Ear Infections, Floods and Chicken Pox, Oh My! 10/5/13

Wow! Wow. I’m kind of shaking my head laughing at everything that happened in the last few weeks. I am very grateful. Every single day. Its harder to explain that because its easier sometimes to complain about things than run around saying “I feel so blessed!” but I promise, I start every day being thankful and there’s never a moment that I forget that.

So here’s my confession. I never thought it would be THIS hard. If you’re reading this going “geez Jen get it together, its not really that hard” move along my friend, just move along and get back to living your dream life and smile knowing that you’ve got it way more together than me. If you’re reading the above confession and nodding your head and saying “Yes, me too!” this post is for you too.

I’ll explain in a nutshell what happened the last few weeks.

We finally got her to start sleeping better!!! Hooray!! My husband and I started talking more and joking with each other again and we were all generally feeling pretty good. She was also getting to be so much fun! I remember thinking “Finally! This is what I had always imagined having a baby would be like!!!”

Then at 3:30 am on Labor Day, she woke up crying in the night. Since we had taught her how to self soothe, we let her cry for a bit but when she was still crying after 20 minutes, we decided to check on her. Tim went in there and picked her up and she felt warm. He took her temperature, 102.6. That was her highest fever ever.

She had a cold the week before so my first thought was an ear infection. We gave her some Tylenol and brought her into our room. I held her on my chest and she fell asleep. Tim and I were up the remainder of the morning. Even though I kept telling myself it was probably as harmless as an ear infection, I was worried that it could be something more serious and didn’t want to miss anything. After 8 am we called the after-hours hotline for her pediatrician. We explained everything and they said to keep doing the Tylenol and she could come in next day (since it was a holiday) or we could bring her to urgent care. We brought her to urgent care.

The doctor looked in her ears, diagnosed her with an ear infection and wrote a script for an anti-biotic. We picked it up on the way home and started her on it. She hated it, but we held her down and forced it into her mouth as she screamed. I felt awful but told myself it would make her better. They told us she should start to improve after 24 hours. We watched our happy, active, alert little baby become a fussy, tired little punkin that just wanted to sleep on our chest and do nothing else.

She stopped eating/drinking completely. By the late evening she still hadn’t had anything to eat or drink and had not had a wet diaper since that morning. Once again, I was getting terribly worried. She’s so small and I know they can get dehydrated so quickly. By 8 pm she had developed a rash and was starting to breath very rapidly. Fearing that she was having a reaction to the antibiotic we took her to the ER.

The ER doctor looked at her and took samples of her blood and urine (via a catheter) to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. I asked very pointed questions like “Are you positive its not anything more serious.” I know these doctors see sick kids all the time and just didn’t want him to assume it was something minor. I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax until I had answers. He said she was old enough for ibuprofen now and gave her a dose while we were there. An hour after he gave her the ibuprofin, she showed signs of her old self. I still couldn’t get her to feed, but she smiled at us for the first time since she was sick.

We took her home and had another sleepless night. She would only sleep on our chest and even then was waking up every couple minutes or so. I also kept trying to feed her every couple hours but she still refused. It was a long, fearful night and they said if she still wasn’t eating by the next morning to bring her to the ER again. Finally, at 4:30 am I got her to take 2 oz of pumped milk from a bottle. She absolutely refused to breastfeed. I started crying tears of relief/happiness! A few minutes she wet her diaper for the first time in almost 24 hours!!!

Tim and I both stayed home from work to take care of her. We would have been useless at work anyway. We hadn’t really slept hardly at all in two nights and I don’t think either of us felt comfortable leaving her until she started to come around. I hadn’t run or anything. Tim and I both realized we hadn’t even showered since Sunday morning and it was Tuesday! Even though she was starting to eat small amounts again, I still was really worried. 24 hours on the antibiotic came and went and she didn’t seem to be feeling better.

Its hard to explain in words how I was feeling. I knew that there wasn’t much I could do but keep watching her, so I watched her obsessively. Any slightly different cry or moan, or different thing that she did I was on like a hawk with my phone and google, which is REALLY not a good thing. I prayed a lot. When the worry would start to take over, I would find myself praying. I really wanted to just let it all go and realize that it wasn’t up to me, but I thought maybe I was designed to worry for a purpose.

It was during this time that I realized how much more I need her than she needs me.

Another long day and night came and went with me getting maybe a couple 15 minute sections of sleep. She still wasn’t getting better. Why wasn’t she getting better? The questions and the fears were taking over in my state of adrenaline run, sleep deprived brain. My husband told me I should go for a run. I told him I would run when she was feeling better. She must have twitched or something while my husband was holding her and I must have freaked out because he said something to me. I don’t remember exactly what it was but probably along the lines of “chill out.” It was then that I broke down into tears and told him that I knew I was a basket case, that I was sorry and didn’t want to be but I didn’t know how to turn it off. The truth is that if someone told me they could guarantee her to get better by amputating both my legs right then and there I would have said “where’s the saw”.

Logical? Not really. That’s love. Luckily for me I have a husband that loves me and made sure I knew it after my “basket case” breakdown. He loves our little girl too and told me that I’m a great mama. At a time when I was feeling like I didn’t have any answers or know what to do; he at least made me feel like I was doing something right.

Later that night she threw up twice. Another symptom! Once again, we called the after hour line. Why the scary stuff always seems to happen after regular office hours is beyond me. Anyway, we were given instructions on how to keep her hydrated through the night (another sleepless night) and I brought her into the doctor finally in the morning. According to her pediatrician she had a virus. You can get an ear infection from bacteria or a virus. The antibiotics were doing nothing to help her (which is why she wasn’t getting better after 24 hours) but since we had started them, we had to finish the course or else end up giving her resistant bacteria. Viruses are nasty, but they have to pretty much run their course. Finally that afternoon she started feeling better.

When she started to drink more fluid and play with her toys again, I cried tears of happiness. It was such a huge relief. I know that all kids get sick, but she just really wasn’t herself and it was scary.

Then 6 days later our basement flooded. This is our basement that flooded this spring. This is the basement that my husband spent months fixing and had just finished a couple months ago. 4 days after our basement flooded she came home from daycare with a really bad “rash.” Looking back, a few nights before the rash she started not sleeping very well again. She woke up about every hour, cried for 10 minutes or so and got back to sleep. Again, we were sleep deprived after having maybe a week of getting caught up. Notice, I’m not complaining, I’m really just stating the facts as they were.

