Winter Interlude

If I hadn’t been up every few hours last night, the scene this morning would have shocked me.

April in Northeast Ohio.

For some reason, everyone in the house was hungry all night long — the cats woke me up three times (the first time for food, the second time to get locked in the basement for waking me up again, and the third time loudly scratching at the basement door and me letting them up so they wouldn’t wake up The Toddler, whose room is next to the basement stairs. Then, The Toddler woke up at 4:30 a.m. deciding he was starving and desperately wanted to nurse. My refusal sent him into a rage, and I had to send The Husband in to comfort him until the leisurely hour of 5:06 when I decided it could be “morning” and he could nurse.

(My sleep training logic is that if he wants to nurse, he has to get up for the day so as not to backslide into night nursing. 5:06 is disgustingly early, but he went to bed at 6:30 last night, so unfortunately I see 5 a.m. almost every morning. That’s our next hurdle to overcome, once sleeping through the night becomes more routine. So far we’ve only achieved it twice since the night weaning week, but usually wake-ups are quick and easily squelched without nursing.)

I digress. My point is it snowed like crazy last night.

While The Husband ate breakfast, I ran out to the barn with food for the goats. They’ll be stuck inside today, as the portable electric fence we use is rendered useless under heavy snow.

By the way, we renamed them finally! They came with the names Sehnsucht and Saudade (twin brothers) and Bazyll. While foreign names for the feeling of profound and melancholic longing are certainly poetic, we tend toward a sillier flavor of pet names in our family. So now Bazyll is Grover (after our favorite blue monster), Sehnsucht is Regular sized Rudy (or just Rudy), now our second pet named after a Bob’s Burgers character, and finally, the most inspired pet name I have ever or will ever have… the leader of our herd, formerly known as Saudade, is now Kid Cudi.

Thick as thieves: (L to R) Kid Cudi, Regular Sized Rudy and Grover

Because he’s a kid. And he chews cud.  Also because he loves weed(s). Please don’t make me explain it to you.

The chicks are getting bigger and featherier and braver at an improbable rate. We had to upgrade them to one of these last week because they seemed crowded in the brooder I constructed, and moved them into the guest bedroom so we could put the cats in the basement at night as needed without worrying for the chicks’ safety.

Lincoln’s feathers are coming in nicely!

So if you’re planning on spending the night at my house any time over the next month or so… you’re going to have roommates.

Well, I thought I had a cogent point to this post when I started it, but there just isn’t enough coffee in the world this morning to bring me to a neat conclusion. It’s still blustering outside like it’s February and the toddler is sitting next to me covered in yogurt and trying to get me to name all the parts of the house he can see (Door! Floor! Ceiling! Clock!) so I had better sign off here.

Winter Interlude

Night weaning: A hard-fought victory

This announcement guarantees that last night’s sleep training success will be short-lived, but it feels so monumental that I cannot pretend it didn’t happen, even if it the victory is fleeting.

The Toddler slept from 7:45 p.m. to 5:55 a.m. With no wakings, no nursing, no tears.

You guys.

This is huge.

Sleep has been our family’s battleground for the past 15 months. Yes, breastfeeding was rough at first, but since we figured that out, sleep has been my white whale, my Sisyphean boulder, my biggest source of frustration and guilt and (of course) exhaustion as a parent. Ever since that little balogna loaf decided he wouldn’t sleep unless we were armpit to shoulder and boob to face at a week old, I’ve been daydreaming about the day I could put him in his crib with a, “See you in the morning!” and have it come true.

First it was months and months of first terrifying (thanks, unhelpful public health campaigns!) then resigned, then generally tolerable but still quite limiting and often uncomfortable bedsharing, then a month or two of his crib “side-carred” to our bed, then that fourth wall up and the crib in our room, then the big jump of the crib back to his room, and there we stalled for about the past five months.

We hit wave after wave of colds or teething in between brief but delicious spells where he’d drift off to sleep peacefully, waking once at about 3 a.m. for a quick nursing session before easily going back to bed. The fact he could do that made me start believing I might be able to convince him he could make it a few more hours.

Well, couldn’t… not by myself. It’s just been too easy to nurse him back to sleep when I’m still 60% asleep during his night wakings.

So we waited until The Husband was on spring break from work and didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. and enlisted him to be the night time hammer for the week. Usually, The Toddler screams in frustration if The Dad shows up during a night waking and points at the door until I relent, relieving The Dad of his duty, administering the night nursing. Not this week.

It was rough. The first four nights were hard going for The Dad and The Toddler. Lying in bed across the hall, I didn’t get much sleep, either, between the loud crying and the guilt. But we stuck it out. Even on the fourth night, when at 3 a.m. I decided to give The Husband a break and went in, I managed to refuse to nurse. The Toddler was enraged, but he eventually fell asleep. The Husband slept in a little in the mornings, and The Toddler took 3.5 hour naps every day this week (admittedly a bit of a silver lining through all this.)

