Month

February 2017

Screw Sleep Training (Alternate Title: I’m Too Tired To Title This Blog Post)

I failed at sleep training.

On my third child no less. As though somehow having two humans before this one some how made me more knowledgeable or qualified. Ha. This experience has been resounding proof that every child is different. So different, in fact, that we might as well be first time parents all over again with each new offspring.

The first two children slept. Not perfectly and not all the time, but enough for me to keep some sanity. Enough for me to believe in “sleep training”.

I should probably clarify, however, that “sleep training” gurus might not totally accept my version of their methods. I was never able to let the “cry it out” method last for more than 5-10 minutes at a time before going back in to comfort and try again. But somehow, it worked. My two oldest two took a couple of days to adjust to the “self-soothing” trend and have mostly slept like rockstars since then.

So why would it ever occur to me that it wouldn’t work with offspring number three?

Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t even worried about it. My older two sleep trained earlier, though I can’t remember why. Probably some book told me it was the “right” time. But with this one, sleep training wasn’t even on my radar. She’s my last baby, was born early so she is small for her age, and she is just so darn snuggly that I was fine to cuddle a lot.

But then the mystical “four month sleep regression” hit.

And suddenly my snuggly sleeper woke up every time I set her down. It didn’t take long for sleep deprivation, both hers and mine, to escalate. So I decided it was time she learned to self-sooth, because how else would she fall back asleep? With a toddler around I couldn’t always spend hours being her comfort object so she could get a good nap. Even if I wanted to, it just wasn’t possible.

So I did what had always worked in the past. Set her down awake and left the room. When she cried I would go back and comfort her. And then I would leave and let her fuss. And then I would go back again.

Sometimes it worked. Just enough for me to think I just needed to buckle down and stick with it. But a lot of times it didn’t work. A lot of times she battled me longer than I had the energy for. Or she would fall asleep only to wake up twenty minutes later. Most of the time it left me feeling defeated, to the point where the sound of her crying would trigger a hormonal response that made me feel like I was drowning in my own body.

After a month of this, after days of hope and even more days of despair, I’ve given up.

It was not an easy concession. Not following through on my goal, not sticking with the plan, feels like a failure. Like I’ve not only failed at my own goal but I’ve failed my child.

By my the third child I should know how to do this, right?

Ha.

The good news is, I’m too emotionally exhausted to give these feelings of failure much energy. I spent the weekend holding the baby for her naps, or letting her nap in the rock-n-play next to my chair. Instead of taking her upstairs and battling with her about bedtime, I nurse her in the rocking chair in the living room and hold her until she is sound asleep before I take her up to bed. Sometimes she wakes up once I lay her down but it’s not a struggle like before.

It doesn’t feel great to set a goal, to believe that I need to help my child achieve this sleep milestone, and then abandon it when it doesn’t work.

But it also doesn’t feel good to keep burning myself out on something that clearly isn’t working.

The final nail in the sleep training coffin came to me in an article from a friend. It’s called “To the Losers Who Haven’t Sleep Trained Their Babies” and you can read it here. And also another article that crossed my feed this morning from Scary Mommy, which you can read here.

I like to believe that the universe sends us what we need, and today I needed those articles. Because they gave me the permission I didn’t need to scrap my idea of what sleep training was supposed to look like. Baby number three is a different kiddo than the first two, and quite frankly, I’m a different mother than I was with the first two. So it only makes sense that, rather than following the same cookie-cutter rules for sleep training, we need to find what works for us.

So that’s what we’re going to do.

Swimming in Paradise

Sunset in Key West

This weekend was a rough one on the baby sleep front. If you’ve read anything I’ve written lately (or read between the lines of what I haven’t had the energy to write), then you know we are in one of “those” phases of child rearing that feel extra hard.

Saturday night I had plans with friends at 7:30. The baby goes to bed at 7 (that’s the goal anyway), so this was somewhat ambitious. But I thought we could make it work. Of course, rather than fall asleep nursing like she will do on lucky occasions, she finished eating and was wired. So I decided to lay her down awake, since that’s the goal, and since it has been working pretty well at nap times. I stood outside the door of the room for a few minutes to make sure she would settle in.

But in her usual over-ambitious attempt to calm herself, she stuck her fingers in her mouth and gagged herself. My husband and I rushed back in and scooped her up to make sure she didn’t choke. She seemed fine, so I left her with my very capable husband and headed for the door, just in time to catch my ride.

At which point she threw up everything that she had just eaten. Into her bed. And her pajamas. And all over my husband.

SIGH.

So I helped change pajamas and sheets and dug out a new sleep sack and heated up a bottle and made escape attempt number two.

Which worked. My much-more-patient husband put her to bed and I had a wonderful, much-needed dinner with dear friends.

And the baby, who had slept through the night for the two previous nights, woke up when I went to crawl in bed at midnight. And stayed up until 1:30 a.m., something she hasn’t done for a long time. And then got up before 5 a.m.

And then decided to get up every couple of hours all night the next night as well, just to make her point.

Have I said SIGH yet? SIGH.

Okay so back to my point. During my friend dinner, we were talking about my situation, and parenting, and drowning, and life, and plans. At one point in the conversation, my friend asked if there was a part of the day I looked forward to every day.

And I had to think. I actually had to think about it.

(Face palm)

So I’m not making excuses or anything here. There are moments that are so overwhelming that I can’t see out of this hole I’m in. I think five months of exhaustion, three years of being pregnant or nursing, hormones, and possibly a touch of seasonal or postpartum depression are adding weight to an already heavy load.