She had chicken pox. Yes, seriously.

Oddly enough, the chicken pox ended up being less difficult to deal with than the virus…well, after we learned what it was. At first, it was frightening when she got fussy, ran a fever and developed this pimply looking rash that kept spreading! I couldn’t believe we were dealing with something again and I just kept thinking “Why is this so hard?!” After the first couple days with the chicken pox though she no longer had a fever and it didn’t seem to bother her very much. She couldn’t go to daycare so Tim and I rotated staying home with her. Since it wasn’t like before, it really just felt like extra days home with her and we actually had fun.

The bottom line that I’m taking away from all of this is that having kids is pretty much millions of times harder than you ever expect. Or, at least to me anyway. Like I said, for some maybe not. Its also millions of times better than you ever expect too. When she smiles and laughs it’s a happiness for me unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Take your best accomplishment: getting your dream job, marrying the love of your life, running your PR, whatever it may be…think about that feeling you have when it all comes together and you’re in that moment and there’s no where else you would rather be and you just feel incredible. Yeah, that’s what its like for me every time she laughs.

Thus far in life, I’ve learned that all of these best moments always come after a long, hard season of trials. Maybe you spent years working nights and weekends on some project that no one seemed to care about. Maybe you went through heart break after heart break and doubted you would ever find that person that makes you feel whole. Maybe you busted your ass through rain, wind and snow, sometimes waking up at 4:45 am on a Saturday to get that fricken run in and wondered to yourself “why am I DOING THIS?!”. And then in one instant when it all comes together, you’re feeling like it was all worth it for this one moment to feel the way you’re feeling. That’s parenting. That’s what its like. If I had to describe it to anyone, that’s how I would do it. The worry/fear and pain that comes from loving someone so much it hurts is also what drives those moments of such happiness that no words can even describe. So to all the parents out there that are with me saying “this is SOOO hard!”—I hear ya. Sit back, buckle in and enjoy the ride. Its going to be bumpy! 😉

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.

Press Play, Don’t Press Pause–Started on 8/7

Warning: this is an extremely sad post so read with caution.

A cloud of darkness rests over me and I have all these distracting thoughts and emotions racing through my head. I find that writing about them helps me to feel them completely and gives me a little release. I also want to speak about and pay tribute to a really great guy that I was fortunate enough to know. Its taken me a couple weeks to complete this post because at times it was just too much and I had to stop and come back to it a few days later. Its my feelings and raw emotions, so take it as you will.

The rest of this post is all about Chaz. He wasn’t just a co-worker, he had become a friend. I am still in shock and disbelief that he is really gone. The circumstances of his death are tragic and I won’t dwell on that. I’ll just briefly say that he developed bacterial meningitis and even after being hospitalized, went very quickly.

What I would rather talk about is Chaz and who he was, not about what happened to him.

I met Chaz shortly after I started my new job. I interacted with him briefly in my previous position but really got to know him in the role I’ve had the last couple years. He was the Customer Service/Account Manager on one of my larger accounts. When we started working together his wife was pregnant with twins. I can still remember him complaining about the cost of daycare, and also the huge twinkle he got in his eyes at the thought of becoming a father.

When you work with someone, you get little tidbits about their lives here and there and over time can piece them all together and know the person as a whole. Think about it. We spend more time at work than we do at home. Some people you work with you never really get to know because all the interactions are very short and polite. Other people can overshare and you may feel like you know too much about the person a few cubicles over. And then there are people like Chaz that you develop a nice relationship with and never fully appreciate how special it was until they’re gone. Then you wish you would have known them even better.

I know that Chaz and his wife had a great relationship. I’ve never met his wife, I just know that from the way he talked about her, from the pictures they both posted on facebook, and from the loving way they joked with one another. I knew they met in college and were friends before they ever started dating. I knew they liked to have bonfires and frequently socialized with their neighbors. I knew that Chaz, like my husband, was a huge Bears fan. Most of all, I knew he was a family guy in the purest sense of the word. I know what his family did for holidays and all the traditions he hoped to start with his kids.

When his wife had the twins, he took 3 weeks off of work to be home with her. I remember thinking that was really awesome. His wife sent pictures of their girls to him all the time and we were always happy to look at the darling babes with him. He seemed to roll right into new parenthood like he was just meant for it. While other new parents (myself included) feel frazzled and look totally sleep deprived, I can’t think of him complaining about much, if anything.

Chaz wasn’t a runner, but he always took an interest in my running and often asked me about it. I don’t really try to talk about it at work because I know its not for everyone and I’m really not that person that tries to get everyone on board with what I like to do. I always remember thinking it was really nice that he thought enough to ask me about it. I would post photos on facebook of a road race we did over the weekend and he would ask me about it the next week. I was interviewed recently in the local newspaper along with my friend Val and another runner from our running club for a story about running and motherhood. I remember thinking even then that Chaz would probably see it and talk to me about it. He was just thoughtful like that.

When I announced my pregnancy, he sent me an email telling me that I was going to love being a parent. Here’s his exact quote because I saved that email. Why? I have a certain file where I save emails that mean something to me. This one did.

“That’s awesome!!! Now you can share in the baby picture club!! See attached.” (he sent a pic of his darling girls)

Then

“PS: Your baby has already ran more marathons than me”

And finally:

“You’re going to love it. Lots of work, but it puts things in a different perspective. Totally makes you serve a higher purpose in life.”

That was truly the way that he felt. I was completely shocked when, about a month later he sent out an email announcing that his wife was pregnant again. I couldn’t possibly imagine having a third child with twins still in diapers. When I talked to him about it though, he was very happy and excited. I would have been scared out of my mind and I didn’t even KNOW the amount of work that comes along with a baby then. He just rolled with it and counted it as one of life’s blessings.

Yep, Chaz really had it figured out and knew how to live. Our Sales department frequently brought in lunches for meetings and customers and there would always be leftovers. He asked me to let him know whenever there was food in my area so I would send him an email. He liked it all; pizza, sandwiches, taco bars, etc. I’d see him pop his head in and he was like a kid on Christmas. Some days I still keep waiting for him to pop his head into my cubicle with a smile and a nod and either say “Hey, is there any food around here?” or “I’m just trying to avoid this meeting I’m supposed to be in that I don’t want to go to.” I will miss that. It was always such a nice little break from what I was doing and we would chat for just a few minutes, usually about our kids.

