This too shall pass… I hate that phrase right about now. I want to punch This too shall pass in the face, throw it to the ground and stomp on it repeatedly until it begs for mercy.
I’m not an idiot, I know that This too shall pass. But that doesn’t make Right now any easier or bearable, so please, just don’t go there.
I jinxed the great sleeps. Remind me to just shut up when good things happen because obviously karma has it in for me and wants to kick my butt. Since Monday our nights have gone to… well, for a lack of a better word, they’ve gone to shits. We’ve hit a new growth spurt. Hooray. For the first time I have a clingy baby who just doesn’t want me to put him down unless I stay right there with him. He whinges, he cries, he sometimes screams bloody murder. I’ve had to put him in the Baby Bjørn to make my lunch, I’ve resorted to fancy trickery to manage to have a shower. I sing, I dance, I bounce and I silently scream THIS TOO SHALL PASS, THIS TOO SHALL PASS until my face turns blue. At night I simply just hang on until morning knowing that everything will appear better in daylight while Anakin does his own reenactments of The Exorcist, or some sort of possessed baby breakdance, in his cot in-between short spurts of crying, eating and sleeping.
Oh Great Anakin, ruler of my world, please show mercy for me, your poor mother. Forgive me for being so foolish as to think that I had conquered the night, that I once again could return to the land of those who feel human and sometimes even rested.
Please, please, please… JUST GO THE F**K TO SLEEP!
It’s a little bit broken I sit down to write this today. My eyes are bloodshot and my head is throbbing, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, dragged for miles and then dumped in some remote location to die. I should probably just go to bed, but the baby monitor is humming with a rather cranky baby on the other side of it, so there’s just no point just yet.
You may have guessed it already, our nights have gone from bad to horrid. I’m reaching the end of my tether and, quite possibly, my sanity. We tried one night of me going in to nurse around 10, which I had already planned on doing if he woke up because he didn’t feed much before bed. From then until 2am my partner would go in and settle. It took him ages and multiple times in there to get Anakin back to sleep. And once he did he would sleep for maybe 20 minutes before waking back up. From 2am onwards was my turn and I fed him twice before breakfast. The idea was to at least skip one feeding. Last night was all on me and the ball started rolling at 9.30. I had thought we might have been in for a better night because bedtime was very good and he settled himself to sleep as he would normally do. Oh what a mistake to even think such things. I tried to settle him for about 20 minutes before giving up and feeding him. Our feeds overnight looked like this: 10pm, 12.30am, 2.50am, 5.30am and 7am. Before the second one I tried giving him some baby panadol in case it was teething pain, but that didn’t help at all.
I can’t remember when it was, but I went in there at one point and laid in a ball on the floor shushing for a bit. Then I tried patting him, but that only sent him into hyper drive… serious hyper drive. He was kicking and laughing and acting crazy. When I removed my hand he screamed bloody murder. I tried rocking and giving him some water. And I know you’ve already guessed that none of it worked. So I fed him again. I went back to bed still wearing my robe and my pj’s. There was no point in even getting undressed.
By the time morning rolled around I felt sick. I could hardly hold Anakin when I went to hand him over to my partner who got an undeserved cold serving of Crazy Sleep Deprived Mama before I went back to bed where I passed out until he had to go to work.
I’ve even looked for help in a forum today, and I am not the forum type. It gave me everything from good, helpful advice and support to rolling eyes and the “oh you bloody idiot” type answers. Apparently some mothers think I’m stupid for not knowing that this is completely normal and think it’s a waste of space to even have such questions asked. But it led me to conclude that my initial thoughts may have been right, teething and a big developmental leap.
Which leaves me where? Exactly where I started, just broken. I’m not sure what to do, but maybe I’ll try camping out for a night and see if that helps. I’ve ordered Pantley’s No cry sleep solution, but as long as we’re in wonder week territory I may hold off on starting anything new. And if it goes on for a lot longer I’m considering sending us off to a sleep school that does not use controlled crying. I will get into why later, but I will not leave my son to cry.
