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!