I will also surely always think about him on my drive home. Since returning from my maternity leave I am pretty much always walking out the door at 5:01. Most days Chaz and I would end up walking out at the same time. With a lot of people I’d just wave and say “have a nice night” or something like that but I waited for Chaz and he waited for me. We would walk together, again always talking about our kids and then when we got to the parking lot he’d always say “Race ya home” since we both drove home along the same long stretch of road. He always teased me for having a lead foot. One evening while driving home I thought I saw him behind me and when we got to the road that I turn left on and he normally goes straight, he turned left. I kept looking back, wondering if it really was him and what he was doing. The next day in our account team meeting he told everyone how he “followed me” the whole way home just to see what it was like to drive that fast and said he got home really fast! It cracked me up because I usually drive 65 on the 55 mph back country roads but it made it sound like I was just flying.

We always kicked off one of our account team meetings with a “question of the day”. It was sort of a way to break the tension in the meetings and honestly I mostly thought it was a huge waste of time. I’m very much a “let’s get down to business, no fluff” kind of person and I think that Chaz was a little bit too. Looking back, I’m so glad we had those questions because I realized just how much I learned about him. We had a question once about what you would do if you found out you had a year to live. I remember Chaz’s response. He said he wouldn’t tell anyone and would work as long as he could to provide for his family. That’s just the kind of guy he was. The way that Chaz went so quickly makes it feel so unreal and after I heard about it I just kept wanting to go back and say more. Do more. Remembering Chaz’s answer to that question lets me know that it was just as he wanted, though much, much too soon.

My husband met Chaz just once. They were both doing drop off at daycare and Chaz went up to my husband and said “Hey Tim, I know you from facebook.” Tim told me that even though he didn’t know Chaz and only had that one interaction with him, he could just tell that he was a happy guy that was very much at peace with life. He just acted very much like a proud papa and Tim said that he seemed like the kind of a father that Tim aspired to be. I felt the same way. Its funny that I was sometimes even jealous of the way he handled life’s stresses so well. I felt like I was barely keeping it together with one baby and he seemed completely zen with three!

Since hearing the news of his passing, one phrase from a song has been running through my head over and over and over again. Macklemore’s “Same Love” is a great song though it seemed odd that one single phrase from it kept playing over and over again in my head. “Press play, don’t press pause”. Whatever you believe or don’t believe about messages and faith, I feel like maybe it’s a message I’m supposed to receive. I felt like in a way I just wanted to stop time or rewind and go back because the truth hurt so bad. I knew Chaz was in serious danger when I heard of his illness and I kept praying for him and asking my friends in his department for updates. When I was pumping at the end of the day I got a text from a co-worker asking if I was still at work. When I replied I was and asked if she heard any updates, I knew something was really wrong when she just told me to come out when I was done. My heart sank and I suddenly felt nauseous. I said a very desperate prayer that it wasn’t what I knew in my heart that it was. I told myself it couldn’t be. I just wanted to stay inside that room and keep holding onto the hope that he was ok. As soon as I walked out of the room and saw her crying it confirmed my fears and I remember just saying “NO!” After the immediate disbelief, the question forms itself in your head without you even really putting it there. Why? I thought about his wife, I thought about his babies. Why? This question will never be answered and sometimes that’s hard to accept. “Press play, don’t press pause.” Its too late to go back and you can’t stop living. Press play, live your life and remember that each and every single day is a gift.

Yes, its been hard dealing with the lack of sleep that we’ve been going through with our daughter. Each day with her is an absolute gift and I think about that now with every single interaction. After I heard the news there were serious moments when I just wanted to be alone to grieve and collect my thoughts. When you have a 5.5 month old you just can’t do that. She picks up on every single emotion that I exhibit. So I had to put on a smiley face and do my best to press on and be a good mother to her. I think about his wife so often and how she will have to be strong for her babies when she just wants to grieve. I let it all sink in and wonder if my daughter can see the sadness hiding behind my smiles. Its easy to dwell because it hits you so hard and fast. When you care deeply and have empathy for another you desperately want to do something to help. It makes you feel like at least you are doing something to ease their burden just a little bit. People have been doing a great deal of that for his family and its been so nice to be a part of that. I find its been helpful to feel a part of this community and its also been helpful to go to work and talk about him with my co-workers.

At the end of the day when our house is quiet and its time to settle down for the night my mind just goes there still and I want so badly to be able to help more. These are the things that I’m feeling. Its not always easy to talk about. People that didn’t know him don’t know what to say and I feel awkward bringing him up with them so I keep a lot of it to myself. It doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been on my mind every day. Its helped so much for me to just be able to get this out. This is a much different post and I will get back to running and babies soon.

Chaz, I hope you know how much you’re missed. You touched a lot of people’s lives in a big way and you will always be remembered fondly. We will also do our best to make sure your family is taken care of. We all celebrated with you in the birth of your children and now we all grieve for you. I hope you enjoyed our luncheon in your honor and the fries that someone brought just for you. Rest in peace my friend.

A Great Workout and Our Worst Night Yet (7/16)

I’ve basically taken the whole training calendar I created for myself during my pregnancy (when I needed to think positively about the future to be ok with just running for fitness) and said “screw it!” I have to admit it felt pretty good. I love my training calendars. They help to keep me focused and stay on track. Plus I’m one of those people that loves checking off the box every day once I completed something. There are plenty of runners out there that just run whatever they feel like on a particular day and are perfectly happy. When I’ve tried that “plan” before the end result was that I didn’t run very much and got increasingly out of shape. For me the training calendars that I make for myself hold me accountable and motivate me to work hard towards a goal. I also HATE not hitting my goals.

Lately, I had been dealing with so little sleep, and a very demanding baby and you would think I would look forward to completing my runs/workouts everyday but I wasn’t. It just felt like another thing that I HAD to do. Sure, I always felt good after I was done but summoning the motivation to go out and do it day after day was starting to feel like dread. Its also summer in Michigan, which means HOT and HUMID weather. I don’t complain about the weather because it doesn’t really change anything but I really would rather run/workout in freezing temps and snow covered roads than 90 degrees and 80% humidity. Since I’m not about to move to Alaska, I normally deal with the heat/humidity by running early in the morning before work. When you’re getting 3-4 hours of sleep as it is, skimping further to get a run in just doesn’t even seem healthy. So, I’m left to either run on my lunch hour or in the evening when I get home. Since I actually want to spend a lot of time with my baby girl before putting her to bed at night the latter option doesn’t work for me most of the time.

