Category Archives: Life

Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 2 – Crying It Out

That night we began her bedtime routine early. I had heard warm water was soothing, so I gave her a bath. We went through the routine I had begun establishing a week or so prior, and she was tired but happy. I nursed her, took her off before she was asleep, sung her a lullaby, laid her in her crib, and left.

For a few minutes, silence. But then, soon, crying. I tried picking her up and soothing her, but within a few repetitions she would start screaming as I went to lower her in the crib. I was afraid if I kept picking her up every time she cried and putting her down every time she was calm I would teach her the crib was a punishment. She used to cry in her carseat, and usually within 10 minutes of crying would fall asleep. I figured I needed to give her a chance.

I put her down.

I left.

I waited 3 minutes. The cries had risen to the level of screaming. I went in, picked her up, soothed her. She was confused and distraught. It took me a long time to comfort her as she clung to me and kept crying in my arms. Once she was calm I braced myself, lowered her in her crib, and left.

The screams began before I hit the door.

That time, I waited 5 minutes. The next, 10. Then 5 again, then 10. And so on.

For an hour and a half.

I thought I would be OK. I had left my baby to cry before. In her carseat, when I couldn’t pull over. In her bouncer, when I needed to shower. I am not a mother who feels her baby can never cry. Sometimes life is hard, and you have to learn to deal with it because the simple fact is it won’t always go your way.

But this was not crying. This was screaming.

This was not my baby being upset about something.

This was her feeling utterly confused. Hurt. Betrayed for reasons she couldn’t fathom. Her pain rang in her voice as she screamed herself hoarse.

She had never, ever cried like this. This was a level of pain far beyond anything she had ever expressed before.

I would go into her room and she would desperately grab on and cling to me, sniffling as she tried to choke down the sobs she no longer felt the need to let out but the pain of which had taken her over, making it hard to stop. She would bury her face in my neck and wrap her arms around me, taking hold of my hair in both her little fists and gripping desperately. While she loved being in my arms and I wore her regularly, she had never clung to me like this. I didn’t even have to do anything to quiet her anymore, the cries would stop as soon as she was in my arms. All she wanted was the comfort of my love and presence.

And after she was calm, I would go against every instinct my mommy brain was screaming at me, walk her back to the crib, lay her down, and leave.

The screaming would start as I would lower her in. She couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Why I was abandoning her. Why I wouldn’t respond to her cries, her only way to communicate, like I always had. Why I wouldn’t allow her the simple comfort of my arms, which I had always surrounded her with while she fell asleep before.

She was not manipulating me. She was not angry. She was not stubborn.

She was bewildered and betrayed and she screamed her confusion and her desperation to the world that had abandoned her.

Finally, finally, after more than an hour and a half, she slept.

And, in a sense, it “worked”.

She slept 3 hours. Then she woke, ate, went back down easily, and slept another 5 hours.

Of course, most people sleep hard and long after experiencing a trauma. So the fact that she slept so “well” wasn’t really remarkable. It wasn’t a sign that she had learned self-sufficiency. It was a sign of how hard the experience had been on her.

After those 8 hours she woke again, and, with more energy, began a repeat of the screaming as I lowered her into the crib. I took her into our room, tears running down both our faces as she cried at the idea of repeating the experience while awake enough to recognize it happening, and I cried at the thought of doing it, and said to my husband I didn’t know what to do. Could I have done it? Yes. The reason I was such a fantastic dog trainer is that I can out-stubborn anyone. My problem wasn’t that it was hard. My problem was that it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. He told me it was OK to nurse her to sleep in our room like we had been doing. We could work on it again the next night. We could just move her in the middle of the night, when she seemed to do better, for a week or so, and make the crib a not-horrible place to her again.

I crawled into bed and nursed my sweet baby to sleep.

Nothing had ever felt so right.

She went down easily and slept the several hours until morning.

Do I think she was permanently scarred by her hour and a half of screaming it out? No. But something doesn’t have to leave permanent scars to be wrong.

There had to be a way to teach my baby to sleep without causing her this much pain. The day wore on, and even though the crying it out had “worked”, I couldn’t stop feeling…wrong…about it. I refused to do it again.

I looked for other answers.

[Please note, I do not think CIO is wrong for every baby or every family, and I do not judge others who choose to use it. I simply mean it was wrong for ME and it was wrong for MY BABY. I think like most “negative” training techniques (as opposed to positive training techniques), it tends to have an extreme effect, either working very, very well, or working very, very poorly and causing negative side effects you then have to deal with. I have never been a fan of that kind of technique in most situations, and I decided this was one where I wasn’t willing to use it unless I had exhausted every other option.]

