(The following is an imaginary interview with my 14 month old son, based on real events.)
Me: So, Anakin, tell me a little bit about what’s been going on lately.
Anakin: Well, mamma, as you know I’ve been going through some things. I believe you taller people call these phases wonder weeks. I’m not sure why because there’s not much wonderful about them. Things are just plain confusing and I guess you could say I have a new information hangover of sorts. My brain hurts. That’s probably why I keep waking up a night.
Me: Your brain hurts? That doesn’t sound very good.
Anakin: Well, that’s just stating the obvious, mamma. It didn’t help much either that you took me to that horror house where that witch stuck me with a sword three times on Wednesday and tried to kill me while you just sat there singing like a bloody idiot. As if singing was going to save my life! I was lucky to even make it out alive.
Me: You mean your vaccinations? Those are necessary to keep you from getting really sick. It’s for the best, I promise. I would never let anyone try to kill you. And it wasn’t a sword, it was a needle. Swords are bigger.
Anakin: Wasn’t big enough? Looked like a sword to me. You say all this now, but I saw no such action at the time. But I’ve figured out a cure for everything.
Me: Really? For everything?
Anakin: Yes, everything. It’s simple really. If I’m cranky, boobie. If I’m sleepy, boobie. If I’m happy, boobie. If I hurt myself, boobie. If I don’t get what I want, boobie. If you think I’m busy playing, boobie. Just after boobie, more boobie! The best thing in life is boobie. Whenever, wherever. Boobie, boobie, BOOBIE! Don’t think for one second I don’t know where you hide those things.
Me: I’ve noticed, but don’t you think three times a day is enough? I don’t mind feeding you, but sometimes you hurt me. Couldn’t you at least lie still while you eat and perhaps finish before you do other things?
Anakin: That’s where you get it all wrong, you see. It’s not all about eating. I own you, and lately I think you need reminding of this. So I try to spice it up a bit, after all it’s a lot of boobie. I try to dance while I eat, I sing and talk and just hang out. Sometimes I like to bite a bit and to play with them too. And you seriously need to stop packing those things away until I say it’s ok. I read that wonder week thing on your phone too and it said that during this phase you should be expecting me to want boobie all the time. You just put up until I say so. And that thing you tried today, undressing and showing me your boobies, but not giving them to me even when I cried really loud? Not cool.
Me: I was taking a shower. Didn’t you get some after? And you just had milk followed by lunch anyway, you were in no real need.
Anakin: That’s not the point! Do you think it’s fun to make me cry? I shouldn’t have to cry to get my way. Now, lift up your shirt before I rip it off, it’s boobie time!
Ever since my night out our nights have become… hell. Pure, utter hell. I would rather go back to three overnight feeds than have to deal with separation anxiety.
It all seems to have coincided with another wonder week period. All of the sudden my angel has become impossible to put to bed and impossible to get back to sleep when he wakes up during the night. And he always wakes up during the night, at least once, perhaps even twice or three times.
My record for the shortest time spent holding him or holding his hand through the cot bars before he went back to sleep is 40 minutes. My record for longest time spent doing the same is just over 2 hours. And for 14 nights straight I have endured as best I can. Cue a case of slight madness setting in and absolutely no work done on my postgrad.
Feeding him no longer has any impact. Leaving him until he falls asleep is not an option as there is an insane amount of crying involved as soon as he’s out of my arms. I’m lucky if I can convince him to stay in the cot while I lie next to it with my hands through the bars. (And as I’ve written about before, we do not and will not use the method of “controlled crying”.) Co-sleeping has never looked so attractive, but alas Anakin will not have a bar of that either.
It finally looked as if it was starting to settle and then… 35 and 40 degree days, and similar nights, hit.
I know, babies are unpredictable. They continuously change. As soon as you think you’ve figured them out something different happens. But who are these freak babies I keep hearing about that just sleep through teeth, wonder weeks and everything else their young lives throw at them? They must exist, unless of course there is a horde of lying parents floating around? Next time, I’m ordering one of those babies. A sleeper. You can order them in advance, right? Prepay for certain qualities in your unborn child?
Did your kid ever suffer from nighttime separation anxiety? And if so, how did you overcome it?
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!
I was planning on raving about what a good night we had when this mornings nap time just fell on my head like a big, rotten watermelon. I know, I know…I can’t have it all. (Don’t say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I HATE that expression, it makes no damn sense. Why would I even want cake if i couldn’t eat it?!?)
Anyways, I won’t bore you with the details of everything. I’ll just say that Anakin was his excellent self overnight, like he usually is when he’s not doing some reenactment of Chuckie. He slept from 7-12, then until 2.15 and then it was Hello Day at 5.40 am this morning. Not too shabby. I, on the other hand, did not sleep well. I am developing some serious sleep issues from this long term sleep deprivation ordeal.
Anyways, I’m getting off track here. My coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.
I’ve been doing some reading on this whole wonder weeks thing to try and get my head around it a bit better. And while doing so I came across this (now abandoned it seems) blog that explains it beautifully. (barefootmothering.blogspot.com.au) Here’s an excerpt from the Barefoot Mother’s blog on wonder weeks:
The Wonder of Growth Spurts
[…] Babies go through 8 neurological growth spurts in the first 14 months, and research detailed in “The Wonder Weeks” by Vanderijt and Plooij can even tell you within a few weeks, when these spurts will happen, the new skills baby is learning, and how it may affect them. It also tells you how to help baby to develop the new skills. The spurts in the first year occur at around 5,8,12, 15, 23, 34, 42 and 51 weeks.