So I’ve been running on my lunch hour. I kept scheduling mid week 8 mile runs on my training calendar thinking that at this point she’d be sleeping mostly through the night and that getting up and running in the morning would be ok. So every week I’ve been cutting it to 7 miles because I just don’t have enough time on my lunch to run more than that. Even doing 7 miles in the heat of the day was getting harder and harder. I was running the same route, all alone with my headphones sweating like a pig just wishing for it to all be over. Does that sound like a fun, stress relieving activity? No. It was adding more stress. At least I recognized this, probably not as soon as I should have. Monday I was supposed to do an 8 mile tempo run—HA! Hilarious! In 90 degree weather with a heat index of 106 according to Tim (who did a crazy impressive workout in that weather on his lunch break—who is this guy?!). So instead I got on the treadmill to do a 5 mile run and since it was boring decided to throw in a speed workout. Mile repeats. 3 of them. First one at 6 minutes, the second one at 5:21 and the last one at 6:00. It was not anything from any training plan I ever read, I just made it up on the spot and it was fun. I know that the treadmill makes workouts feel easier so if I had done it outside I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the same results. Still, hitting the 5:21 mile seemed like it would be a really big challenge for me. Especially after running one at 6 minutes. I had a half mile jog in between and when I first cranked the treadmill up to that pace it felt like I was sprinting. I just told myself to do as much of it as I could and once I took the pressure off I got into a good rhythm and ran the whole mile at that pace. When I started the last mile at 6 minute pace it actually felt really easy compared with the second mile. I think the workout served a few good purposes. First, it allowed me to have fun with running again. Second, it helped me re-learn what it feels like to run hard on tired legs. I haven’t run that pace for a mile in almost 2 years. Then I made myself finish strong with another 6 minute mile. Lately in 5K’s I’ve been fading in the last mile so it was a good workout for trying to practice finishing strong when you’re tired.

That Night I think Tim and I had the worst night yet. Our evening went really well. Peanut came home from daycare and they said she was fussy/tired and sad all day but we had a great evening with her. She was happy and in a great mood and she was just all smiles through her whole bed time routine. She went to bed about 8:45 without too much of a fight. Tim and I even watched a little tv before going to bed. Then at 1:40 she woke up. I went in, fed her and tried to put her back to bed for 40 minutes. Tim took a turn. He tried for 30 minutes before I went in and tried again. We tried EVERYTHING! It was so frustrating. We watched 2 hours come and go with no improvement. By 4 am I realized that any hope of getting anymore sleep for the rest of the night was gone. I thought about how I would have to get up for work at 5:45 and it was 4 am and she still showed no signs of sleeping. I thought about how I am so sick of the lack of sleep and got really angry that we are going through this. Earlier at work one of my co-workers was telling me her grandson (who is two weeks older than Alex) slept 12 hours straight the last night. He’s formula fed and already eats solids. I try to follow the “rules” outlined by my doctor and based on the latest research. I breastfeed her and am not starting solids until she’s 6 months (except for cereal which the doctors say is ok to start between 4-6 months). So I was utterly frustrated and started questioning everything I had been doing by the book. In my head I was almost screaming “Its NOT FAIR!” and I’d hear my own internal voice chirping “Life’s not fair” right back at me. I struggled with the anger and guilt having wars in my head. “Why do WE have to go through this when we try so hard to do everything right and people who break all the rules get to have babies that sleep 12 hours?!” Followed by “You are so lucky! You have a HEALTHY baby that you love more than anything, its just SLEEP after all. You will survive this, quit being such a whiner!” I realize I’m making myself sound pretty crazy but I’m being totally honest and I’ll admit I was feeling pretty crazy.

Tim was rocking her for the umpteenth time and she was just crying, not settling down. I looked at her, those beautiful eyes wide open and she smiled at me like it was time to play. Even at 4 am, that smile is adorable. At that point, I figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and turned on the lights and started talking to her like it was day time. She gave me a look like I was crazy (again, probably pretty accurate at this point) and then started crying. So I turned the lights back off, rocked her, fed her and she closed her eyes and went to sleep. It was 4:20 am. Tim and I tried but never really got back to sleep except for maybe a quick 20 minutes. I had looked at the clock at 5:20 and woke up at 5:40 after having a dream that I fell asleep at the wheel and started to go off the road.

Nights like that are incredibly hard for so many reasons. There’s the obvious reason that you got less than 3 hours of sleep. For us that’s been the norm for the last 9 weeks but its been that she wakes up every 1-2 hours but would fall back to sleep after you fed/rocked her. You at least get to lay down in bed and TRY to fall asleep again right away before she wakes up again. She just would not/could not go back to sleep and we had no idea why. Its scary. We took her temperature and she didn’t have a fever. She would fuss but then settle down when picked up. You start to worry that its the START of a totally new issue. You worry that you will endure days and weeks and months of this before it gets better. You worry that you are actually going to lose your mind. Maybe not everyone would respond this way but I immediately started going into crisis mode. Since I didn’t know how to fix the problem (get her to sleep more and get her to go back to sleep) I focused on what I could control (how to cope with it). So that morning Tim and I talked about what we would do. We decided that if this pattern continued, we would need to take turns. We decided on every other night. We made a plan that included us sleeping in separate rooms because he and I had been taking turns during the night (every other time she wakes up the other one attends to her) but we were both waking up whenever she woke up and I know that I was staying awake the entire time he attended to her because I could hear her crying/and or I worried that he wouldn’t be able to get her back to sleep. I even went to the doctor and got a prescription for a sleep aid that was safe for breastfeeding so that on my night off I would really get some good sleep.

I’ll admit that this plan was not ideal for so many reasons but we were so desperate. I guess part of it was that I just kept feeling like I had to do/try something. I also felt bad for her because she was not getting the amount of sleep that she needed. I thought about giving her a bottle of formula, just at night since it takes longer to digest and I keep hearing how all these formula fed babies sleep better. I know that formula is not poison and I’m not one of those judgey, everyone has to breastfeed mommas. I think that everyone has to do what works for their family. Breastfeeding has had its ups and downs but in general had been going well lately. I’ll admit part of the reason I was reluctant to supplement with formula was because of all the trials I went through in the beginning only to feel like I was “giving up” now. It seems sort of silly when you think about it since we’re really only talking about 1 bottle a day. I talked to my sister who has worked in daycares and she told me that formula fed babies in general (not ALL) tend to have more digestive issues. Alexandra has had enough to deal with in terms of reflux and I just eventually came to the decision that it wasn’t worth it (for us). PLUS there was no science to back up the claim that it helps them to sleep longer. Finally, to seal the deal I really felt that her wakefulness was not due to hunger anyway.

