I honestly have no idea how people parented before the Internet. I still remember the first time Kid #1 ate her first big bite of play doh and I frantically Googled “WHAT DO I DO IF…” (Turns out play doh isn’t toxic so no worries.)
I rely on the Internet more than I care to admit when it comes to raising humans. It’s a great resource when I’m just not sure what to do or when I’m worrying about symptoms or milestones. But probably best of all, it reminds me that I’m not alone.
Parenting can be isolating. Keeping up outside relationships or an active social calendar feels almost impossible when you’re sleep deprived and covered in spit up, no matter how good your babysitter is. And for stay-at-home parents who don’t go to work around adults every day, the Internet can be a lifeline. I have yet to encounter a situation that someone else somewhere hasn’t already encountered. Sometimes it’s a complete stranger sharing an experience on a blog and sometimes it’s my friend across town that has her own littles and can’t meet up for coffee but can send me a Facebook message that says “I’ve totally been there”.
Anyway, I’m rambling. (It’s just so nice to be talking to grownups. LOL!) Here’s the point I’m getting to:
This week has been the week from hell.
(Now, let me preface this story by acknowledging that I know things could be worse. My kids are healthy (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD). I’m healthy (AGAIN WITH THE WOOD). The toddler has been good, the six year old has been good. But parenting stress and nursing hormones and sleep deprivation don’t care about logic.)
So back to the story: the baby.
We were finally so so close to sleeping through the night. So close. It happened more than once in a row. So we decided it was time to move the bedtime routine upstairs, so that rather than falling asleep down in the living room with us like she had as a newborn, it was time for her to go to bed in her bed when the other littles did.
And suddenly sh#%* hit the fan.
She cried at bedtime and wouldn’t go to sleep. She stopped napping well. I would put her to sleep and as soon as I laid her down she would wake up, ruining any fleeting hope for naps. So I decided that it was time for her to learn to self-soothe so that she could put herself to sleep rather than depending entirely on me.
So I started trying to lay her down while she was still awake so that she could fall asleep on her own. The first attempt ended when everyone was crying and I officially gave up and loaded them in the car to drive aimlessly around town just so I could have a few minutes of peace and a coffee.
I finally got to where I could get her to fall asleep at nap time, but she would only stay asleep for maybe fifteen minutes and then wake up. The same pattern carried over to bedtime. I sometimes had to put her back to sleep three and four times before she stayed asleep, a process that could take two or more hours and involved me ignoring my other children at bedtime and usually me crying in the bathroom at least once.
And to top it all off, she started waking up in the middle of the night again.
So now our daytime naps had gone to hell, bedtime had gone to hell, and nighttime sleep had gone to hell. I was back down to averaging five hours a night, which was clearly not enough for me to be a good person.
Mostly, I felt like I was being tortured. Literally. Since every sleep episode was a battle, I felt like all day long I would get my hopes up, breathe a little sign of relief when she finally fell asleep, and then ten minutes later I stressed out all over again when she woke up without a good nap once again. And then when I finally went to bed at night, she would wake me up an hour into my sleep.
We are to the point in the game where I’m supposed to be getting more sleep, not less. She is supposed to be getting better at this, not significantly and suddenly worse.
And yet there we were.
I wish I could say I held it together better, but I feel like I’ve been through a war this week. And lost. I can feel it in my face. In the fact that I’ve been trying to work up the energy to shower for two days. In the fact that I was drastically improving my crummy pregnancy habit diet and yet this morning I had m & m’s for breakfast. I’ve cried more this week than in the last four months since she was born combined. I’m more convinced than ever that parenting is emotional warfare.
I almost always turn to Google in tough situations like this. But this week, I didn’t. Maybe I was to tired and beaten down to even conduct an Internet search. That feels really possible. But for whatever reason, I didn’t.
Luckily, my mom did.
Turns out, there is a thing called four month sleep regression. IT’S A REAL THING. How do you know it’s happening? Naps get drastically shorter, baby cries more, nighttime sleep gets interrupted, etc. SOUND FAMILIAR?
I seriously can’t even tell you the relief that I felt when I heard that this was a totally normal phase. I basically danced around singing, “My baby isn’t broken!” (Don’t judge, I wasn’t understating how detrimental this week has been to my mental health.I’m lucky to have any sanity left.)
So, my hope has been restored, as has my co-dependence with the Internet.
Hopefully the next things to be restored with be sleep and sanity.