Then last night, because I suspected he wasn’t really getting that much milk at his pre-bedtime nursing session, leading to that 3 a.m. wake up, and because I was hopeful for some success, I gave The Toddler a bottle of cow’s milk with his bedtime stories. He finished that off, then nursed, then gave me a hug and kiss good night (Oh my God, the best feeling ever, this new habit), and I left the room saying, “See you in the morning.”

And it worked! At least this once!

(I still slept fitfully, dreaming for the second night in a row about forgetting to take care of The Toddler the next day, and getting repeatedly awoken by our jerk cat who wants me to walk him to his full food bowl a few times a night because he likes the company?! But still, the potential for a full night’s sleep is closer than it has been since my second trimester.)

So. Here’s hoping this isn’t a fleeting taste of the rested life. The Toddler is just about done cutting his last canine, and we’re almost through cold season (though I know that’s a bit of a misnomer/pipe dream for someone who still licks food off the floor), so maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally start getting some sleep.

A girl can dream, right?

Good morning snuggles from the boy who slept through the night. Big thanks to his dad for enduring a nearly sleepless spring break. ❤ ❤
Night weaning: A hard-fought victory

Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt

I am writing this on my phone from underneath a baby who will. Not. Sleep. Unless he is latched on and nursing. It is of the day, following a bedtime that pulled the rug out from under him and left the entire household wrecked.

As I mentioned, The Baby is rocketing through milestones quicker than a greased weasel down a waterslide  (that idiom could use some work, sorry). Anyway, his naps have been shit and I am usually a defeated husk of my former self by Thursday afternoon when I don’t get naptime reprieves. Yesterday I listened to the Sleep Training episode of One Bad Mother, and while I’ve in the past concluded my baby is a tension increaser, crying it out feels cruel and I want to help him gradually transition to sleeping in his own crib, this episode filled husk-me with new hope. Jodi Mindell sounded so reassuring, so convincing. And the host described a sleep training experience of a night or two of brief crying followed by blissful crib sleeping forever and ever, amen.

I didn’t realize it, but the reptile brain that had taken control of me decided, “Hey, you haven’t had time to look further into this or hatch a plan or even let The Husband know you’re considering this, and The Baby is obviously going through sleep regression that makes things 100 times harder than usual, but maybe you should JUST DO IT.” I think the last vestiges of logic snapped when I saw The Baby on the video monitor, standing in his crib about to trip in his sleep sack. His development was outpacing my plan for gradual adjustments.

After a few minutes of him crying (while The Husband looked at me with a look of confusion and concern), I went in his room, shut the door behind me, stripped him out of his sleep sack, spent a minute rocking him, then put him in his crib and settled in to try to help him cry himself to sleep.

I had no clock with me. No plan. I just tried to keep repeating comforting words (“Night night, baby. Shhhh, shhhh. I love you. I’m here. Time for night night.”)  While rubbing his back or tummy. I’m sure he couldn’t hear me, though, because his cries turned into wails and shrieks and coughs. He kept standing and reaching for me and I kept trying to lie him back down and help him settle.

There were a couple times it seemed like he was winding down, but he always wound back up. Yet the more he cried the more on the hook I felt: If I didn’t see this through and help him fall asleep in his crib, I would just have let him cry himself into hysterics before reinforcing the sleep associations I was trying to break. I would have tortured him for nothing.

At one point, poor The Husband cracked open the door to try to figure out what in the hell I was doing and I waved him off angrily.

Finally, after what ended up being about an hour and fifteen minutes of sobbing that still was nowhere near subsiding, I took a quick bathroom break to gather my thoughts and see if my absence did anything to quiet Baby down. It did not. And The Husband was outside the bathroom door with a look on his face that made me feel terrible. I told him I was going in to “end this.”

Which meant I went back in, picked up my tear-soaked kid, rocked him in my arms and put him down asleep, or at least 99% of the way there. I had tortured him for nothing.

Feeling so defeated, I tried to explain my extremely half-baked idea to The Husband. He was upset and yet far more forgiving than I would have been if he’d unilaterally and impulsively tried to do what I had done. I had been high on the hope that this experiment would work.

Or at least that the crying jag would have worn The Baby out and he’d sleep a few hours. But no, after less than an hour he was back up, as usual. The Husband rocked him back to sleep, and when he woke up 10 minutes later I took him to bed and hoped he could absorb my apology through osmosis. We both slept soundly.

I know my biggest mistake was not going in with a plan. And I know there are tons of proponents of the “gradual extinction” method of sleep training who will tell me to climb back on this horse but to saddle up better first.

BUT GUYS. There are so many theories about babies and sleep! About cortisol and negative sleep associations and SIDS! Experts contradict one another at every turn of the page. I’m so tired and so full to the brim with mom guilt I can’t rationally evaluate all the options. Everything sounds hopeful, bit when I’m face to sopping wet face with my difficult sleeper, words on a page don’t feel like they have any power at all.

Ugh. I don’t have a tidy conclusion, let alone a solution, to this episode of The Baby’s Sleep Saga. I need some time to regroup. I need to strategize with The Husband. I need to take a nap myself.

Impulse parenting! Or, my big sleep training mistake and the subsequent crushing guilt