Everyone says “This too shall pass”. I know that, but I still have to find a way to survive the here and now. And when you feel like you’ve been shot in the face and you still have to care for your little one all day and night there is little solace in those words. It’s not his fault he’s going through a rough time and I want nothing more than to help him, I just want to survive the process and be the best mother I can be, not some crazy, half dead zombie.
If someone had asked me if I thought that Anakin would still be feeding several times overnight when he was 8 months old, the answer would have been no. I had this idea that up until 6 months it would all be up in the air, but after that some things would change and get a lot easier, particularly nights. And extreme sleep deprivation would stop driving me bat sh** crazy.
Ehm… fat chance, you naive first time mama.
Yes, we had a particularly bad night again. We’re apparently in wonder weeks territory, or so they say “the people in the know”. Hooray!! And why not just label it wonder months, as it always lasts a month with one particularly bad week somewhere in the middle. Oh and if you add teething, well, you’re apparently screwed for a long time.
Everyone seems to have opinions about night feedings. “You should stop feeding him at night.” “It’s just a habit.” “He doesn’t need it anymore.” “Maybe you’re not making enough milk for him.” “He needs to learn that days are for eating, not nights.” Ok, so I agree that he needs to eat during the day. Obviously. But I can tell the difference between the wake ups that are driven by habit and the ones that are driven by hunger or some other discomfort. And I wish everyone would stop acting like it’s not normal for an 8 months old to still feed at night, because as far as I know, it is. I don’t mind helpful suggestions, but I do mind being made to feel like I’m an idiot for feeding my son when he seems hungry. Or being made to constantly doubt myself and my body’s ability to provide for him. (YES, he has enough wet nappies!) If I thought there was any way he wasn’t getting what he needs I would be the first one to say “Hey, let’s try something else! This isn’t working!”
Every time I figure enough is enough, let’s get down to business and do something about it, he has a few good nights. Anakin can sleep well and only wake up for one feed, it’s not like he’s incapable. And I am willing to live with one feed for a while. But as soon as I start thinking “Yes, this is it!”, he throws me back into the fire. Which leads me to believe that maybe something else is going on as well. He’s learning a lot of new things, and I’m sure there are some teeth on the way. Or maybe I’m just being naive again.
To be honest, some of it is laziness on my part, some of it is out of consideration for my partner, because if we had to get down to it, he would have to step in the game. I smell like food, it’s a lot harder for me to resettle him than it is for the one who has no milky boobs. I do try to if I think there’s a chance. But I don’t pick him up and walk around for 30 minutes hoping that he’ll fall back asleep if he’s wide awake and cranky. No, I cave and I feed him because I know that even if that takes me 20 minutes he will go back to sleep once he’s done. And then I can go back to bed and hopefully get some Z’s too.
But lately the game has changed. He wakes up a lot more often. Every 1,5-2 hours or so. And I’m finding it really hard to go to sleep because I know that he’ll wake up any minute so anything and everything gets me on edge and keeps me from falling back asleep. Cats, snoring, lights, it’s too warm, it’s too cold, my back hurts, my head hurts… I am so tired I can’t think straight.
Last night was so bad that I considered giving up breastfeeding altogether. That would seem like the easy way out, right? But I can’t bring myself to do that knowing that breast milk is better for him. And it’s not like he’ll take formula anyway. We tried that when the maternal child health nurse thought he wasn’t gaining enough. Which turned out to be much ado about nothing by the way, and a couple of weeks of torture and doubt for me until we’d seen doctor and another nurse who assured us everything was fine. They can’t all be chubba bubbas.
I thought about trying a bottle of water, but the only time Anakin will take a bottle is if it has breast milk in it. So express, you say? Yeah, well, it’s not that easy. Expressing enough for one feed would take me a week. My boobies just don’t like the pump much. So, here we are. At a stand still. And I’m betting that he’ll be better tonight because I’ve threatened to make it a shift night between me and my partner. You’ll only get mummy every 4 hours! But I know if we did this, I still wouldn’t sleep. So we’d have two exhausted parents instead of just one. And if there’s one thing that’s keeping me sane these days, it’s the couple of hours I get in bed in the morning when my partner takes Anakin after his breakfast feed. Without that, I’m no mummy of the year to be around and I’m even less of a loving partner, that’s for sure. And I may just be lacking a bit on the loving partner front already these days. I’m too tired!