So, we were all set to roll out said plan but my sister was in town and staying at our house (and taking the guest room) so we figured we would wait until the person “on duty” could use that room. That night, she only got up twice and didn’t have as much of an issue falling back to sleep. What a relief. We were still up a large portion of the night but it wasn’t as stressful because she at least went back to sleep ok. What a relief, for one night anyway!

High Needs VS. Difficult Babies 7/8/13

Yes, I am still behind on my posts…but here’s my latest revelations….

Well, we tried and failed miserably at the whole “sleep training” that I wrote about in my last post. We came to realize at the end of it all that Alex is just not a baby that conventional methods will work on. She will not be controlled.

Tim and I couldn’t follow through with it. I felt like we were failures until I talked to my sister in law and she agreed that you just can’t let reflux babies cry it out. We let her cry for less than 5 minutes and she vomited and after that all bets were off. I couldn’t do it. Tim couldn’t do it. It took us a good 15 minutes just to get her to calm down after that and I felt like the most horrible person in the world. So instead of us trying to be controlling of her and the situation and feeling guilty for not being “tough enough” for it, we started adjusting our methods and did what our hearts told us.

During this time, I came upon an interesting article from Ask Dr. Sears.com on “High Needs Babies”. It changed my whole perspective…on everything. Their theory (A pediatrician and a nurse) is that there are certain babies that are very unique in that they really do NEED MORE than most babies to thrive. This also goes along with something my friend Carol told me she was learning in some of her psychology classes: babies that demand more attention and receive it end up much more well-adjusted later in life than those that didn’t receive it. In reading the descriptions of high needs babies, our wonderful little girl has almost all of the traits/qualities. When I read it, I was relieved. All this time, Tim and I had been trying to figure out what we were doing wrong and felt like we were failing because she just didn’t behave like most of the other babies we had been around or our friends/family had. Now I’ve come to accept that she really is just unique, or different, and that’s not such a bad thing. There will be parts of parenting her that will be more challenging than it is for most parents, but there will also be plenty of rewarding parts too.

Its so hard to begin to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it what exactly makes these babies so much more challenging at times. I believe that ALL babies go through challenging times or have certain behaviors that are difficult to deal with. Eventually you can to pick out other parents that have high needs babies; sometimes just from one conversation. Those that don’t know may think that we exaggerate…or we’re just not handling the situation very well. We thought that too. For so long I felt so guilty because I felt like I was just complaining all the time. I knew that I loved her more than life itself, no matter how hard it was. I just felt like I couldn’t get control or get it together. I was happy. I knew I didn’t have PPD (Post-Partum Depression) because I wasn’t unhappy, didn’t find myself crying or letting myself go. I was actually keeping it all together quite well, I just felt like I was failing her.

I wanted to write about this because someone else out there is feeling the same way. They are feeling like a failure and I want them to know they are not. If you’re reading what I wrote above and already feeling relieved that’s probably enough to know that you probably do have a high needs baby. Still, I’ve included a list directly from their website of the qualities.

“12 Qualities of High Needs Babies:” Source: http://www.askdrsears.com/

1.) Intense- The cry of a high need baby is not a mere request, it’s an urgent demand. These babies put more energy into everything they do. They cry loudly, feed voraciously, laugh with gusto, and protest more forcefully if their needs are not met to their satisfaction. Because they feel so deeply, they react more powerfully if their feelings are disturbed. “If I don’t feed him as soon as he fusses, he falls apart” is a common statement from the mother of such a baby.
Intense babies become the intense toddlers, characterized by one word — “driven.” They seem in high gear all the time. Their drive to explore and experiment with everything in reach leaves no household item safe. As older children and adults this can be a great characteristic!

2.) Hyperactive- This feature of high need babies, and its cousin hypertonic, are directly related to the quality of intensity. Hypertonic refers to muscles that are frequently tensed and ready to go, tight and waiting to explode into action. The muscles and mind of high need children are seldom relaxed or still. These motor traits are part of the baby’s personality. They may be hard to live with at times, but this restlessness is not necessarily a negative trait. Some highly creative, world-changing people were at one time or another labeled hyperactive as a child.

3.) Draining- High need babies extract every bit of energy from tired parents — and then want more. The seemingly constant holding, nursing, and comforting leave little energy left over for your needs. But just when you feel you can’t cope with another day of giving, you get a second wind, and suddenly you can relax and enjoy your baby’s unique personality blooming. It’s as if baby senses mother’s breaking point and backs off a bit. There probably won’t be any days off, but some days will be less difficult than others.

4.) Feeds Frequently- feeding is not only a source of nutrition, it’s an easy tool for comforting. Studies show that babies who are fed frequently, as needed, cry less than infants who are fed on a more rigid parent-controlled schedule. So how often should you breastfeed your high need baby? As frequently as baby needs, yet not to the extent of wearing out the feeder. There are other ways to comfort high need babies, and it’s important to learn some of these alternatives. Not only do high need babies breastfeed more frequently, the need for breastfeeding lasts longer. These babies are notoriously slow to wean.

5.) Demanding- High need babies don’t just merely request feeding and holding, they demand it — loudly. This feature more than any of the others pushes parents’ buttons, causing them to feel manipulated and controlled. Mothers of high need babies often say, “I just can’t get to him fast enough.” These babies convey a sense of urgency in their signals; they do not like waiting, and they do not readily accept alternatives. Woe to the parent who offers baby the rattle when he is expecting a breast. He will let you know quickly and loudly that you’ve misread his cues. With parents who both respond to and wisely channel her demands, the high need child develops into a person with determination, one who will fight for her rights. The child becomes a leader instead of a follower, one who does not just follow the path of least resistance and do what everyone else is doing

6.) Awakens Frequently- “Why do high need babies need more of everything but sleep?” groaned a tired mother. You would think that high need babies would need more sleep; certainly their tired parents do. I have gradually come to realize that she just doesn’t need to sleep, and I can’t force her to do so. The best thing I can do is to continue to provide a nurturing environment conducive to sleep and realize that she will eventually sleep more and so will I.

