Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tales from the Crib, Part Two

I watched in horror when my friends became mothers and subsequently vanished into a cloud of exhausted murmurings and tears. When I sat by while a friend slept on the floor with her baby because he was too big for their bed and she was too big for his, I swore that I would be different. My baby would sleep because I would do everything in my power to create a home where sleep was expected, encouraged, and anticipated.

I started almost immediately at the task of creating a sleeper of a child. After the first week, when Amelia slept on my chest exclusively, I made sure to put her in her own bed every time she slept. When she awoke in the middle of the night, I never brought her into my own bed to nurse, but got up, took her to the living room, nursed her, and promptly placed her back in her bed. I would not allow her to use me as a pacifier or to fall asleep nursing so that she could fall asleep on her own. After two weeks, I had her napping in her crib in her own room. When I realized that her daytime naps lasted longer than her nighttime stints, we put her in her crib at night too, probably around 4 weeks. I would put her in her crib awake and she would go right to sleep. I was the queen of sleep discipline; not to be so controlled about it, but because I truly believe that a baby needs their rest in the same vein they need food and comfort. I also believe whole-heartedly that an exhausted mommy is not a good mommy. That whittling away at yourself until there is nothing left is not a characteristic of good parenting--but that's an aside.

Amelia was off to a great start. She slept until 3:30 am from the time she was just a few weeks old, waking for only one night feeding. We thought we were so lucky. Even during the screaming fests (now referred to as Reflux Benders), she would crash out and then sleep through the night. (Thank Mother Earth too, because I honestly would not have survived it all otherwise.) It all worked.

After the horrible experience that we had with Prevacid and the way it affected Amelia's sleep, we had to resort to serious methods to train her on falling asleep again. We instilled a scheduled bedtime routine. Food. Bath. Jammies. Nursing. Story. Song. Bed. This routine varies only by a few minutes here and there and we've been doing it since she was 3 months old (save the food that didn't start until 5 mos). That's SIX months of this routine that never wavers!

What I am getting at is that we've done it. We've set the routine. We've taught her how to go to sleep on her own by not rocking her, or nursing her to fall asleep. We kept her out of our bed. We let her cry. We've done it. Tried everything. We've done it. All.

And you know what? That baby of ours still cries every time we put her to bed. Every. Single. Time. Sure, there'll be a couple weeks here and there when she just rolls over and goes to sleep, but it's a novelty. She cries when she goes down for naps, when she goes to bed, when she's awake, or already asleep. She cries. If you try to rock her to sleep, sway with her, sing to her, or anything else to get her to sleep, she cries. I've even tried getting her to sleep with me and guess what? She cries. I would absolutely take the easy road and just hold her until she falls asleep if it would just stop the crying. But it doesn't! And Amelia will sleep (unless teething) well enough at night, but it's the getting there. . .

We talked to the doctor about it and she went through the checklist, "Did you. . .?" After responding yes to all of her suggestions, she admitted that some babies just fight sleep. Always. Even her first daughter did the same.

You might be thinking that since Amelia cries every time, every day that it's something you get used to. Let me tell you that there is no getting used to your baby crying. Everytime I walk away from her in the crib, I have to see that face. It's awful. And again, before I hear a collective gasp of, "well, you need to. . . " rest assured that I've tried it. I would take that baby into bed with me and nurse her for hours at a time if it would stop the crying. But it doesn't. We used to give it a reason, "She's just over tired," Or, "She doesn't like to be in the dark." Yet correcting these issues have had no effect. I think she doesn't like to know that she's going to sleep. She doesn't want to miss anything, but falls apart if she's too tired!

Further, when I think about all of the anxiety, stress, and exhaustion of motherhood, it all comes back to this issue. When I think about the blow ups that Justin and I have had since becoming parents, they've all been around sleeplessness and the tension caused by the fighting baby. It's hard on us and we take it out on each other sometimes, naturally. I can't even imagine how differently our lives would be if we didn't have this constant fight over sleep. Even though she's been doing this for 5 months, it still makes me cry sometimes. It keeps us from having people over to our house in the evening and keeps up from going anywhere in the evening. Imagine if she cries with her same old routine what she does when we mess THAT up on her! It's not pretty. It makes us reluctant to ask anybody else to watch her because we don't want them to have to go to battle the way we do every day. Every. Day.

Man, I love that baby girl to the core of my soul. But for crying out loud, I wish she'd figure it out.

1 comment:

Mommy D said...

I did the same thing with Luke... My husband used to call me the sleep Nazi... After all of the sleep training with him we got about a year and a half of heaven, until we moved him into the "big boy bed." What I wouldn't give some nights to have him still somewhat confined in his crib. I now have a 3 year old that gets out of bed, on average, about 5-7 times a night for various reasons... It kills me because I know how much he needs to sleep and it's frustrating to watch him fight it so hard...
Brooklyn has been the exact opposite so far. Out of exhaustion, I've allowed her to turn me into a pacifier in the evenings (no bueno!), and she sleeps curled up on my chest most nights until I wake up around 3 or 4am to move her to the bassinet... I'm rambling, but what I think I'm trying to say is that you have done EVERYTHING in your power to provide her with the tools she needs to get sleep, and you should really give yourself credit and a break. You are an AMAZINGLY strong mother to be able to handle all of the reflux/sleep issues.