The Baby Monitor

Yesterday, we had a baby shower for one of our employees. As she was unwrapping her gifts, I realized how many wonderful new tools have been invented for young mothers.   The baby monitor is one of those tools.

When I was a new mother, some 50-plus years ago, I was the baby monitor.  All night I was up and down, in and out of the baby’s room, checking to see if my little angel was still breathing. Never quite attaining REM-sleep, my ears were alert to the slightest creak in the floor, a small grunt, a tiny sneeze or cough.  Any sound sent me running into the baby’s room.  Honestly, I didn’t have an uninterrupted, full night’s sleep for probably ten years.

I don’t want to sleep like a baby.  I just want to sleep like my husband.

Everybody knows sleep deprivation is the curse of new parents. Babies have to be fed and changed every few hours.  But, in my case, it was MORE of a curse to me than my wonderful husband.  He can hardly hear out of one ear, poor guy (I am being sarcastic) and he sleeps with his good ear down on the pillow.  Except for the first few nights the baby was home, or if the baby was sick, my husband rarely heard the baby cry at night.  On many a morning he would say, “Great…the baby slept through the night” (yeah…sure he did).  In his defense, Alan did have to get up very early for work and he does generally require more sleep than I do…but still.

Plus, I was a complete worry wart when my son was born.  I felt totally inadequate as a mother. In fact, I remember one day saying to myself, “Oh my God, nobody is going to come pick up this child.  He is my responsibility, forever!”  (At 23, maybe I was too young to be a relaxed parent.)

Because I was so exhausted during the day, I sometimes got concerned I might fall into a deep sleep and not hear the baby fuss after his naptime.  To make sure that didn’t happen, I’d put a pillow down outside his door and slept on the floor just outside of his room.

As you can imagine, the sleep deprivation I suffered was acute and made me function in an almost zombie-like state on more than one occasion.

It’s a funny thing…I used to stay up all night by choice and called it “fun”.

Our son Roger (now a parent himself) and his wife Teri used a baby monitor for our precious granddaughter, London (again, what a great invention). They told me how reassuring it was to hear the soft rhythmic sounds of her breathing as they slept in their master bedroom on the other side of the house. Teri told me, “I don’t have to sleep in a semi-awake state because I trust that the monitor picks up the slightest sound.” Plus, with the home alarm system in place, as London aged and began to walk and explore, they didn’t have to worry that she might wander out the front door into the yard without their knowing.  (Home alarm systems, another parenting tool we old folks didn’t have.)

As time progressed and London matured, the baby monitor became an entertainment center of sorts.  Her parents could lie in bed and hear her sing and talk to herself as she played in her crib.

“She always wakes up happy,” Roger told us.  “We love to hear her talking to her stuffed animals, Lamby and Teddy Bear. It’s really sweet.”

But, as time went on, London moved from her crib to a small kid’s bed and with the bed change came an increase in morning activities.  Roger and Teri could now hear her in the morning organizing and talking to her dolls, and playing with Boobie, her imaginary friend (and the recipient of any blame for mishaps around the house).  The noise increased and so did London’s interaction with her sleepy parents.

“Hey you two, it’s time to get up!”  And then came orders for breakfast.  “Daddy, how about some French toast and bacon?  Call me when it’s ready…Boobie’s hungry.”

Roger announced over dinner recently that the baby monitor had been retired.

“Why?” I asked.

“London thinks she’s in charge.  She’s become a bit of a drill sergeant.”  I laughed out loud. “We’re just glad she doesn’t know how to play the bugle.”

MOTHERHOOD:  Powered by love.  Fueled by coffee.  Sustained by wine.