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Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 1

It seems like I have been obsessing about sleep for my whole adult life. Between my insomnia and chronic fatigue syndrome I spent the first part always thinking about my own sleep: timing, how activities will affect the sleep I can get and the energy I have, etc. Now that I have a baby, I think about her sleep.

When she was first born I didn’t too much. My husband is awesome and took her for half the nights so I was assured of getting several hours of continuous sleep no matter what. I taught her to sleep in her pack n play by the bed, and her time asleep slowly improved, and by 2 months old she consistently gave us a 4-5 hour stretch at the beginning of the night.

Then she hit a wonder week. And it all went to hell. Specifically, a hell of one month of one hour chunks of sleep with the occaisional two hour chunk thrown in. All the good sleep patterns we’d developed disappeared. And as she grew, she slept less hard. She woke extremely easily. Cutting her nails while she was asleep? Impossible. Moving her, even when she was in the deep part of a sleep cycle, out of your arms? You had maybe a 1/4 chance. She fought sleep like any baby, but what was really hard was how hard it was for her to STAY asleep. (And for the record, we did NOT coddle her. We were loud, we moved her, we did all the right things while she was young. And as she grew, despite constant exposure, those things began to wake her).

Finally, at 4 months, she would give me 2-3 hour stretches at night for the most part. This wasn’t ideal, but we could function on it. The real problem was that she wouldn’t nap most days, because as soon as she’d fall asleep something would wake her. She was grumpy and exhausted. I was getting exhausted. Something needed to change.

I heard from people who did cry it out and had it work fabulously. A few nights of hard, and then beautiful, happy sleep. I looked into it. I thought it would be good for her in the long run. She NEEDED to be able to put herself to sleep so she could nap, since she slept too lightly to be transferred. I saw one method which involved picking baby up and comforting her to calmness when she cried before putting her back down, and I thought maybe I could manage that.

One night a few nights ago I was up with her from 3:30-4:30 and she would. not. sleep. I was exhausted. I gave up and said, that’s it, we’re doing this. I took her into her room and laid her in her crib awake. She laid there a few minutes, then cried some. I picked her up, soothed her to calmness, and laid her down asleep again. I left and waited outside the door. She talked to herself a bit and then…nothing. Silence. I crept back in. She was asleep. It was so easy! I felt stupid for not doing it earlier. I went back to our room and cried to my husband that she didn’t need me. I really do love nursing her to sleep…I just needed her to be able to put herself back to sleep during the brief awakenings she has every hour.

She slept the rest of the night (until a little after 8) and woke up happy. I woke up happy. It was nice having our room back to ourselves. I had missed having her there in the night, but the little break made me happier to see her in the morning.

I figured we’d spend the whole night in her crib that night. I knew it might be harder starting the night there, but how hard could it be?

A lot harder.

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It’s baaaaack

Today I was feeling lonely. I didn’t feel like doing any work. I didn’t feel like doing anything. It kept getting stronger as the afternoon went on. I couldn’t figure out why nothing felt good.

And then I realized.

It’s depression.

It’s back.

Once during my pregnancy while in a REALLY stressful situation I had a short relapse. But once I left the trigger (which was big and understandable) the depression left.

Today? No trigger.

I didn’t sleep great. But not bad. I was kind of grumpy when I woke up. But normal, healthy grumpy. And then I took a nap snuggled up with my baby love and I felt great.

I had a little stress from school, but certainly no more than I’ve had for weeks.

I had a wonderful lunch with my hubby. I brought something up I felt a little bad about, but no big deal.

There was nothing to set me off. Not even a combination of things. This has been a better day than many of late. Nothing outstanding.

And yet…And yet…

I’m depressed.

I want to go crawl into bed and do nothing for the rest of the day. And the foreseeable future. I just can’t make myself care about doing…anything.

I had a mentally healthy pregnancy.

I had a mentally healthy first four months post partum.

I guess that’s all I get.

At least I knew what I had and enjoyed it while I had it.

And at least, even as it’s taking over, I want to snuggle my little love more, not harm or neglect her.

I’m grateful for the healthy time I got, even as I’m sad it’s apparently ending.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go hug my beautiful baby and hang onto her until I find my way back to me.

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Eyes

I’m sitting in bed, nursing my baby back to sleep. We just had a diaper change, so she was very awake when we started. I feel her relax…relax…completely relaxed. Her sucking slows and stops. I think she is asleep, so I glance down in the light of my phone to check.

