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I’m Writing This While the Baby Sleeps

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I’m Writing This While the Baby Sleeps

Last Thursday, my husband and I talked to the new crop of students in the Bradley Method Birth Class that we attended when I was pregnant.

“Birth is the easy part,” I told them. “It’s everything after that’s hard.”

That night, the baby proved my point by refusing to sleep from midnight until six a.m. In our dark bedroom with the white noise machine blaring, I would nurse her and bounce her on the exercise ball until I thought she was asleep, but the moment I’d stand from the ball, she would startle awake and cry piercingly until I did more nursing and bouncing. Things went on in this manner (with some diaper changes thrown in for good measure) until the first rays of dawn appeared, when she finally fell asleep on my chest, and I drifted into an exhausted one-hour slumber.

On Friday, she slept for most of the day. She slept in the baby k’tan with Daddy in the morning (he was working from home, thank god, so I was able to snag an hour of sleep in bed), and then in the afternoon she slept on me while I slept on the couch.

My husband and I were worried that we’d let her sleep too much and she wasn’t going to sleep come nighttime. We were right to worry. Friday night I was again nursing and bouncing for hours. Not only would she not sleep in her bassinet, she wouldn’t even sleep in the bed with me. She dozed for a few fifteen- minute intervals on my chest, so that’s when I slept, too.

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Daytime nap with baby.

 

By Saturday, my husband and I knew we had to do something differently. We decided to be stricter about both a bedtime routine a daytime nap routine. We also decided to limit the amount of time she spent sleeping on us. From now on, for at least two naps per day we would swaddle her and put her in the bedroom bassinet with the white noise machine going. That way, she would make the association that swaddle plus white noise plus bassinet equals sleep.

And, so far, this new routine seems to be working! Not perfectly, mind you. She did, for example, cry inconsolably from 7pm to 9:30pm on Sunday night and it often takes upwards of an hour and a half to get her to bed. BUT she has also been sleeping IN her bassinet for chunks of the night. (And by that I mean for an average of two hours at a time. It still takes me about an hour in between those intervals to get her fed, diapered, and comforted, but still, I’m not complaining –BELIEVE ME, I’m not complaining!)

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Me and the little bae.

 

The baby has also started taking naps in her bassinet during the day. If she settles into some sort of napping pattern soon, it means that I can start to get into a routine myself. It might look something like this:

  • Early morning nap: Eva eats breakfast, takes a shower, and tidies the house
  • Late morning nap: Eva eats lunch and puts dinner in the crockpot
  • Early afternoon nap: Eva responds to email and/or takes a nap herself
  • Late afternoon nap: Eva does chores and/or some living room yoga

Where does writing fit into this routine? Well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

Up until the baby was born, I had a routine for my writing. I would sit down at my tidy desk in my office by 9am with a steaming cup of tea and usually a bit of chocolate. I’d work on writing until I got hungry for lunch around noon. It was ingrained in me: morning plus my desk plus a cup of tea equals writing. Unfortunately, that meant I had trouble getting myself to write at any other time of day. I had trouble writing if I wasn’t at home alone, if my desk wasn’t tidy, or if I didn’t have a cup of tea and something sweet to eat.

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My writing routine pre-baby:  a quiet morning, a clean desk, a cup of tea.

 

As I’m getting my baby into a stricter routine and getting her to make helpful associations, I’m loosening my own routines and associations. From now on I have to snag writing time whenever I can – morning, noon, or night. I have to learn to write wherever I am and whatever the conditions (especially since my office now doubles as the nursery and my desk is currently a neatnik’s nightmare). I don’t have the luxury to be so particular anymore; I will have to write whether or not I have time to make myself a cup of tea.

People always say, “sleep when your baby sleeps,” and I will do that, but I  will try to write a little, too.

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She’s such a little angel when she’s sleeping!

Day 18: Camel Spit & Llama Sex, or, When It’s OK to Break a Writing Routine

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Day 18:  Camel Spit & Llama Sex, or, When It’s OK to Break a Writing Routine

MY JUNE GOALS FOR LIFE FULFILLMENT   

1.  Draw something every day

2.  Learn about art

3.  Read blogs and learn how to promote my own

At Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Virginia, for a mere $17, you can drive through 180 acres of rolling hills, feeding zebras, llamas, bison, antelope, camels, ostriches, and a whole lot of other strong-jawed and large-beaked animals that are not afraid of people and that come galumphing up to your open windows as soon as you slow down.

Yesterday, I went to Safari Park for the second time, with my friends Cory and Melissa, and my boyfriend, Paul. Upon driving into the park, we were immediately accosted by yaks, emus, and watusi (1500 pound cattle with 10-foot long horns).  Our safari began with screams of laughter (and terror) and lots of flying food pellets. (I apologize again to Melissa for all of the feed and yak saliva that is now covering the inside of her car.)

“Oh my god, we’ve only gone five feet!” Cory laughed maniacally. “This is crazy!” By this time the watusi had surrounded us completely, making it impossible to drive. Their gigantic horns threatened to scratch Melissa’s car and/or take out one of our eyes.

“Oh no! Here come the zebras!” I yelled. The problem with the zebras, and most of the animals at Safari Park, is that they will try to eat all of the feed in your bucket in one go, despite your protests that they save some for the others. When you try to take the feed bucket away, they will either attempt to wrestle the bucket out of your hands, or they will stick as much of themselves as possible through your car window to get the bucket back.

“Drive, Cory, drive!” Melissa shouted as a zebra stuck its entire head into the car. We all screamed and laughed hysterically, and Cory drove on.

