Saturday, May 8, 2010

For Mother's Day, I would like

my kiddo to sleep like normal people sleep. Fall asleep, stay asleep. Fall asleep at a decent hour. Napping without having to nurse almost the entire time.

Ever since he was born, Guy has had the hardest time falling asleep. I remember the second night in my delivery room, Guy would cry his head off every time I put him in his little hospital bassinet. At 3am or so the nurse came in to check on me, worried about me and little one not sleeping. Finally she said to me: "You've been nursing him for five hours. Why don't you take a break and I bring him out with me for awhile." Oh the guilt of letting him go out of the room. But I managed to sleep. Of course, later she told me that he fell right asleep for her. The only way I could get him to sleep was nursing in bed with me. I was exhausted so naturally I fell asleep too, only to wake to the nurses telling me how dangerous it is to have him sleep with me. Well, that is definetely true of the hospital beds. They have all kinds of nooks and crannies that a baby can fall into.

Prior to delivery, I had done tons of research about whether or not to let him sleep with me. I wanted to be on the safe side and was dead set against co-sleeping. So we bought a co-sleeper to go next to the bed. You know how they say that babies need to nurse like every three hours in the night? Ya, well, let me tell you, my baby wakes every half hour to an hour. He wants to eat eat eat. It was very hard to get him back into his co-sleeper without waking him up. The only way he would sleep a decent stretch of time was if I happened to fall asleep in my bed with him. And then Ed would wake up and lecture me about how dangerous it is to have him in bed with me when he is so small. I know! I didn't mean to fall asleep but I am fucking exhausted! Oh the arguments.

During the day, Ed would hang out with me and Guy while we nursed and slept to make sure I wasn't smothering him. But Ed had to return to work after only a week, so that made for some very challenging days. All Guy wanted to do was nurse nurse nurse. There were several days that I barely went outside my bedroom. If I went to get something to eat, he would wake, crying for his mama. One can hardly make wise food decisions when the baby is screaming. Whatever I could get down the hatch to make the stomach rumbling go away would suffice.

I remember thinking to myself that in all the baby books they said that after a few weeks, newborns will begin to sleep longer and longer stretches and will sleep through most sounds. Not my baby.

I remember thinking that he must not be getting enough calories from me, so I pumped and pumped. I had either Guy or that stupid machine hooked up to me all day. I figured out how to jerry-rig a hands free pump out of hair bands so that I could eventually use my hands. I was trying really hard to excercise during those times and figured out how to be on a treadmill while still hooked up to the pump. But it sucked when the bottles would accidently fall off and breast milk got everywhere. And of course I would have to get unhook myself from the machine, stop the treadmill, and nurse Guy back to sleep every twelve minutes or so (I remember writing down the minutes I spend on the machine to make sure I got in adequate time).

Ed would feed him bottles. He would suck them down in a matter of minutes. Ed would tell me that wasn't enough, he is still hungry. So, When I didn't have enough, we would supplement with formula. I hated that idea but was desperate to get some sleep and couldn't stand the thought of my baby going hungry.

He ended up being one of the fattest babies you have ever seen! Which is good for a baby. I'm pretty sure his cheeks were the Biggest Cheeks Ever.

At one point I thought that maybe something was making him uncomfortable so he couldn't sleep. I read through all the books and tried all the recommendations. Dr. Sears suggested going on an elimination diet, thinking that something in my breast milk he is allergic to. The only foods that I was allowed were turkey and sweet potatoes and something else I cannot remember what. Then after about a week, you add an item, such as corn, and see if the baby has a response. Well, he did respond much better when cow milk was out of his diet.

But he still woke every hour. I found out that if I strung my body up over the co-sleeper and stuck a boob in his mouth, he would fall asleep and I wouldn't have to move him back into the co-sleeper, which woke him up easily. It was an uncomfortable way to nurse, to say the least, but it helped a little.

Eventually he got too big to sleep in the co-sleeper. It was time for the crib. I was still trying desperately not to co-sleep, due to all the doctors saying that he would die of suffocation or SIDS. I was terrified of SIDS. So it was time to bring out the crib. That sucked. Guy was right next to the bed but the added distance made all the difference in the world to him. I did the hang over the crib rails and stick a boob in the mouth until he fell asleep but that got old. It really isn't easy to do that in the middle of the night.

So we came up with a plan. We took one of the long panels off the crib and attached the crib to our bed. That way, I was still sleeping right next to him, and could just reach in and grab him when he needed to nurse. But, putting him back into his crib would wake him up. So I got in the habit of turning over and nursing, but I had to make sure my body was only partly inside the crib, as the crib wasn't designed to hold much weight. That was uncomfortable as hell, especially since he wasn't supposed to have any pillows or anything in his crib (more SIDS prevention).

We tried white noise, shushing, absolute quiet and darkness, swinging... you name it, I tried it to get him to sleep.

We tried the cry-it-out method. This is a method in which you just put the baby in the crib, walk away, just let him cry until he falls asleep. The idea is that the baby will learn to self-soothe. That was horrible! He was absolutely terrified!