7.) Unsatisfied- Not being able to satisfy a baby’s needs is very frustrating for parents of high need babies. It seems like a direct attack on your abilities. After all, isn’t a contented baby the hallmark of effective mothering? Wrong! There will be days when you nurse, rock, walk, drive, wear, and try every comforting technique known to man or woman, and nothing will work. Don’t take this as a sign of failure. You do the best you can, and the rest is up to the baby. You have not failed as a mother even if your baby is miserable much of the time. This is simply part of his personality. Meanwhile, keep experimenting with one comforting tool after another, and you will eventually discover one that works – – at least for that day.

8.) Unpredictable- It’s frustrating to realize that what worked yesterday doesn’t work today. “Just as I think I have the game won, he ups the ante,” a baffled mother confided. High need babies are inconsistently appeased. You will need lots of variety in your bag of comforting tricks. Some of these things worked some of the time, nothing worked all the time. This is very frustrating and it makes you constantly wonder what you are doing wrong. Along with their unpredictability, these children show extremes of mood swings. When happy, they are a joy to be around; they are master charmers and people pleasers. When angry, they let everyone around them feel the heat. The child’s unpredictability makes your day unpredictable. Do you take him shopping and risk a mega tantrum when his first grocery grabs are thwarted, or will this be a day when he is the model shopping cart baby, charming everyone at the checkout counter?

9.) Super Sensitive- High need babies are keenly aware of the goings-on in their environment. “Easily bothered,” “quickly stimulated,” “like walking on eggshells” is how parents describe their sensitive babies. High need babies prefer a secure and known environment, and they are quick to protest when their equilibrium is upset. This acute sensitivity to their environment can become a rewarding asset as a high need child grows. They become kids who care. They are bothered by another child’s hurts. They develop empathy, a quality that is lacking in many of today’s teens and adults. Because these children are so sensitive, they develop great discernment and are able to consider the effects of their behavior on the feelings of others.

10.) Can’t Put Baby Down- High need babies crave touch: skin-to-skin contact in your arms, at your breasts, in your bed. They extract whatever physical contact they can from their caregivers. They also crave motion. Holding is not enough; the holder must keep moving. If the holder wants to sit down, it had better be on something that rocks, glides, or swings. Most high need babies choose to upgrade their accommodations from the crib or playpen to the baby sling. They like to be worn many hours a day because they like the physical contact and they like to be up where the action is. Smart babies.

11.) Not a Self Soother- Another unrealistic expectation new parents often have is that babies will soothe themselves to sleep with the help of a pacifier, a music box, or some baby-calming gadget. High need babies are smarter than that. They want to interact with people, not things. High need babies need help to fall asleep. They must learn to trust their parents to help them. This will help them learn to relax on their own, a skill that has value for a lifetime. Crying oneself off to sleep is not a good way to learn to relax. The best way for a baby to learn to relax and fall asleep is to have his behavior shaped for him by a parent. Once a child learns to relax on his own, he’ll have no trouble falling asleep, when he’s tired, on his own. The quality of wanting people instead of things as pacifiers, while initially exhausting, will eventually work to the child’s advantage. The child will have a better grasp on interpersonal relationships, especially being comfortable with the quality of intimacy.
12.) Separation Sensitive- The song “Only You,” could be the theme of most high need babies. These infants do not readily accept substitute care and are notoriously slow to warm up to strangers. Your baby’s quality of being very selective about who cares for her shows that she has great discernment. High need babies know which situations and which persons they can trust to meet their needs, and they protest if these expectations are not met. Loud separation protests also reveal that these babies have a capacity for forming deep attachments — if they didn’t care deeply, they wouldn’t fuss so loudly when separated.”

Those are the descriptions I took directly from the website. Like I said, probably all babies will have some of these characteristics or even all of them some of the time. Alexandra has had all of these characteristics except for the last one about separation. She has always been really good with people. So how do you tell then if you truly have a high needs baby? For me it’s the consistency of it.

I think a lot of how you can tell is by gaging the parents. When you love your baby more than you ever could imagine yet you just feel like no matter what you’re doing, it’s the wrong thing. On the other hand when you do get it right and have success, you feel incredible, on top of the world…until the next thing happens. If you find yourself going into Monday mornings already feeling completely drained. Sure, all parents have weekends like that or maybe even feel like that a lot of the time. For these parents though, its all of the time. They find themselves hesitating to make plans because they just don’t know how things are going to go. Sometimes it feels like walking on eggshells around your little one and feeling like you have to do everything just right and one missed cue or incorrect interpretation will send everyone over the edge. Some great trick you discovered yesterday no longer works today.

Ironically, she does really well at daycare. I had serious fears that they were going to call me after a couple days and tell me that they couldn’t handle her…that they didn’t have the staff to give her the attention she needs. While I was incredibly relieved this didn’t happen, it also added to my own feelings of inadequacy. What was I doing wrong?? I’ve observed her at daycare though now enough times that I really think she does so well there because there is always so much going on. She also does well when Tim and I bring her to races. She will just look around and take everything in. She probably wouldn’t do as well in a smaller setting. Even my parents who have always said “Oh she’s so good.” Have witnessed some of her incredible temper. And we have now started to get reports from daycare that some days she does have a difficult time or she’s sad and needs more attention from her providers. She’s is highly unpredictable.

We’ve tried to do schedules with her to help with so much of this and we’ve come to realize she just does her own thing no matter what. For a while we were putting her to bed at 8:30. We did a whole nighttime routine and she went down great and we could at least count on that. Then we’d find that she would just get really fussy around 7:30 and start the inconsolable crying so we would try all these things and finally just put her to bed at 8 pm and she went right to sleep. So we would try the next night to put her to bed at 8 again and she would fight us until 9:15. She’s not any more consistent at daycare either. Sometimes she naps at 9 am, sometimes not until 11. Sometimes she naps for 20 minutes 3 times a day and other times she naps for 2-3 hours! Our daycare sends her home with a report every day and we have been saving them and for the last 2 months no two days have looked the same with her!

So there it is. I’ve accepted that Alexandra just has more needs than most babies and that is fine. She is who she is and I love her. The article goes on to say that if you can give these babies enough of what they need they can go on to be highly successful adults. Some of these qualities that can be challenging to deal with in babies can in fact turn into great characteristics. She’s got a stubbornness/determination that is fierce. It is my goal, as she grows to help her develop these traits she already possesses so that she’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, or chase after her dreams in life.

