thing called sleep, he did something for the first time ever: he rejected it. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what to do. Functioning on minimal hours of sleep leads my brain to shut off, and in turn, allows my emotions to run haywire.
Thus began one of the longest nights of crying and confusion. If he didn’t nurse, what did we have to offer but lullabies and swaying? Would his crying wake up everyone else in close proximity to our room? Did I even care? I felt anger towards my child for choosing tears instead of sleep. I felt lost that I knew no other way to help him out of his misery. I felt tired beyond measure. And somewhere between the rejection and finally gaining some shuteye hours later, I remember saying to my husband, “This trip was a mistake.”
Unbeknownst to us, our son was not only dealing with a twelve hour time change, but the start of what would be FOUR new teeth. After sleeping through dinner and eliminating the evening activity from our schedule the following day, all three of our bodies began to sync with Asia time: us in the king size bed and the baby in his travel bassinet. We were going to make it through.
We’ve come a long way since that trip. Our travel experience has gained new depths and our game plans have reached new levels. We decided not to give up on traveling but to learn better ways of doing it with a baby. To be honest, when I look back on that time now, I do so with a fondness and a sense of accomplishment. We survived. With my husband pushing me forward and telling me the trip was not a mistake, I did things I wouldn’t dream of being able to do with a baby. We took a train through Asia’s countryside, saw the inside of a cave, and stood beside green gumdrop mountains. We explored cities and ate street food. We met people from different parts of the world and even picked up a couple words in Mandarin.
Yes, there are plenty of messy times while raising children, but we can’t allow them to overshadow the beautiful moments and opportunities in life.