And am met with her big, beautiful eyes staring up at me. Studying my face. Trusting me completely to take care of her.

She is not asleep. She is just content.

Warm in the knowledge she is loved.

And she is. So very, very much.

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Nursing my love

I am not a giant lover of nursing. There are mamas who rave about how wonderful it is. I am not one. I find it preferable to bottles, but that’s about as far as it goes when you weigh the pros and cons. However, there are some very sweet parts of our nursing journey I have loved.

For a long time I could always make my baby love take a nap by stripping her down, putting her skin to skin, and side lying nursing with her in our bed. (I was always careful to keep the covers below her arm pits and the pillow far away, and these naps were the only time she was allowed to sleep in our bed.) It was so sweet feeling her warm little body relax completely against mine and knowing she felt safe there. She has always been a difficult sleeper, so this was the only way I could get her to take a nap that I could get one, too. I loved this closeness. A few mornings ago, for the first time, she nursed in the position but wouldn’t relax, wouldn’t sleep. I feel sad she’s already outgrown the guarantee of this.

~~~~~

It is pretty awesome that between running and producing enough milk for my child to spit up half of what she eats (shocking some pediatricians with the amount), fill copious numbers of diapers, and still be increasing her weight percentile I can eat like a trucker and still be losing weight.

—–

Milk drunk is hilarious. Plus watching my baby in that blissful state and knowing I put her there? Priceless.

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Breastfeeding in Public

I am such a sucky blogger. I give up on promising I’ll get better, because I’m enjoying spending time with my sweet baby love so much, and we all know the last three times I promised it didn’t happen anyway, but hopefully someone will stick around for the occasional post.

Topic for today: boobies!

Pre-baby I was very anti-breastfeeding-in-public-without-a-cover. Yes, I realized it’s natural, and yes, I realized that in other countries/cultures it’s normal to just pop it out and stick on the baby. But really, casual hugging and touching is also natural and prevalent in other cultures/countries, and it has even been scientifically shown that more casual touching is better for us. But it’s not acceptable in our culture/country, and just because I think it should be doesn’t mean I can walk around caressing everyone. I felt the same for popping out a boob. Whether or not they should be, in our culture/country they’re sexual objects and it’s not ok to show nipples publicly. I thought this seemed fairly self-evident.

Then I had a baby. And I still felt that way. I got a couple fantastic bebe au lait covers cheap second-hand, threw one over me and baby when she was hungry and we were out or people were over, and that was that. It was kind of a pain, especially in the summer heat, but not that big a deal.

Then my baby got older. And her limbs got longer. And she enjoyed flailing them around while eating. And she got bigger. And it was harder to fit her on my boob between me and the table at a restaurant, let alone have space to position a cover over us. And she enjoyed squirming while getting in place to be fed, which added another layer of difficulty to getting the cover arranged without dropping her. And I began to understand why people say covers are such a pain.

And as the months of sore nipples and a stranger’s giant, firm boobs on my chest and them being used as a food source every few hours by a crying, selfish creature and hooking them up to a milking machine daily went by, I stopped thinking of my breasts as sexual. At ALL. And I began to understand why people have no problem exposing their breasts in public, and even briefly exposing their nipples.

I still use a cover. I am very aware of how others feel, and from my past views I get how a woman exposing her nipple to latch a baby on is not socially acceptable. And to be quite honest, when I see other moms breastfeed without a cover, even now, it makes me uncomfortable.

But I get it. Oh boy, do I get it. And seeing it also makes me jealous.

So I won’t be one on the front lines, trying to normalize breastfeeding by doing it publicly exposed.

But now I will cheer those women on, and hope that maybe for one of my next kids, at least in my progressive area, it will become generally accepted to ditch the cover and breastfeed publicly.

Because, while we as a culture view breasts as nothing but sexual, breastfeeding really could not be farther from it.

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It’s creeping back

I thoroughly enjoyed my dysthymia being more or less in remission for almost all of my pregnancy. And my post partum. But now that baby girl is three months old it’s starting to creep back.

A little thing going wrong Sunday sent me into a mini depression.

A silly thing currently going wrong won’t let go of my brain and let me sleep. I keep obsessing over it and can feel the depression pushing at the boundaries of my mind, seeking a crack to let it come in. Tension is gripping my whole body over this eminently first world problem.

Being healthy was so nice while it lasted. I’m trying to focus on being grateful for the reprieve rather than bitter that it doesn’t appear it will last. But man, having a taste of normalcy was so tantalizing…

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