Feb 28, 2015

How to Sleep Train Your Baby

I feel like, the third baby around, I should be a complete baby-sleeping expert, with not an ounce of doubt or anxiety within. Of course, there is nothing further from the truth. I am a mess. When the question: How to Sleep Train Your Baby? comes to mind, my answer is: Don't.

It is so difficult at night when she is half awake and fussing. I know that the fastest and easiest way to get her back to sleep is to nurse her, so I do, because it's the fastest way for me to get back to sleep. And then of course, the bad habit is reinforced. So I know that it's my own fault we have a terrible middle-of-the-night routine. And now that she's waking pretty much every two hours and my uninterrupted sleep is becoming a distant memory and my fatigue is affecting my quality of parenting, I know that something needs to change. Unfortunately, it's not going to change on it's own, which means that I have to do something. I have to figure out a way to help Nora sleep without needing to wake up and nurse all night long.

But, oh the emotions! During the day I am full of resolve, confident in the necessity of putting her to bed, letting her scream (because she will) for a few minutes, going in to reassure her that we're still there, and then repeating over and over until she falls asleep. Then doing the same in the middle of the night when she wakes up. But when bedtime rolls around my resolve melts like snow on an unusually warm January day. I am a puddle of despair and uncertainty, convinced that she's still much too little and my heart is much too fragile.

I'm not ready for her to be in her own room in the crib. Having her in our room all night gives me peace and comfort. It feels so far away to have her in her own room. And, even though it makes little sense, I feel like if she's physically in our room I can better protect her. (From what I'm not entirely sure.) Which I realize is pretty irrational, but as my husband pointed out makes a lot of sense considering we lost our last baby.

Having her sleep in her own room would be a logical first step if we're going to be letting her cry (within minor back rubs for reassurance) at night. It's much easier to block out noise when there's a door and a hallway separating us. Plus it makes it easier for only the one "night-time-duty" parent to be disturbed by the commotion and racket. But last night, when it came time to put her down I couldn't. I just could not put her down so far away from me.

My husband lovingly suggested that if I wasn't ready, we could keep her in our room, which is what we ended up doing. Although we still did try to enforce a different sleep habit.

It was terrible, with a lot of crying, and hand wringing and heart breaking. We each took turns trying to soothe her and after two hours I couldn't stand it anymore. I broke down and nursed her (I know. I know!) and once she finally fell asleep she didn't wake again for another six hours.

I am completely surprised by how difficult this whole idea has felt (not to mention now that we're getting down and dirty in the actual process). In so many ways I am a more laid back parent than I ever was, but then something like "sleep training" comes along and knocks the wind right out of me.

My answer of how to sleep train being "don't"? It isn't because I can't. I know that physically I am capable. And she is capable. And we will all survive and sleep better for it. It's just that I don't want to. It's heartbreaking and much too hard. I feel like when she cries she is wondering why I'm neglecting her when all she wants is for me to pick her up, and maybe even a little milk. Why is that too much to ask?

No baby! No! It's not too much to ask. Here I am! I won't leave you! You can have my snuggles and even milk!

And here we are again. Where six hours ago I was ready to take on night-time with determination and confidence (because we all need sleep), now that it is here I am so upset and torn and wishing my baby somehow figured out how to sleep through the night all on her own because I don't have the stomach for all the tears.

(And speaking of stomach, it's possible I'm giving myself an ulcer over all of this. At least, if it's possible to get an ulcer from stress. I mean, c'mon, Christine. It will be okay. Let's get back to this third-time-around-is-a-breeze-laid-back-to-the-nth-degree mama you felt like not too long ago.)

With wishes of tearless nights and sweet non-traumatized dreams,

xoxo, christine

Feb 17, 2015

Battling Up a Mountain of Ill

I have been climbing up a mountain this week, with about twelve layers wrapped around me and big heavy boots weighing me down. I am struggling with each step, holding on as tight as I can, making extremely slow progress toward the top. There is a backpack stuffed full on my back and I'm dragging a sled behind me in the hopes that once I get to the top there will be an opportunity for at least a little bit of coasting.

This past week I have been sick, hit with something that slowly and progressively grows each day. I was hopeful that today was the day I would reach the peak, but there's an inkling of what might be a sinus infection teasing me, which means I'm probably not going to get to ride on my sled soon after all.

It is 'only' a cold, which makes me feel like I should be able to stay on top of things and do it all, which is pretty funny because even when I'm feeing well I don't try to do it all. In fact, I'm pretty much eight months behind on everything, and I'm refusing to care because I have a baby that I am enjoying. Plus, I know that as she gets older I will eventually be able to do a little bit more and keep up a little bit better.