When I think about the years ahead of us, I can just tell that she’s going to grow into a child that can figure out pretty quickly just how to push our buttons. She will probably challenge our authority and we may have some passionate discussions ahead of us. I also have a feeling that she will blow us away with her tenacity and will follow through on any and all talents she may possess to the absolute best of her abilities. And I look forward to all of that.

Sometimes Tim and I compare what we’re going through (especially with the lack of sleep) to that of others and feel frustrated. At the same time she brings me so much absolute joy and I take so much delight in all the wonderful new things we’re able to do with her every single day. Its not a completely one-sided give-give-give. She gives us priceless gifts every single day and I love her exactly the way she is. Sure, the day I’m able to get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep I will probably get up and do a happy dance. Until then, I’m just going to have to find new ways to cope instead of trying to force my unique daughter into some mold that she never was meant to fit into.

I want to do it all, and do it all really well and I just can’t. Being a parent is something that I have to do well and absolutely will not compromise on that. At work I have to give my best too in hopes that the rewards my family receives make it more than worth it. My running? That may be one of the things I’m going to have to let go into “maintenance mode” for a while. I don’t like it, yet I can’t keep burning myself out like this. So what if I don’t do a marathon this fall? I can still do a half marathon! So what if I run 25-30 miles a week instead of 50? I’ll still maintain my current fitness level and it won’t take too much time to get it back up again when I actually have the energy to do so.

Alexandra has taught me there is really only so much I can control in life. And I am a total control freak.

Reeds Lake Recap and Project Get More Sleep (7/2)

Ok, I’m really behind in publishing my posts! I like to edit them obsessively before posting so I save them and then pubish when I find the time, which has been a real challenge lately! So this was from 7/2!

The Reeds Lake 5K did not go as I had envisioned it would. I went out fast enough (maybe too fast?) 5:52 for the first mile. After that first mile I was already really struggling. Just a couple weeks ago I went out in 6:06 and felt great so I wasn’t sure what to think. Doubt had already started to creep in but I willed myself to just get through mile 2 on pace and focused on achieving that. So mile 2 I was right around 6 minutes. Perfect. Still ahead of goal.

That’s pretty much when it all fell apart. I started my last mile at 7:33 pace! Oh no! I pulled out ALL my mental tricks at this point. I started focusing on the runners ahead and trying to just pull myself towards them. I started finding landmarks and telling myself to push just until that tree, then the light post, etc. It worked. My pace dropped to 6:45. Still WAY off my goal! I knew I had less than a mile and I thought about my Peanut and her struggling to crawl and I kept pushing and got my pace down to 6:20, then 6:19, 6:18 with a half mile to go. I was still off pace, but was happy that I hadn’t given up yet.

At some point during the last half mile a woman that I used to run against in college passed me. I had seen her name in local 5K results lately and she was running in the mid to high 18’s. I told myself that if I just went with her I might still make my goal. I focused on her and watched her slowly get further away. Finally I saw the finish line and knew I was almost done. I started to give it one last push and then…ugh. I made the mistake of looking at my watch. 19 minutes. There was no point in working so hard anymore. I found myself jogging through the finish line. Mad. Defeated. Disappointed that I did actually give up.

I found Tim and wasn’t actually surprised to hear him say that he didn’t run very well either. With my mother in law watching our baby, we went for a little cool down together. Even the cool down felt hard and we only went 2 miles at about 8:30 pace. In talking to Tim he felt very similar to the way I did. His second mile was 6 minutes (he usually runs close to 5:30 pace).

Here’s where I finally could admit that maybe it was too much. I said “We haven’t had even a decent night’s sleep in about 6 weeks.” I hate making excuses. I hate feeling like I’m making excuses. Sometimes you really have to just face reality.

It had been about 6 weeks since we’d even had longer than a 4 hour stretch of sleep. Most nights we were probably getting 3 broken hours with a few “good” nights where we would get one solid stretch of 4. When I say a “few” I mean probably about 3 in the last 6 weeks. The truth is that when I wake up in the morning my head hurts, my body hurts, my eyes hurt. We had finally overcome the 3+ weeks where she was up every 1-2 hours so getting up 3-4 times a night seemed like such relief at first. We go to work, we run, we come home and work until we go to bed and then have a night full of interrupted sleep. She actually slept for longer stretches at night as a newborn. Even at just a few days old she would sleep for a couple 4 hour stretches. The weekends come and we hope to at least be able to sleep in and find ourselves up earlier than we are during the week. You just never get into that deep sleep where your body actually recovers. You CAN survive on very little sleep (we are proof of that) but you certainly don’t THRIVE on it and maybe you can’t expect to continue to improve your athletic performance. Professional runners even take naps during the day…this after getting a solid 8-9 hours of sleep at night. At this point, I would be thrilled to even just get a solid 6 for a few nights in a row!

So that brings me to the next part of this post. We had her to the doctor yesterday for her 4 month check up. It was rewarding to hear that she’s doing very well. Its frustrating to hear that most babies her age that are healthy are only waking up once in the night to eat. She’s up at least 3-4 times. We’ve got a bedtime routine and we’ve been more consistent with a bedtime. Our doctor told us at this point its ok to start letting her cry for 20-30 minutes. Eeek!

So I started doing my research because so many things are controversial and there are so many different opinions. I also started talking to friends with babies and finding out what they’ve done. So Tim and I are going to try some version of the Ferber Method, and it will be soon.

I remember after her 2 month shots she got really fussy and woke a lot during the night for a couple nights so I figured it was best to wait a couple days after her shots before starting this. We have a 4 day weekend coming up, so I guess its as good a time as any to start. We just have to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for what’s ahead.

Letting her cry for 20-30 minutes is not something I am comfortable with. At all. This will be the hardest part for me, no doubt. That and the part where Tim and I will have to be up in the night while we’re doing this. Obviously you don’t start there and I really hope that we don’t actually have to ever wait that long. So the first night you put them down in their crib awake and leave them alone and let them cry or fuss for 3 minutes before going back in. Once you do, you gently soothe them and leave them awake again and this time wait 5 minutes before going in. You can progress with the waiting time however you’re comfortable with in increasing increments and according to the plan after 7 days they should be able to soothe themselves.

Ick. Alexandra has no problem going to sleep at night, it’s the waking up so many times that is our issue. Which means we will be doing this at midnight, and 2 am, and 4 am and 5 am. So we should just plan to be miserable for about a week and then the hope is that she can go 6+ hours without needing us in the night.