Before any of these growth spurts a sudden change in the nervous system occurs bringing a completely new type of perception about the world, and baby has to develop a completely new set of skills to deal with the new perception. During these times babies are understandably confused and need extra attention, and reassurance. Babies cry more, feed more and need you more during a spurt, but rather than see these as difficult fussy times, you can see these as exciting times of growth. There are new skills that you can help her to explore and develop. After all, how would you feel if you suddenly found the world had extra dimensions you never knew about, or you could see things you never saw before, or realised that you were actually completely dependent and defenceless? […]
Around week 26 baby starts to understand relationships. Suddenly he starts to realise distance between objects, or between people. This is quite terrifying. Until now he had no understanding that he is very small in a very large world, and has no way to get to something outside his cot, or on a shelf, or to get to mum if she isn’t beside him. Suddenly he realises that mum can leave and there is nothing he can do about it. Understandably this is very disconcerting and baby can become extremely clingy. As he starts to lean about distances and relationships he begins to understand the concepts of inside, outside, on top, above, next to, underneath and in between. Isn’t it amazing?
Another change in brainwaves happens around 37 weeks, which sees baby starting to understand about categories, e.g. big dogs and small dogs are all dogs, rice and apples are both food. Horses in the field, and horses in a book, and toy horses are all horses, even though one is alive, one is a picture and one is made of clay or plastic. Understanding categories affects every sense. It allows her to start to learn about emotions. Her thinking now starts to become more like an adults, and as such we can start to understand each other better.
The next spurt is around 46 weeks when baby truely starts to put things all together. He now looks at how things go together before attempting them. He may start to look at his shape sorter and try to work out the correct shape for the hole, instead of randomly trying slots. For the first time he may try constructing things and linking things, like aiming a ball before throwing, or building a tower with blocks. He may start to brush his hair or try to undress or dress himself, or point to things so that you can name them for him to build his vocabulary.
Just after his first birthday (around 55 weeks) another big change in understanding occurs. It allows baby to build on the idea of sequences of behaviours and understand how they fit together to meet a goal. She can now start to understand what it means to go shopping, or do the laundry or phone someone. You might go to different shops or phone different people, or use the phone in different rooms, but it meets the same goal. This can start the process of imaginative play with her toys. She can now start to consciously develop her own programs and make decisions, like deciding to have one bite of lunch and then a drink, or start with the drink before eating. She can decide whether to use the spoon or feel the food on her hands. Bet you never really thought about lunch as a decision making exercise before 🙂
It’s an amazing journey from a newborn to a decision making toddler, but the leaps are hard for baby and caregiver. When baby first starts to perceive these new things it’s like his world has turned upside down. The things he understood yesterday, no longer fit the world any more – they don’t explain what he is sensing. This can start a couple of weeks before the actual spurt. Once the neurological change has occurred, it can then take another couple of weeks for baby to make sense of the change and create a new mental picture of the world. This means that your baby could be unsettled for a few weeks around each growth spurt. Then length of time depends on the temperament of the baby and how easily he adjusts to the change.
During these few weeks baby can have trouble sleeping, be shy, need to be kept busy and demand attention. He can lose his appetite, become less vocal, and clingy to mum. If breastfeeding he may want to comfort feed a lot as that can meet a lot of the needs to help him sleep and keep him close to mum and allow him to have her attention.
This is understandably hard on mum (or other caregiver). Mums complain of being exhausted, feeling trapped, and annoyed, whilst at the same time being concerned that baby is ill, or not herself. It’s hard when you are going through these times, but at least if you understand why your baby is feeling lost, it is a little easier to deal with. It is easier to just hold them and show them that you will not leave. It is easier to deal with the night waking, and the clinging behaviour.
So remember folks, when your baby seems to start a sleep regression, or act fussy – maybe they are actually growing. Maybe it is a wonderful sign. Hold them closer. This is not a sign of a sleep problem, or need for training. Have some empathy for what is going on, and shape your play around the growth. If baby is learning about categories, tell them about different things that fit in the same category. If baby is learning about fitting things together, build lots of towers. If baby wants to be fed again, for the 3rd time in an hour, just try to relax. Your baby is growing. He is developing, and growth can be scarey, but you can help. You can create a safe space where he can figure out his world, and know that in a couple more weeks you will understand each other more fully.
Love in the time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (quoted from The Wonder Weeks)
You can find the whole post here: http://barefootmothering.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/growth-spurts.html
It all sounds rather wonderful and terrifying, doesn’t it? It’s fascinating. I can’t really find the commitment to reading the whole book, although I’m sure it’s great, so I’ve done the next best thing in these iPhone times, I’ve bought the Wonder weeks app. It feels better to have some idea of what’s happening and why things may be a bit tricky these days.
I was reminded yesterday of how quickly Anakin is growing up. After a nap time battle it was time to eat and he fell asleep on me like he used to when he was a baby. I cherished every second of those 45 minutes (until I had to wake him up so to not mess up the rest of the day too bad). I think I may have burst a bit with love while holding him, maybe even a bit more than I usually do. I hope he knows how much I worship his every sound, every move, his everything.
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.