It stinks being sick and having kids to take care of, though. I just want to baby myself and stay in bed and watch silly movies and drift in and out of sleep. I slugged out of bed this morning when we were supposed to be leaving to get Hope to the bus stop. And Paige played games on my phone all morning while Nora and I slept. (Thank goodness she slept.)

My body is worn down and my mind is exhausted. At least we have no where to be, so there's no need to change out of our pajama's any time soon, if at all. That is one good thing about being a sick Mama, today anyway. Nora and I will (hopefully) take another nap, Paige will watch a movie this afternoon, and no one will care that we aren't going anywhere or doing anything. And maybe all that napping will help me feel ready by the time tomorrow rolls around.

xoxo, christine

Feb 14, 2015

I See You. I Hear You. You Are Important to Me.

My husband I don't do anything for Valentine's Day. It's been years since we've gone out for dinner, given each other gifts, or even exchanged cards. And I'm okay with that. I like our sporadic tradition of a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy's enjoyed with our kids. So when I told him that what I want for Valentine's Day this year is to be heard it was less a way to save money on a gift and more to, well, be heard.

Lately it feels like I am living with three walls, a husband-sized wall and two kid-sized walls. I am talking at them, not with them. I want to engage in conversation. To receive comments and followup questions. I want someone to be interested in what I have to say. I want a husband who focuses on me when I'm telling him seemly unimportant things. I want kids who respond and listen when I speak to them, the first time.

I am frustrated and discouraged. When I try to talk with someone it leaves me feeling unheard and unimportant, which is annoying, but also disheartening, like I should just stop bothering to say anything at all. So, in telling my husband what I wanted for Valentine's Day, it was mostly just another way for me to emphasize that lately, I don't feel like anyone is listening. I don't feel heard.

And then, I realized. How well am I listening? Instead of focusing on myself, maybe I should shift my perspective and make sure that my family is feeling heard by me.

I know that when my husband is talking to me, when my kids are talking to me, I can be distracted. If it's not the phone or computer, it's the twelve million other things going on in my mind. And, if I'm feeling ignored or unimportant, how must my family feel? Probably ignored and unimportant.

Isn't that what we all long for? To have our voice be listened to. To have our voice be heard. To have our voice be validated by others.

And how often am I doing that for my family? Or rather, how often and I not doing that for my family? I know I can do a better job. And, although I know that I can not drop all distraction and give them my one hundred percent focus every single moment (there is a seven-month-old distraction after all), I can do a better job than what I'm doing right now. A much better job.

Instead of worrying about what I am saying, I need to open my ears to what others want me to hear. I need to Listen.

So today, and from now on, I'm going to be better about focusing on my husband and daughters when they are talking to me. I'm going to Listen when they want to talk, because what they are saying is important, and I want them to know that what they want to say to me I want to hear. Always.

My family is the most important thing to me, so why shouldn't they feel that way when they are talking with me.

Everyone wants to be heard. And I'm ready to listen.

xoxo, christine

Feb 12, 2015

Don't Ask Me to Give You a Ride to the Airport

We are in the middle of the winter doldrums around here. Which almost takes me by surprise every year because February is the shortest month of the year, so shouldn't it be quick and easy? There also was a lovely January thaw, yet even with weather warm enough for a light jacket, now that the cold is here again I'm running on fumes.

My mind is slow and groggy, like my thoughts are wading through sticky, slurpy mud. In fact, yesterday I was supposed to take a friend and her two kids to the airport and I completely forgot. Not only did I forget, but I was out of the house, my cellphone forgotten on the table at home. I can only imagine her stress (and annoyance) when she couldn't get ahold of me and had to make the decision to drive herself. And pay to park her car.

The whole mess left me nauseated and breathless. I just kept thinking about how she must've felt and how the sudden and unexpected change in plans left the beginning of her vacation with a sour taste (and unnecessary added anxiety). Luckily, they made it to their flight. I'm not even letting myself entertain a scenario that ends with them missing the plane.

I know that it's mostly okay and it was an honest mistake. (Is there such a think as an honest or a dishonest mistake? I'm not even sure I know what that means.) In any case, they are happily on their vacation and I've even gotten a few friendly and forgiving texts. But every time I think of yesterday, ugh, the guilt.

Six-month-baby-brain, wrangling-three-kids, winter doldrums, there is no excuse, no reason for how and why I forgot. It is just so unlike me to completely forget something like that. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I'm pretty sure I'll be holding onto my guilt over this much longer than anyone else. I tend to be extraordinary at not forgiving myself very easily.

Though I know it's not the end of the world, and she certainly seems to have already moved on, for some reason it's easy to hold onto those yucky feelings in the middle of a grey and cold winter. I just hope these long cold days move quickly and that each sunrise toward the warmer weather helps me distance myself from that terrible feeling of disappointing someone I love.