And sometimes the stress feels so big that it’s all I can see. And when I do write, it’s all I can think to write about. And I don’t like that, because it doesn’t feel good to write (or live) all in the negative. I’d much rather create and share something positive. But I also want this to be a place where I share the real, authentic moments of parenting, and you can’t do that without telling the truth about the darkness.

So I do. But I think it’s also worth saying, that just because sometimes the darkness is all I see doesn’t mean it’s all darkness. Sure there have been a lot of moments lately that feel like I can’t keep my head above water. But then suddenly I find a foothold and come up for air and realize that the water I was drowning in is this beautiful bay of crystal blue water with white sand beaches and dolphins and sunshine and palm treas.

I got so caught up in trying to keep my head above water that I didn’t (couldn’t) notice that I was swimming in paradise.

I thought back to my conversation with my friends and the question, what do I look forward to each day, and I had to smack myself and laugh. Every day I get to watch my toddler learn new words. Right now she has learned how to add “peas” (please) to her requests, which is about the most adorable thing ever and she pretty much gets whatever she wants when she says it. (Hey, it is the magic word.) I get to listen to her sweet little voice sing and see her mischievous smile when she sneaks up on me and tickles me. I get to watch her sit and pour through books and “read” them to herself. I get to sit and build legos with her.

I get to watch my baby smile. I get to hear her laugh because she is so ticklish that even changing her clothes makes her laugh. I get to watch her trying to sit up and trying to pull her knees up under her and soon I’ll get to see her succeed at all of these big brave things she is trying. I get to watch her eyes get heavy and I get to nurse her when she is hungry and hold her when she cries.

I get to pick the oldest up from school every day. I get to see what she’s working on in school, I get to help her make Valentines for her classmates and celebrate with her when she earns a certificate for “compassion”. I get to hear her reading harder books every day. I get to see her sisters’ faces light up when she walks in the room.

I get to be there when they don’t feel good and need extra love. I get to be there when they feel amazing and brave and full of life. I get to be there for it all.

The hard days are worth writing about because they are real. But so are all the other moments. There’s not just one thing I look forward to every day because my day is filled with beautiful moments, both good and bad, with the people I love most in the world.

Even on the days where swimming is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I’m still swimming in paradise.

 

 

I Still Love Being a Mom, But…

I still love being a mom…

…but lately I feel like I’m losing my mind a little bit. It feels like the baby fusses All. The. Time. and no amount of scheduling or cuddling or feeding or sleeping or playing seems to do the trick. And the constant fussing is wearing on me like sandpaper.

I still love being a mom…

…but lately I feel like I’m failing all three of my kids. The baby fusses. The toddler refuses to eat anything but crackers and her new favorite word is “NO”. The oldest was watching me play with the baby the other day and burst into tears because she wished SHE could be the baby. (Translation: mom is spending too much time trying to get the baby to smile and the toddler to cooperate and the oldest is getting the pathetic attention leftovers.) Sigh.

I still love being a mom…

…but I feel ashamed that this feels so hard. Ashamed that I can’t give them all the love and attention they deserve. Ashamed to think I’ve failed them in some way, big or small. Ashamed that I didn’t get the laundry put away again today. Ashamed that I forgot to have my oldest practice her spelling words before her test today. Ashamed that I have to lean on my husband so much for help with kids and housework when I stay home all day to be able to do those things. Ashamed that I feel ashamed.

I still love being a mom…

…but I wonder what I will do next. Once they need me a little less. When the next phase of parenting looks more like role modeling. Then who will I be? And how will this time spent at home have changed that path?

I still love being a mom…

…but being a mom isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s very rarely easy. Every day is a struggle with patience, with balancing structure and flexibility, with balancing routine and creativity, with balancing their needs and my own. Every day is a struggle to know what the “right” thing to do is.

Every day is a struggle to cook a healthy meals the toddler will actually eat while the baby is fussing to be held.

Every day is a struggle to load two little people into carseats and navigate school pickup.

Every day is a struggle to explain to a toddler why she can’t watch Frozen for the fourth time in a row or eat candy all morning.

Every day is a struggle with loneliness, with finding time to read or write so I don’t become a ghost.

Every day is a struggle in its own way.

But I still love being a mom.

I love that when the baby fusses, I’m there to pick her up. I love that even though the toddler is a handful sometimes, I get to be there to watch her wear her Elsa dress all day and sing over and over again until she gets it just right. I love that I get to be the one to greet my oldest after school each day, to ask how her day went and help with her homework. I love these little people So. Much. it hurts. I love these days at home with them So. Much.

In some ways, that makes the fact that it is hard even harder. Like, if I love them this much, if I love this stay-at-home gig so much, it shouldn’t be this hard.

But the truth is, I know that no matter what I do with my days, stay home with littles or go to work, there will be good days and bad days. Yet for some reason it feels more acceptable to have bad days at work. Expected even. But bad days as a parent feel like shame. Like failure. Like it shouldn’t be this hard. If I loved this enough.

It’s a lot of pressure.

Probably it’s because I care so much, so deeply.  I am more invested in this “job” than any other. The stakes are higher.

Or maybe it’s just because my children know how to make me crazy.

Either way, the hard days are real. The days where I want need to sit down and write a blog post because I haven’t for so long, and yet the only thing in my exhausted brain to write about is how hard it is sometimes.

So I pray the baby sleeps a little longer and I bribe the toddler with a tube of crackers and I tell the truth.

That I still love being a mom, even when it feels like it shouldn’t be this hard.