Be right back, Guy just woke up. Yes, almost three and he still needs to nurse to get back to sleep.

Okay, so, we tried the cry-it-out method which was a total nightmare. Often I was crying just as hard as he was.

I thought maybe he needs a schedule. So I looked up the number of sleep hours a child would need during that age. I made myself an elaborate schedule of awake and sleep times. But he never has slept as much as other children. And so there were many days and nights where I would try to get him to sleep on his scheduled times, laying there for hours on end with him, but he wouldn't fall asleep.

Around the age of six months, after the majority of the SIDS danger period, I said screw it all and brought him into bed with me. I needed more sleep. Ed needed sleep. Of course, Ed would say during the day that I needed to wean him off nightfeedings, he needs to get used to falling asleep without nursing, etc., but it was totally different in the middle of the night when we were trying to sleep. When Guy would cry, Ed would ask me to nurse him to get him back to sleep. Easier said than done.

However, we were worried about Guy falling off the other side of the bed when Ed wasn't there to guard the other side of him. We were sleeping on a full-size futon at the time. So we decided to get rid of the mattress frame and put that rock-hard mattress on the floor. It was uncomfortable. But, when Guy rolled onto the floor the few times he did, it was only a six inch fall and we were grateful for the decision of sleeping on the floor. People thought we were nuts, or etremely poor and couldn't afford a bed.

In a few months, I found a large, nearly new king size bed being sold on craigslist for $200. And it was only a couple of blocks away. We were in heaven when we brought that thing home (still are, we love that bed!).

Things got a little better. Guy started sleeping better through the night. He finally slept through the night around 9 months of age (through the night for a baby means 6 hours). But a week or so after he started to sleep better, I got a mastitis infection that wouldn't go away. Turns out it was the antibiotic resistant MRSA, and so I needed to be hospitalized so that they could run Vancomyacin through me intravenously (subsequently I had 5 additional cases of mastitis).

After that, he woke up every half hour or so again to nurse. I think the hospital stay was traumatic for him.

Finally things returned to normal, which for him means waking every couple of hours to nurse. It was easy for me to roll over and nurse him, but it was still hard to wake up all the time. And its not easy sleeping with someone sucking on your boob.

And thats the way things remained for months. About a year and a half after Guy was born, I got pregnant again. And Guy was still nursing. Sometime around 6 months in my pregnancy I stopped lactating and Guy stopped wanting to nurse all night long. But he still needed to "nurse" to fall asleep.

Then 8 months into my pregnancy, baby Jemma died. I still had to go through the birthing process, and in the end I was lactating again. I attempted to dry up, with very tight binding around me, but it became too uncomfortable. My breasts blew up like watermelons, hard as rocks, and I could feel a case of mastitis coming along, so I allowed Guy to start nursing again. It was that or get infected. I've never gotten to the point of having an absess in my breast and having to get it surgically removed, which is what happens when mastitis gets really really bad and I don't want to.

So Guy started nursing again just like a newborn. Up every hour and a half. He's calmed down a little since then, but he still wakes every night, at least once but usually more to nurse.

And then there are the little nuances about his sleep. He can't nap during the day without me there to nurse him to sleep and stay asleep, so several hours out of my day are spent laying down with him.

If daddy is home and awake, there is no way to get Guy to sleep. So there are several nights where he stays up too late, and he is tired and cranky the next day, or clumsy and hurting himself. Or, the worst, like yesterday. He woke up, wired. If you weren't his parent you would think that he was a crazy, high maintenance kid bouncing off the walls that pushes your buttons out of spite. He does everything he knows he is not supposed to do. But I think it is is way of getting our attention, trying to tell us something is wrong but he doesn't know how.

It is terribly difficult to get him to nap when he is like that. When he does fall asleep, he ends up sleeping too long. And then that means that he is up too late at night again, even if we are quiet and trying to sleep ourselves. He was up until at least midnight last night, chatting away, even though we were totally quiet, lights out and everything.

So please, for Mother's Day, I would like for my child to sleep better. I would like to fall asleep at a decent hour, stay asleep, wake at a normal time and be happy the next day.

And if there are mothers out there who are suffering from the same problem, know that it is not you. I read on someone's blog a few months ago that her first child was a great sleeper, but the next one was just like what I'd described about Guy. She said there are just some children who aren't good at sleeping.


Anonymous said...

Hi Amy~~ Oh, you bring back so many memories. Although my kids were good sleepers later on, they were all fussy newborns and I was clueless. And, get this, I had puffy bumper pads and put my kids on their tummies...I nursed them in bed and fell asleep...and by some miracle all four survived. I'm not saying these warnings about SIDS are invalid, just that maybe things are blown a little out of proportion.

What you really needed was a nursemaid. You know, back in the day when families stayed together and took care of each others' children so the new mother could get her rest. I kept thinking as I read your post, I wish I could have been there for you. I wish someone had been there for me. Everyone thinks having a baby is pure bliss. It's not, as you know. It's the hardest job in the entire world.