So where does that leave me? Still going bat sh** crazy, I suppose. Still waiting for that miracle change… Still complaining and still doing the same shit every night. Well, at least I seem to have hope, right? And as much as he can be a sith lord by night, he’s an angel by day. Most of the time.
“Eeeeeeeeeee…” “Eeeeeeeeee…” That nasal sounding semi-cry, the last hurdle before the storm. The night owl. Captain Ridiculous. “Eeeeeeee!!!”
It would seem that my son thinks that I am a better mother for him when I function on two hour bulks of sleep or less. Either that or he’s just plain sadistic. I am leaning towards the latter.
Last night Captain Ridiculous came back. I had a feeling he was lurking during his bedtime feed when he was simply too tired to eat much. Then when I put him to bed he kicked into hyper gear for a bit, making me run up and down the stairs to his room a few times to calm him down. “shhh shhhh.. mummy’s here…”
A couple of hours passed before.. “Eeeeeeeeee…” Oh come on! What now? Dummy in and sneak back out. The stupid creaking door I always forget to oil howls. Then an hour and a bit later.. “Eeeeeee…” Seriously?? You’ve got to be joking! Back upstairs, dummy in and pat-pat-pat… He falls back asleep. I sneak out and that damn door howls again.
Then adult bedtime rolls around. It’s a minefield. You have to be super quiet to not wake the Captain. He’s in his light sleep and anything too loud will set him off. I brush my teeth and wait for my partner to finish in the bathroom. He blows his nose trumpet. (I’m sure there are horn instruments not as loud as his nose trumpet.) “Eeeeeeee… Eeeeeee…EEeeeeee!!!” SERIOUSLY??? %$!!@**&#!!!! Alright… Back in. I try the dummy trick again and some patting, but no, the Captain is up and he’s angry. “EEEEEEEEEE!!!!” I cave and figure if I feed him now he’ll sleep for a few hours and I’ll get some shuteye as well. So up, up and away we go. 10.27pm and the night feed races have started. On your marks!
About 25 minutes later he seems to be more asleep than eating so I figure I’ll try and put him back to bed. Now, the Captain is addicted to swaddling. He can not sleep unless we wrap him. As soon as those arms wriggle free he wakes up and becomes one of those ridiculous flailing arms figures you see outside car dealerships. I put him down to wrap him and as soon as I do he strikes his double arm Superman pose. Arms up, wriggle wriggle. Deep breath… just calmly guide him into the wrap… I get him to bed and get out. Door howls again. Finally I climb into my own bed. I’m tired, I’m really annoyed and I just want the world to leave me the f**k alone for a few hours.
“Eeeeeeeee…..Eeeeee…EEEEEEEEEE!!!” Oh lord… already?? 12.15 am. Half blind I get up, put some clothes on, check my anger at the door and go in. I’m greeted by the all familiar flailing arms and an angry Captain. Experience quickly tells me that the Captain has set his tv to the boob channel and wants to eat again. Alright… So off we go again. Another 25 minutes later the Captain is sound asleep. Shit, this one’s about to get tricky. I should have got him before he drifted off. I climb out of the sofa and down to the floor as gently as I can. I put the Captain down on his swaddle when suddenly.. “WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” The Captain shrieks bloody murder as loud as he can. Shit! Dummy?!? Where’s the damn dummy?!? I fumble around in his cot for it while cursing myself for buying the see-through kind. Found it! Phew. He quickly calms down and lets me wrap him and put him to bed. He wriggles a bit, but stays calm. I sneak back out and that f**king door howls again.