In the meantime, I'm up for plenty of warm coffees and long naps. The best cure for a foggy brain (and guilt) I know.

xoxo, christine

Feb 8, 2015

Goodnight Mama Whispering 'Hush'

Is there any method of getting my baby to sleep at night without letting her cry? And that results in both of us sleeping through the night?

We are going through something. I think it's to do with my baby waking at night and instead of being able soothe herself, I nurse her. It's the fastest way I know she'll go back to sleep and then I can go back to sleep. The problem is, I'm up at least twice at night, it's starting to catch up with me, and I know I'm just making the habit that much harder to break later.

I'm not complaining. Not really. I know everything is just a moment. Every moment passes. Sometime soon she'll be sleeping through the night by herself, and I'll miss our nighttime nursing. Which is also why I'm not willing to let her cry it out. Not right now. Even as tired as I am, I just don't have the willpower to listen to her cry.

I keep hoping that something will miraculously cause her to sleep through without me having to do any "training," but so far that hasn't really worked out. Which I guess just means I need to prepare myself for more sleepless nights. At least for now.

Good night. I'll be up again in a few hours.

xoxo, christine

Feb 4, 2015

And Then There Were Two (in school)

But Mommy! It's not fair that Hopey only had to go to Kindergarten for half days and I have to go all day!

I think about our conversation from a few months ago as we walk into Kindergarten registration.  She is hesitant to leave my side to go listen to the story, but I assure her I am not far away, just settling into my seat for the presentation.

When they call the groups of children to go with a teacher, I feel panicked. I thought she was going to be coming back to sit with me before leaving for her activity. I am not prepared. And I did not prepare her.

With a lump in my throat I see the back of her dark blond head when she stands up. I keep waiting for her to turn to look for me, worry on her face. Her green and pink gingham dress disappears around the corner, without a glance back. I have no idea if she is holding back tears or smiling.

I am feeling all things proud and distressed. I don't want her to feel scared or nervous or worried. I want to protect her from all those pit-of-the-stomach feelings. But I know that I can't. And even if I could, I know that I wouldn't. Not really. Those feelings, as unpleasant as they may be, are a necessary and important part of life.

When I pick her up from the classroom she does not want to leave until the story is done. She walks out of the room with a big grin on her face and a twinkle in her eye.

I am relieved, knowing that her first experience of Kindergarten was a positive one.

* * * *

Mommy, I loooove school! 

She makes this announcement after preschool, the day after her Kindergarten experience. I smile and give her a hug, proud of how far she's come from the crying little girl I had to physically hand over to her teacher last year, to the confident almost-five-year-old who walks right into the room each day this year.

I pray that she still looooves school next year. I desperately don't want that excitement for school to disappear. But then I realize, that even if she hates it and cries and doesn't want to go every single day, she will adjust. I will adjust. We will adjust. And it might take a long time. But it won't last forever.

It took her over a year to decide she likes preschool, and she survived all that time, and now is thriving. I survived all that time too. We will get through the adjustment of all day Kindergarten, no matter how difficult or how long it takes.

And who knows...maybe we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

xoxo, christine

Feb 2, 2015

The January Rage

And somehow it is already February and January feels like a fleeting moment of the past. I'm not sure how that happened, except that I know it was busy with plenty of birthday celebrations and play dates and homework and sleepless nights and playing outside in the January thaw.

I spent the better part of the month in a state of eminent rage. My pot was filled to the brim with irritation and anger needing less heat than a spark to result in a boiling overflow. The episode was temporary, brought about by a change in my antidepressant medication, but while it was happening I feared that I would never again have even a small amount of patience. The hostility and snappiness flowed freely and I cried at the thought of alienating my husband and scarring my children.

We decided on trying a change in the hopes to save money because my prior prescription was a ridiculous amount with no generic available. After suffering through for a few weeks though, I thought perhaps my body just needed to adjust to the change, everyone involved agreed it was not working for me, so we switched over to something more similar to what I was previously on, but with a generic option.

It's only been a week, and I'm hesitant to sing it's praises, but my anger dissipated almost immediately, and I feel much more like myself. Or at least, the self I was before starting this whole change.

I kick myself a little bit that I felt the need to change something that was more or less working for me. It wasn't perfect, which I had to continually remind myself of that while I was raging those few weeks, but I was functioning and mostly happy and comfortably working towards feeling more satisfied with who I am. But if there is something available that works just as well yet at a lower cost it is worth trying. I have to remind myself of that too.

It was frustrating and difficult and embarrassing at the time, which is partially why I avoided the blog. That and any time I sat down to write nothing felt right. (Perhaps because the only thing I was experiencing at the time was extreme anger?) Needless to say I am relieved to be feeling more balanced again.

I'm pretty sure the rest of my family is too.

xoxo, christine