Why did our doctor recommend this? Well, first of all because she did used to sleep for 7-9 hour stretches so he knows she can go that long without food. When babies hit the 4 month mark (or for our little A it was right around 12 weeks) their sleep changes forever. They go from infant sleep cycles to adult cycles and so they wake several times in the night and some can’t get themselves back to sleep so they rely on you to do it for them. Secondly, she has been growing at an incredible rate so she shouldn’t need the night feeds for nutritional purposes.

Why am I ok with this? I do believe it is best for Alexandra in the long run. I have never been a great sleeper. If I wake up in the night I have a hard time falling back to sleep, especially if its within a couple hours of my morning wake up time. I’m hoping if I can teach Alexandra how to get herself to fall back to sleep at a young age it will stick with her throughout her life.

I hope so badly that the sleep training works well without prolonged periods of crying. I don’t believe that any parent can stomach leaving their baby alone to cry like that as it goes completely against our instincts.

I’m NOT looking forward to this. I will keep track of how it goes though.

A Letter to my Daughter: Life Lessons I learned from a 4 month old

Dear Alexandra,

Today you are four months old already. Last night I saw you do something that both amazed me and made me realize just how quickly you are growing up. For the first time, you tried to crawl.

Obviously, you couldn’t do it yet. Still, you kept trying. I had put you down on your tummy facing your toys on the little play gym on the floor. You generally don’t like tummy time, but I know its good for you so I try to make sure we spend a few minutes doing it every night. I jiggled a toy in front of you to try to keep your attention and to my amazement you realized you wanted it and gave an honest effort at trying to go after it.

At first you reached out your arm and realize it was far too short. Then I saw you kick your legs and start swimming your arms and trying so hard to propel yourself forward. You even tried to grasp the mat with your fingers to pull yourself forward but you weren’t strong enough. Yet. I saw you putting forth so much effort. You wouldn’t stop trying. You started grunting with the effort and getting frustrated that you were working so hard and going nowhere.

My first instinct was to pick you up and put you close enough to touch the toy, but I realized that I shouldn’t. Part of me was just so amazed to see you even attempt something so new and of course I had to run and get my phone so I could record it for your dad. I let you struggle for a few minutes. Now I’ll explain why.

Someday you will be able to crawl, and eventually walk and then run, but not yet. You have to first develop the muscle strength to be able to hold yourself erect, and the coordination to balance. You will develop that strength and coordination in due time my Love, do not worry.

Your struggle reminded me of what we all go through throughout our lives. If someone always picks you up and puts you within arm’s reach of that dangling toy, you will never develop those muscles to be able to get there yourself.

You taught me a great lesson last night. Lately I’ve been getting sort of frustrated with running and my career and even in dealing with the day to day.

Two summers ago I was running 5K’s in the 17:20-:40 range and now I’m struggling to run 19:00. I knew that it would take some time to get back, but I didn’t anticipate it would take this long, or even all the new challenges I would face. Yep, I was completely naïve to all the challenges of balancing work, taking care of a young baby and trying to train like I did two years ago.

Sometimes I see my times in workouts and the effort I have to go through to achieve them now and get frustrated, even mad. I think “why bother putting in this much effort for these results.” “Maybe I should just stop chasing some crazy dream and learn to be content just being able to run.” The workouts feel hard, and the races feel hard. I find myself wanting to give up.

Seeing you struggling, yet not giving up, was the hard smack in the face that I needed. I know that eventually you’ll be crawling all over the place, but you don’t. Yet you still put forth that effort, straining and grunting because you saw something you wanted and decided you were going to go get it. Yes, at just four months old you are already showing yourself to be tougher than your mama.

So it brought me back to all the years and years of miles and races and workouts and bad races that I went through to get to the point I was at two years ago running in the 17’s. It was hard, and it was frustrating and there were times then that I wanted to give up. I didn’t know then that someday it would all pay off, I just had to hope and keep trying.

Even balancing day to day activities has been a challenge for me since returning to work. Its been a month now and I feel like I should be settled into a routine but I find its still difficult sometimes. The past couple nights your daddy had to travel for work so I was steering the ship alone and it was incredibly humbling. I learned that I really appreciate all that your dad does every night that I don’t always see and I also developed a huge appreciation for single parents that are living that every single day. I only had to do it two nights and I ended up scarfing down a cold piece of pizza and ice cream bar for dinner at 9:45 pm on one night, and the next evening I got a speeding ticket while on my way to pick you up from daycare!

You reminded me that all our lives we’re laying there on our bellies, seeing the item of our desire right there in front of us, yet it still remains just out of reach. We never know if we’ll ever be able to grasp it in our hands, yet we know that if we don’t ever struggle to push ourselves beyond our limits it will always stay just out of our reach.

When I think back about all the most wonderful things that have ever happened in my life, not one of them has been easy to come by. Maybe that is part of what makes them so wonderful in the first place. Would there be as much joy in attaining something that you didn’t have to work hard to get? I had to go through several heartbreaks before I met your daddy, the love of my life. On the day that we said our vows I remember feeling such incredible joy and peace, knowing that everything that happened up to that point, any pain was all worth it. He was the only one for me, and I knew it.

The day I had you was so similar. I had some tough struggles through the pregnancy and I’ll always carry with me the scar from where they pulled you out of my belly. I actually like the scar. I see it and it reminds me of you and the struggle I had to go through to finally meet my wonderful, sweet little girl. The moment I heard your first cry was the best moment of my entire life. Our family felt complete and all the pain I had experienced paled in comparison to the joy and love I was experiencing.

When things start to feel hard, one look at your smiling face reminds me that its more than worth it. I was pretty upset about getting a speeding ticket yesterday. It had been a hard couple days without your daddy there. The timing of it all as I was trying to pick you up from daycare on time just made me feel like I was failing. When I walked into daycare and watched your face light up and give me a huge grin the moment you saw me completely washed away everything else and I knew I had everything I’d ever wanted.

Sometimes its easy to get impatient. We want what we want and we want it now. Its important that we always keep driving ourselves forward into the struggle. For it’s actually the struggle that develops those muscles and coordination that will eventually allow us to get to where we want to go. So keep trying, Love, never give up. You may feel like your efforts are leading you nowhere but they are always moving you forward. You may not always see this, but trust that it is happening. I will try to remember this too.

When I run in the race tomorrow and things start to get tough, I will think about you grunting on your belly and not give up. You’ve brought me more joy than I’ve ever known and now you’re teaching me important life lessons too. Pretty impressive for a four month old.

I love you always.

Mommy