“Eeeeee… EEEEeeeeee… click click…. Eeeee… click click… Eeeeee…” 3.45 am. Here we go again! I come in to find the Captain out if his wrap, arms flailing, shaking his dummy. “Click click.” It’s the sound of the dummy handle smacking against the plastic. The Captain is very upset. I pick him up and put him on the floor to get the wrap off. This sets him off completely. “WAAAAAAAAA!!! WAAAAAA!!!” Back on the boob tube. This time he’s hitting, kicking and generally being pretty active while feeding. Shit, this could mean trouble. It takes about 25 minutes before he’s done. When I go to wrap him he goes back to screaming bloody murder. He’s mister wiggle worm, Superman and Captain Ridiculous all at once. I’m trying to wrap him while fighting rising frustration. When I put him to bed the Captain is all about the wriggles, he’s chewing his dummy and seems far too awake. I exit and the door howls. When I climb back into bed I have a sinking feeling the silence won’t last long. It’s 4.30am. About 10 minutes later… “WAAaaaaa!!! WAAAaaaa!!” !%$#@!!!!! My partner wakes up “Is it morning?” “NO!!” I get up, check my anger at the door and go in. I give him his dummy, put my hand in the cot while hiding and pat-pat-pat… The Captain wriggles and battles his wrap, shakes his head from side to side before slowly calming down. He drifts off to sleep. I gently remove my hand which is stuck between the bars of his cot and crawl to the door. I sneak out and the door howls.
I wake up confused by that all familiar sound “Eeeee.. Eeeee…” It quickly becomes “WAAAAAaaaaa!! WAAAAaaaa!!” Breakfast, mummy!! It’s 6.15am. My head is full of cotton, my eyes hurt. When I get in there the Captain changes his tone immediately and grins. He blows a few raspberries and probably thinks he’s the cutest thing ever. Which he is. He wants to play and when offered a bit of breakfast he spends a few minutes whacking his fists on my chest, pinching and biting my nipple before deciding he is not happy with what he’s been offered. ‘WAAAAAAA!!!!” WHAT NOW??? I’M HERE, I’M DOING EVERYTHING YOU ASK OF ME!! I try comforting him, but he is not happy. Finally I offer him the other breast which he happily accepts after a few last sobs. Wrong boob, mummy, wrong boob. How dare I offer my left bob for breakfast when he obviously prefers the right? After a short breakfast he strikes his Superman pose and signals he’s ready to go hang out with daddy.
And such was the return of captain Ridiculous.
Remember how I said we were in putting baby to bed heaven for a long time? Well, a couple of weeks ago that changed overnight.
Anakin is one of those babies that makes good progress in something, then takes three big steps backwards for a while. Maybe all babies are like that, I don’t know. Anyway, after we came back from our Sydney adventure I had three blissful nights of only having to feed him once. I thought I was in heaven for a bit, and I even started to feel human again. Getting more than 2 hours of sleep in a go makes a huge difference. Then all of a sudden… WHAM! Come bedtime he simply refused to sleep. It would take us up to 2,5 hours to get him down. It took every trick in the book and then some. And when we finally got him to sleep he’d stay down for an hour or two before wanting his first night feed. Then a couple of days later he refused to go down for his second nap of the day, and the day after he refused every sleep. And so it went for 10 days, 10 horrible, horrible days.
One night I was so exhausted that after the battles had raged for 2 hours I got him out of bed, put him on his play mat and just laid next to him crying my eyes out. This, for some reason, made him stop and I was able to get him to sleep once I wiped my eyes and took him back upstairs.
Then suddenly after 10 days he was back to normal. Oh joy!! For a bit. Then Captain Ridiculous introduced himself. He’d wake up and start the day at 5.30, then 5 the next day, then 4.50. I took solace in that he at least only fed once overnight again… until a couple of days ago when he decided that two times is way better than one again.
And last night Captain Ridiculous trumped himself. He woke for a feed at 11.15, then woke again at 2. I fed him and put him back to bed assuming that he’d fall asleep again like he always does. Nah, not a chance. He played for a bit before starting his engines (a whinge that soon becomes a cry). I offered him some more food thinking he might still be hungry, but no. I put him back to bed. The same thing happened. After 20 minutes of me hiding next to his bed patting him he finally fell asleep. At 3.45. I went back to bed desperate for sleep. Then Steinar woke up sick. When I finally fell back asleep it was past 4 am. It felt like I had only just closed my eyes when Captain Ridiculous woke up again at 4.30. This time there was no hope left. Hello day! Steinar got him up while I got a bit more sleep. At 7.15 Anakin was awake after his first nap of day and ready to continue. Needless to say we were not.
