Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Go to Sleep Little Baby

Or maybe I should title this, I’m-Glad-I-Didn’t-Spend-a-Fortune-on-a-Crib.

The old saying is "People who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones."

Cowboy pointed this out to me when I requested a complete 180 on the subject of Kid Sleep 101.

Before I had a kid, I had all of these theories about how I would raise mine. As if.

Behind their backs, I used to criticize some of my good friends’ parenting choices. Oh, the karma of it. I believe this karma came back to bite my ass a few weeks ago when Missy went several days in a row where she woke every 2 hours at night demanding to nurse and catnapped no more than 45 minutes during the day. At one point I recall literally staggering down the hall as if I were drunk on my way for another episode of soothing.

Exhausted, I decided it was time to teach-this-kid-a-lesson.

I’ve been mostly reading "Healthy Sleep Habits" by Dr. Weissbluth when it comes to sleep parenting. It’s taught me valuable tidbits, such as when to recognize the sleepy signs so I could get Missy back into nap mode to prevent over-tiredness. Basic stuff, such as infants should be up no longer than 2 hours at a time.

But I was so frustrated because according to the book, if I were an observant parent, I would see the sleepy signs, jump into bedtime action and my baby would snuggle into sleep by herself after a short bit of soothing. And then unicorns and rainbows would fly out of my ass.

Anyway. I watched. Like a freaking hawk. I spent days focused on just Missy’s yawns.

To no avail. If I laid her in her crib awake, she’d cry. If I laid her in her crib half-asleep, she’d wake up and cry. The only way to get her out for an hour of naptime was to rock, nurse and shush her into oblivion.

This day, however, I was determined to get my child to sleep on her own. How contradictory and absurd that sentence seems now.

At naptime I sprung the old ‘graduated extinction’ method on Missy:

She cried for 5 minutes. I soothed.

She cried for 10 minutes. I soothed.

She cried – a persistent, panicked cry – for 15 minutes. I went in to soothe and saw that the little person I love and had wished for all those months had spit up all down her chin and swaddle blanket.

This time, I cried.

I just couldn’t do it.

See, almost 14 years ago, I brought home a shiny, yellow-gold puppy. I had read in some dog training book that you were supposed to crate a dog for safety and put his crate in the same place where you would keep the dog when he was older. So the crate went in the kitchen, since this is where Gus would spend his young days while I was at work.

Poor Gus. He cried and yelped all night. And for several nights after.

Finally, I was, like, fuck this. I need some sleep. Besides, poor little guy, it must suck to be used to sleeping all warm and cozy with your littermates and momma, and then all of a sudden you are alone in a crate in a dark kitchen.

So I hauled the crate up to my room. And put it next to my bed. I snuggled baby Gus in my bed until he fell asleep and then I slipped him into his crate.

After each potty run outside, I would snuggle him back to sleep in my bed. Sometimes he went back into the crate and sometimes he slept in my bed with me.

He ended up being the best damn dog ever.

So if I’m willing to sleep with my dog, why not my kid?

With this in mind, I bought Dr. Sears’ Baby Sleep Book. Even though I promised myself no more parenting books. Even though I knew what this particular book would recommend.

When I was pregnant with Missy, a friend loaned the Sears’ breast feeding book to me. After reading it, I felt so thoroughly educated and empowered – and breastfeeding has gone so well for us – I thought I might get a repeat performance with the sleep gig.

I read up. Called some trusted friends. It’s staggering, really, how many will admit to it when asked point blank. Ran the plan by Cowboy.

And then brought the baby into bed with us that night.

Everyone got the best sleep we’d had in months.

So we kept at it. The best part is that we are bonding more as a family. Cowboy is gone for most of Missy’s waking hours but now he gets the chance to have her close by all night. She no longer fusses when he holds her as if she doesn't recognize him. At night, we are no longer dividing and conquering – both of us feeling increasingly alienated as we did. By side-lie nursing, I get so much sleep I feel like a rock star. Most important, Missy is getting all the snuggles and closeness that she needs. Because, really, it’s about what she needs and not what I need her to do.

I never thought this would be me: freaking hippie bed-sharing momma. I never wanted to nor thought I would ascribe to nearly all the tenants of attachment parenting. But that’s the thing about this trip. It forces you to open your mind and humble yourself in ways you never thought possible.

Step inside my new glass house. May I get you something to drink?


Fertilized said...

Oh Boy Can i relate ... Seriously. I also have moved into a similiar glass house. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Geohde said...

Everybody has to find what works for them....The main thing I've found out is that I have to be flexible :)


Wordgirl said...

I find I'm learning so much in reading about people's experiences in new motherhood -- things I never would have had a chance to know -- never having seen anyone actually mother...(and not having a mother who is at all articulate about her own mothering) -- but you, you are so articulate and funny and honest.

I think you have to follow that instinct --I know I hear myself "I would never give my child a pacifier, I would never co-sleep, I would never feed my child things with high-fructose corn syrup' -- and the reality? W is not a stranger to the occasional cheetoh, the candy marketed on Nikelodeon.... *sigh* I just try to keep it in perspective.

Thank you for your post,



Lori said...

Motherhood is so humbling. In so many ways you become the person you used to scorn.

Like now, YOU are the person to avoid on the airplane.

I think I have become a lot less judgmental since becoming a mom.

Anonymous said...

HORMONES!!!! I actually cried while reading your post.... I had to do the same thing with my (now 17y/o). And I had sworn I NEVER would do that.

We do what is best for our children. We do what soothes them and gives them comfort. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact I think that it makes us better mothers.

Good for you. I'm glad you finally got some rest. And I'm glad that Missy is getting some great benefits too!

Kim said...

Hi neighbor! I just shined the glass on my house.

I'll have a shot of that book you're reading and a slice of humble pie!

robin said...

What's hilarious is that we had the same exact struggle, except our solution was to go from hippie bed-sharing to meanie-parent crib sleeping. I never thought my words could be so tasty!

We all think we know what we're going to do, and those babies just go and change all the rules on us. Good thing they're cute.

christina(apronstrings) said...

to me the books give you a toolbox. you just can't whole-heartedly drink the kol-aide. i say-if it works-have it. i am glad that it is!!

Sticky Bun said...

Totally have had that night--letting them cry (same graduated extinction) only to find Monkey Girl shivering because she had spit up on her clothes, made them wet, and was now freezing.

I still remember her little face and it still makes me SO. VERY. Sad.


I miss the days when monkey girl and sweet potato would sleep in bed with us. I'd bring them in, particularly in the a.m., breastfeed them to sleep, and we'd snuggle together.

Now the second they finish feeding, they just want to play. It's super cute, but they start crawling all over us, tugging at our faces. Doing anything but sleep. It's super cute, but oh so very tiring. :-)

ms. c said...

You never know what's going to work until you try it. I'm glad you are getting some sleep.

And we all have said there are things that we would never do, and that we are doing! Such is life and learning!

Anonymous said...