The watusi coming to get us.

The watusi coming to get us.

From my last trip to Safari Park.  Me and a greedy zebra.

From my last trip to Safari Park. Me and a greedy zebra.

On Friday afternoon Paul and I had driven to Roanoke, Virginia, my hometown, so that Paul could meet my dad, as well as my dear friends from high school, Degra, Melissa, and Cory. We spent the weekend going for hikes and eating at restaurants and sitting around visiting. On Monday, we went to Safari Park before heading back to Richmond.

Although I was able to keep up my drawing routine over the long weekend, I did absolutely no writing. I felt like I didn’t have the time or the mental space.

I felt a little guilty, though, especially when I thought about Huruki Murakami. In my last post I wrote about famous authors’ writing rituals (see The Writing Rituals of 5 Famous Novelists), and Murakami says that when he is working on a novel, he gets up every day at four am and works for five or six hours.  He does this without variation and keeps up this routine for six months to a year – I suppose, until the novel is done.

Well, I’m working on a new novel. I actually have an agent who is interested in it, which should motivate me to be really serious and dedicated about my writing routine. And all last week I was following a good routine, getting up somewhat early and writing from 8 am to 11, which is usually my optimal writing time.  But because I was in Roanoke, I didn’t keep up this routine on Saturday or Sunday or Monday.

And maybe I could have. Maybe I could have told my dad, “hey, sorry, I can’t be at your house until 11:30. Gotta do my writing in the morning.” Maybe I could have told Cory and Melissa, “hey, sorry guys, can’t sit around on the sun porch and chat. I need to hole up in the guest room for three hours to write.”

Is this what a truly professional and dedicated writer would do?  Is this what separates the successful from the wannabes?  Maybe I shouldn’t worry about seeming rude. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about missing out on fun stuff. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about getting a hike in before the heat of the day.

The question is, how much, and how often, is it okay to deviate from your writing routine? Should you do it for friends and family?  Should you do it while traveling, or for the sake of fun?  Or should you never break routine if you can possibly help it?  How many days is it okay to go without writing one single sentence?

I did stick to my drawing routine over the long weekend.  For example, I drew this gnome.

I did stick to my drawing routine over the long weekend. For example, I drew this gnome.

As we continued to drive through Safari Park, things calmed down a bit.

“Oh, is that good? Is that delicious?” Paul baby-talked to a pair of antelope, holding out his bucket of feed.

“Hey friend, hey there,” Cory said, petting a brown and white deer.

“It’s Bambi! It’s little Bambi!” Paul reached his arm out of the car. “Let me feel your antlers.”

Meanwhile, Melissa fed a surprisingly gentle eight-foot-tall ostrich, and I sternly rationed out my feed to a pack of llamas, rewarding a black and white one with an extra mouthful because he’d been so polite.

“I love you, Bambi. You’re so cute,” Paul said to the fly-covered deer.

“You’re my special one,” I said, petting the llama’s matted fur. “I’m going to call you Oreo.”

It was downright serene… until we got to the camels.

Last time, a camel had come through our sun roof and stolen my entire bucket of feed with one chomp of his slobbery mouth. I swore I wouldn’t let the same thing happen this time.

As we slowed down, and the camel came over to investigate, I prepared myself to be strong. I held out my bucket. He bowed his giant head, opened his rubbery lips, and suddenly half the bucket had disappeared into his mouth.  He pulled at it aggressively.

“No!” I screamed, holding on for dear life. He gnawed down on the plastic of my bucket (nipping my finger in the process). “Ahhhh! NO! You can’t have it!” I gave one good yank and ripped the bucket from his mouth. Camel drool and wet, mulchy feed sluiced down my arm, and everyone laughed.  “I did it!” I cried, wiping the drool onto the front of my dress.

Unfortunately, while I was gloating, the camel had noticed the reserve feed buckets between me and Paul. He lurched his head through my window, and now the camel was inside the car, smothering me with his giant neck.  Paul screamed, trying frantically to   save our buckets of extra feed.

“Oh my god!”  Melissa yelled.  I was somehow screaming in terror and laughing hysterically at the same time.

“He’s eating all the food!” Paul cried, pushing at the camel’s head with his open palm. Cory tried to entice the camel with his feed bucket, and then the camel was sticking its head through Melissa’s open window, causing her to scream in terror. The camel reeled its head around in the car, knocking into Melissa and sticking his crazy, sideways-crewing mouth into Cory’s face. Camel spit and dreaded hair was everywhere, and everyone was screaming.

“Drive, Cory, drive!” Melissa yelled,  Cory stepped on the gas, and the camel had no choice but to withdraw his giant head from the window.

Melissa and the camel attack.

Melissa and the camel attack.

The camel attack was only one of the many exciting adventures during this latest trip to Safari Park. After the drive-through portion, Cory, Melissa, Paul, and I walked around the rest of the zoo. We watched llamas having sex, we fed rainbow-colored parakeets and got them to land on us, and we saw pot-belly piglets that were less than six hours old, suckling from their enormous mother’s teats.

More importantly, Paul bonded with my good friends, and we all spent a few hours in the mountains, in the sunshine, laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.

If I’d stuck to my writing routine on Monday, we wouldn’t have had time to go to Safari Park.

Murakami may disagree, but I think there are some things worth breaking your routine for.

Drawing by Eva Langston

Drawing by Eva Langston

Me and Paul and our little budgie friends.

Me and Paul and our little budgie friends.

Eva Langston is an aspiring writer.  Read more about her here.