Oh Captain, my Captain… I love you, but you’re driving me mad.
“Are you getting any sleep?” “Is he a good sleeper?” “Is he sleeping through yet?” “Does he nap well?”
Sleep, or lack thereof, is apparently a hot topic when it comes to parenting. Didn’t take long to figure that one out. It’s frequently talked about and debated, and features in most peoples first questions to new parents. When we first had Anakin nothing could have prepared me for the months of sleep deprivation I had ahead of me. I didn’t sleep well during most of my pregnancy, but at least I had time to stay in bed. Neither did I know that you had to teach a baby to sleep, or at least we had to teach this one to.
I didn’t know much about baby sleep cycles, cat napping or anything of the sorts in the beginning. Babies slept a lot, that was all I knew. And he did, at first. But he would sleep mostly in our arms and we were only too happy to hold him for as long as we could. If we were downstairs in our house it was out of the question to put him down anywhere we couldn’t see him, particularly upstairs. It took many weeks before I even managed to sleep with the lights off. It was a bad case of first time parent paranoia. I would sleep in my pj’s (because he just woke so often) and with my glasses on the mattress above my pillow to make it easy for me to see him whenever I woke up, if I ever had time to fall asleep. The bedside table was too far away, I guess. I did everything a new, paranoid, doting parent would, I checked his breathing regularly, I held him at every chance I had and I probably tortured myself needlessly. I was horrible at taking care of myself.
It got to a point where I dreaded nights so bad they made me cry. Steinar slept in another room for a bit to make sure he wasn’t completely beat for work and I would sit in my chair in the bedroom pretty much all night holding Anakin, nursing, rocking, crying, doing whatever I could to get the little man to sleep. And he would, but as soon as I put him down in his cot he would wake back up. For a while I averaged about 4 hours sleep per 24, broken up into small catnaps here and there and I was going bat crazy.
Anakin was a big catnapper. Unless we held him or let him sleep on us he would do a 20 minute sleep at most during daytime. And 20 minutes is just not enough for a tiny baby. I tried to educate myself as best I could on sleep and routines, and we ended up going to a settling session with the amazing Helen Stevens (Safe Sleep Space). But as much as I loved the session, the issue with Anakin wasn’t the settling during the day, it was his inability to fall asleep and to transition between sleep cycles. He’s never been much of a crier in general, and resettling someone for more sleep who is happy as larry to be awake is a tough nut to crack.
As for getting him to fall asleep it turned out we were just keeping him up far too long. I didn’t recognise his tired signs for a long time. By the time he yawned or started to cry he was way past his window of going down easily. Our household was a bit chaotic in the start and I think it was too easy to think he could manage more awake time than he could simply because there were people there who wanted to see him all the time.
Once things calmed down his sleep started changing. As opposed to taking forever to get to sleep at night (due to being overstimulated and overtired) he started to fall asleep faster and on his own. We stuck to our bedtime routine and put him down while still awake and it worked a charm. Naps were still a struggle, but I was able to help him transition between cycles if I was already in the room when he stirred and acted immediately. This involved good timing, a lot of crawling around out of sight, stroking his head and giving him a dummy, then waiting for him to go back to sleep before exiting the room. And on a good day he’d do one 1,5 hour nap and then 45 minute naps for the rest. Fair enough.
At around 4 months we moved Anakin to his own room. He started waking every time we went to bed and would wake 8-10 times overnight for a feed or his dummy, and I was getting to the end of my tether. Anakin loves his room and sleeps very well on his own. And for a couple of months we were in putting baby to bed heaven. He would have his bath, his bedtime feed, a cuddle and then we could simply wrap him, put him in his bed with his white noise cd on and leave. And he’d mostly stay asleep until my night shift started.
But that’s a whole other story.