Everything Changes 9/14/13

Its been a whole month since my co-worker passed away and the last time I started a post. Everything has changed since then. My perspective. My attitude. It just hasn’t been as easy to write about the other things my family has been navigating through since they seem so small in comparison.

Alexandra went through her first ear infection/possible flu/viral infection and I’ve again been inspired to write about it.

A lot was going on before that though, so it wouldn’t be right to leave all of that out.

Many of my blog posts were about how much we were struggling with sleep, or rather the lack of it. It had started to improve on its own and we were beyond hopeful and thankful. And then…well, basically it all blew up again.

It was hard. It was really, fricking hard. On the large scale of things, its easy to say “its just sleep” and think its not that big of a deal and know that eventually it will get better. When you’re actually going through it, its ok to say that its really fricking hard. No matter how blessed and thankful you are, its really, really hard.

So, here’s how we got through it. Some people will not like this. Some people are adamantly against it. Before we did it, I did thorough research and came across many blogs, articles, and books both for and against it. I read through comments online and saw things as horrible and nasty as mothers calling other mothers selfish. Yep, you guessed it. We finally got her to sleep better once we did “cry it out”. It sucked. I hated it. I felt like the meanest, worst, most selfish person in the world, but it did work.

I’ll set the stage for where we were before, just so you get an idea of the desperation. For a couple weeks she had been only getting up once or twice a night—hooray! We were more than elated by this and would have happily continued along this path without doing anything different. During this time, we would feed her once and the other time my husband would rock her back to sleep. We were getting a good 6 hours (though broken) of sleep most nights (some nights we couldn’t fall back to sleep after her wake up around 3 or 4 am). Life was good!

And then it all changed. First it started just taking a really long time to get her back to sleep. She would fall asleep nicely in our arms and then as soon as we would set her back in her crib, BAM, eyes open, crying! Process started all over again. Now it was taking a good 40-60 minutes to get her to go back to sleep. Then she would be up again in another 2-3 hours. Ugh. We kept slugging through it, hoping it was just a phase or a few nights. But the few nights turned into a week, turned into 2 weeks, then 3 with no end in sight and not even a slight improvement. So we were back to getting about 3 hours of sleep at night. We were back to waking up every morning feeling like Lindsay Lohan. Headaches, body aches, generally feeling crappy and like the worst hangover of your life. Every. Single. Day.

I received so many nice messages from friends telling me they had been through it and that it does get better. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It was so helpful to hear that.

She would wake up after a sleep cycle (like we all do) and just couldn’t get herself back to sleep and relied on us to do it for her. Once we realized that this was the issue, it was clear what we had to do. It just took us this long to realize that was what was going on. She can’t tell us, so we just didn’t know and were pulling our hair out trying to find the magic code.

Besides just waking up and going to work feeling like crap, it was also affecting us on a much deeper level. We were both crabasses. We weren’t really at each other’s throats, but we were pretty snappy with each other and neither of us had a lot of patience. We both were just putting so much energy into our Peanut and there was just very little energy left for each other. We were both starting to feel kind of lonely and isolated.

All that being said, here’s how we finally got her to get herself to sleep. We had tried cry it out after our doctor suggested it at her 4 month appointment and it was an epic fail. I didn’t think we would try it again. And then it happened…

Tim had to go out of town for work overnight. I knew I would have to handle the night by myself and I knew it would be awful. It was a Thursday, and I had already been surviving on 3 hours of sleep a night for the past several weeks and months before that. After I put her to bed about 9 pm and spent the next hour cleaning up, washing her bottles, making her bottles for daycare the next day, pumping, cleaning my pump equipment, it was 10:30. I could have gone right to bed but instead I ate a huge molten chocolate cake. It was sort of a pre-award for the night I knew I was going to have.

I went to bed at 11, and was actually pleasantly surprised that she made it until 2:08 am before the first wake up! I thought “maybe this won’t be such a bad night after all!” I went in there, fed her and spent the next 35 minutes rocking her to sleep. I had to make sure she was all the way into the deep sleep because I knew if I tried to set her down before then she would wake up and start crying and we would have to start all over. So I moved ever so slowly, cautiously to the crib and sloooowly, geeeently set her down, trying not to even have the slightest twitch. Success! She didn’t wake up! I crept sloooowly out of her room, and back into mine and got back into bed sometime around 2:45 am. I fell asleep quickly and then shot awake again when she started crying. I looked at the clock, 3:10 am!

