It started off innocently enough. Just a little help from The App.
Before we had our son, friends of ours with babies and little kids raved about The App. It synced between multiple phones and allowed you to keep track of everything and anything.
And I mean anything. From feeding to sleeping to playing to mood to their college application. You get the idea.
I am a very organized person and sometimes it borders on the obsessive. I will get up from a very cozy position and abandon a glass of wine because I see a dust bunny from across the room.
I like order. I like routine. Great combination for a baby, right? Order. Routine. That’s where The App came in.
On my third day as a Mom, I vividly remember pulling out my phone during an early morning nursing session and seeing The App. I was exhausted. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. My boobs were engorged and painful to the touch. I had had a bad tear giving birth, so I could barely get up and down off the couch.
I felt like everything was completely out of control.
But when I opened The App and started using it, I began feeling like this was the one thing, the one thing, I could dictate. The App comforted me with its dull glow from my iPhone screen during feedings when the sun was hours from greeting me. It gave me small glimmers of hope as I saw the semblance of sleep patterns emerging and the total average time between feedings getting further and further apart.
Getting up four times between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to nurse? I had The App. I happily and obsessively punched in the details, relishing those few seconds of what seemed like victory.
Explosive diarrhea several times a day? I had The App.
Tracking sleep? I had The App.
“There’s hope!” my husband would happily report to our family and friends, while pointing at a bar graph. “See? Walker’s average time between feedings went from two and a half hours last week to two hours and forty-five minutes.”
With each incremental gain, I felt like I climbed one notch higher on that bristly rope with the knots that we were forced to climb in sixth grade gym class.
I will get through this. The stats prove this to be true. I repeated this mantra to myself on a daily basis.
And The App gave me a much-needed lifeline home to my son when I went back to work. Just one quick refresh and I was able to see what he was up to. Sitting at my desk miles and miles away didn’t feel quite as far, because I could imagine what he was doing.
Oh, sweet, sweet App, how I love (ed) thee.
Predictably, my obsessive, organizational brain took it too far.
It started when Walker decided to only take forty minute naps. Out of the blue one day, it was like a switch went off and he would not (WOULD. NOT.) nap for longer. I imagined a little sleep devil sitting on his shoulder with a stopwatch, blaring a teeny, tiny foghorn into his ear at exactly forty minutes.
Walker was a cranky, irritable little guy and I was beside myself. I couldn’t figure out why and I began obsessively checking The App when I wasn’t with him. I probably checked it every few minutes and when the forty minute mark rolled around, I held my breath…hit refresh…and prayed the timer was still running.
Except it wasn’t. It never was. 39 minutes. 40 minutes. 38 minutes. I would work myself into a frenzy at my desk, imagining my fussy kid, unhappy and sleep deprived driving my parents or our nanny crazy.
At home, I would pace outside his door like some kind of warrior, waiting to ward off the sleep devil, but he was always outside my reach.
My husband told me I needed to chill, to relax, but I couldn’t. I constantly talked about it. And it would upset me a lot, like a lot a lot, when other people didn’t update The App in real time. I knew my parents were changing his diaper and feeding him, but I COULDN’T SEE IT!
On Easter Sunday, we had had a lovely day. We went to a beautiful church service and Walker behaved like an angel. We enjoyed a brunch with family and friends, but that afternoon, Walker woke up from his nap early. Again.
I sat in the corner of his sun-filled playroom and sobbed. Big, fat tears streamed down my face as I asked my husband, “What do you think will happen if I get rid of The App?”
My son was happy and healthy, yet here I was crying at the thought of getting rid of The App. And if I truly admitted it, I was disappointed in myself that I had this compulsive need to perfectly manage, schedule and synch my baby to the point where anything outside of those rigid expectations seemed like an utter failure of parenthood.
My husband was gentle and kind. “I think it’ll be okay. Walker will be okay.”
I deleted it. I went cold turkey and quit The App. It sounds ridiculous, but it was extremely hard to hit the little “x” to get rid of it for good. I honestly thought my son’s routine would disintegrate. As if inputting minute details into my phone meant what was happening was real.
What had helped me gain some control in a time of complete chaos had somehow managed to control me.
I’m terrified I’ll be the worst kind of cliché, overbearing helicopter parent, rushing in to save my son from every misstep. But that’s not who I want to be. I want to be able to let go and give him room to grow and spread his wings.
So no more App. It was hard, but I feel lighter.
And I’m proud to report that my son now typically does nap for more than forty minutes and still poops on a consistent basis, even if I can’t provide numeric proof.
Guest post written by Erin Holt. Erin is a recovering TV reporter living in Nashville, who will always love asking questions and telling stories. She considers herself extraordinarily lucky to be mom to a rambunctious 1-year-old son, wife to a devoted and loving husband and chief dog-feeder to a demanding beagle. When she's not making strange animal noises to amuse her family, she enjoys running, cooking, playing her violin, drinking lattes and eating large chocolate bars. She is currently working up the courage to put all her big story ideas to paper and finally write that book.
Photo By Melissa Nelson.