NO! You’ve got to be fricking kidding me! I knew she didn’t NEED anything—she just woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep on her own. It was in that moment that I decided to give cry it out another shot. The next 45 minutes were torture. I had to switch off the sound on the baby monitor because I could hear her loud and clear from her bedroom anyway. I watched her on the monitor since the last time we attempted cry it out she vomited and that was when I decided I couldn’t go through with it. After 10 minutes, I kept getting up and starting to go to her…then something inside me would tell me to stop. Wait. After the first 10 minutes the anger settled down and she was just crying. After 20 minutes the crying turned into more of a moaning and that continued until a full 45 minutes had passed. After 45 minutes she stopped the fussing altogether and I watched her just sort of lay there awake, tossing and turning for another 10 minutes. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep!

I tried going back to sleep myself, but watching and hearing your baby like that for 45 minutes is stressful enough that I was unsuccessful. She woke up again about 4:45 and did the moaning for 8 minutes and then went right back to sleep and stayed asleep until I woke her up for daycare at 7.

That night when I picked her up from daycare she was crabby to say the least. I was crabby and exhausted too. I tried playing with her, tried giving her oatmeal cereal for dinner and she wanted nothing to do with any of it. Tim was still not home from his trip and I was too tired and crabby to deal with her being this crabby so I skipped the whole night time routine we do and put her to bed around 7 pm (2 hours earlier than her normal bedtime). I sat down in a chair and dozed off until Tim got home around 8 pm. We were totally prepared for another sleepless night of her crying and it didn’t happen! She slept from 7 pm, till 9:30 am. I didn’t quite sleep that much as I went in and checked on her about every couple hours to make sure she was still breathing since she just didn’t ever sleep like that! Wow! The next day she was a happy, fun little girl and the next night, she slept for 12 hours! Was it possible that this “sleep training” worked so quickly and so well that my little girl went from getting up every 1-3 hours to actually sleeping a whopping 12 hours straight after just one night?!? I didn’t believe it and was hesitant to even think it. After a whole week of wonderful sleep for everyone, I finally realized it did work.

Its not for everyone, and I realize that. Some parents end up brining their kids into their beds and letting their children sleep on them instead of doing any kind of cry it out method. If that works for you and your family, then great. I find I can’t sleep when my baby is on top of me, so it just wouldn’t work for us. She greeted me with the same big smiles the next morning that I always get. Additionally, after the two days that she slept for 13 and 12 hours straight, she seemed much more pleasant during the day, and also took better naps. I started to wonder if my baby has been just as sleep deprived as we were all these months. I’ll never know for sure, but I know I’m glad we tried it again.

Why do I think it worked this time and not before? Well, before we were actually doing the Ferber method. In this method you go in at different intervals and show the baby you are there, maybe pat their belly, say some reassuring words and then leave. You go back in at longer and longer intervals until they stop crying completely. This has worked for some people, so I’m not going to say its wrong. It just didn’t work for us. Every time we went back in there she seemed to get MORE upset that we were there and weren’t helping her. We would hear her crying and it would start to get less, but she was still crying so we would go in there and she would up the tempo considerably. This was STRESSFUL to us and I’m sure she picked up on that and it stressed her out more. When I didn’t go in there at all, at some point she realized that “mommy wasn’t coming”—and yes, it breaks your heart to think about them thinking that. She had to rely on herself to get back to sleep. So, I recommend that if you do try the cry it out method, just let them cry. You’ll feel really shitty about it, but I think you’ll see they back off sooner than you think. How long would I have gone? I don’t actually know. I never thought I’d be able to go 45 minutes, but I didn’t go into it with a plan, it was all using my instinct. I knew she was not in pain, hungry or anything like that. I knew her cries were starting to taper off. If she had continued at the same intensity, I know I wouldn’t have made 45 minutes. You know your child, and by the time they are 5-6 months, you know their cries.

That was partly why, when a week later she woke up at 3:30 am crying, Tim and I knew something was different. This ended up being longer than I expected so I’ll probably write Part II about her being sick and how we navigated that.

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