Previous to our marriage, Noel and I had roommates complain about our excessive tossing and turning and as newlyweds we’d often joke that mysterious bumps and bruises were casualties of sleeping in the same bed. These days we sleep like the dead, but when it sounds like an all-out brawl has commenced in our kids’ bedrooms, we repeatedly find ourselves wild-eyed and out of breath facing the calm exhalations of their dreams and not the intruder we expected. With us as their parents though, should it really come as any surprise? We’re a family of thrashers.
The kids have been like this from the beginning. While pregnant, I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to the strange sensation of someone doing somersaults in my belly. When they were babies, I would often bring them into bed hoping at least one of us could get some rest (and at that point I would have slept nude in the front yard if it would have made a difference), but they’d just kick me in the ribs, poke me in the eye, or scream in my face. Sleep just wasn’t in the cards no matter what configuration our pillows took.
Sleep is much improved from the baby days, but when the pitter-patter of little feet makes it’s way across my bedroom floor in the twilight hours, I cringe and pretend I can’t feel the eyeballs that are locked on me like a target. But they never go away, so I always relent and pull a little person into bed with me. It’s sweet for about the first 10 seconds when I wrap my arms around them and nuzzle my nose into their soft hair, but the tender moment rapidly dematerializes as I turn into a human punching bag. Even if it’s 5:30am we’ve learned by now that trying to sleep is futile so we surrender our pillows and start the day. The child (or children on particularly fabulous mornings) snuggles under our covers delighted to have the big bed all to themselves, which I think was their devious plan all along.
Now that I’m a parent, I’m officially a hater of daylight savings. It’s nice to have the light in the morning so I can run outside again, but I’m not such a fan of my kids being awake while I’m trying to do a workout video or especially of being roused from my dreams before 6:30 on a Saturday to find someone staring at me. Needless to say, people have been a little tired this past week so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that most of the photos I’ve taken recently have involved beds or people sleeping. Maybe this week they’ll start waking up at an hour I deem more acceptable. Maybe.
I’m learning not to talk about children and sleep. More often than not, this topic of conversation makes me want to punch other people because their children sleep and mine don’t. On the rare occasion that my children are actually sleeping, talking about it seems to be bad karma because the day I open my mouth about it we have a HORRIBLE night. That said, I am not going to discuss my children’s current sleep habits, but I will say I am often amused by their sleep arrangements.
Exhibit A: Cooper is always climbing into Ellen’s crib and is dying to have a sleepover.
Exhibit B: Cooper zonked out on the couch when he was staging a silent protest for TV watching privileges. Yes, that is the DVD case for Cars that he is snuggling.
Exhibit C: Ellen loves to play in her crib instead of napping. This often leads to crazy sleep positions when she finally can’t fight her exhaustion any longer. This has been the craziest way I’ve found her yet.
Exhibit D: Our kids had colds a while back and I’d pulled out a hat for Cooper to wear to bed because I suspected his ears might hurt. I told him it was a “special sleep hat” since he didn’t seem too keen on wearing it at first. I haven’t had him wear it lately, but he keeps finding it after we tuck him in and comes out wearing it in the morning. Maybe doctors should start prescribing “special sleep hats” instead of sleep aids 😉 Just a thought.
Ellen is now over a month old. She is such a calm baby. Even when Cooper is climbing all over her and trying to shove a pacifier in her mouth, she’ll just give him a dirty look and save her cries for when she’s hungry.
Noel and I each take a child at night (he gets Cooper and I get Ellen) and most nights Noel is up more than me (although I’m typically up longer). Ellen is a really good sleeper and typically only eats once a night. We moved her into the crib after our guests left and the last couple of nights she’s slept till 5am (after going to bed between 10:00 and 11:00). It’s amazing, but it always makes me run into her room to check that she’s breathing. I’m not used to having a child that sleeps.
She’s also incredibly strong. Half the time when she does tummy time I expect her to start crawling away because of how strong her little legs are. The other half of the time she just falls asleep. I’m pretty sure Cooper just screamed the whole time he did tummy time.
This little girl also has really good burps. Sometimes I think she has a teenage boy living inside of her.
From the front she looks fairly bald, but has a good tuft of hair on the back of her head. Right now that tuft is looking pretty red.
Ellen definitely brings a good balance to our family.
Last night we got back home from a trip to Utah. Somewhere in our travels, Cooper and I both managed to catch some sort of a head cold. Between not feeling so hot and trying to cut the remainder of his teeth simultaneously, last night was a bit rough. Funny thing is though, as I was rocking my little boy at 4am I started thinking about Cooper’s past sleep history and I couldn’t help thinking, “This isn’t that bad.”
I’ve blogged about it some before, but Cooper hasn’t been the best sleeper. Just when other kids were beginning to sleep through the night (~4 or 5 months) Cooper began waking up, almost religiously, at about 3:30am. He would then scream (not cry or whimper) for 2 hours straight. He didn’t want food, he didn’t want a drink, he didn’t even really want to be held – which he made abundantly clear by pushing away from us with all his strength. We read a million sleep books, got all sorts of advice, and tried pretty much every method besides drugging the kid (although it was deeply considered 🙂 ). Sometimes we would think a particular method was working because these nightmarish occurrences have always been somewhat sporadic and we would go a couple of days or maybe even a week without one, but every time we were about to breathe a sigh of relief and close that sleepless chapter of our lives they would always start up again with even more intense frequency. When other moms told me I just needed to sleep train him or complained about their 4 month-olds still waking up to nurse I actually had to suppress urges to tackle them to the ground or repeatedly call their house in the middle of the night. (Seriously, sleep deprivation can make you CRAZY.) I solicited advice from my pediatrician and read up on night terrors (had them myself as a child), but the answers were all the same: just give it time, all you can do is wait for him to outgrow it. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the most helpful or reassuring advice when your personal sleep habits are being affected.
When Cooper was about 14 months old (about 2 1/2 months ago) this whole saga was still going on. Every night we’d go to bed, unsure of whether we’d sleep peacefully through the night or whether we’d spend two hours pointlessly trying to console our little one. At that point I was beginning to suspect that I was pregnant and the prospect always seemed particularly daunting in the early morning hours. I remember one particular night where Cooper lay thrashing and screaming in his crib and I sat pathetically on the floor sobbing and wondering how on earth I could handle two kids. When Noel came in to check on us, I’m pretty sure we had him flabbergasted as to who to console first.
So far this has been a long and whiny post, but are you ready for the good part? Shortly after I found out for sure that I was pregnant Cooper’s middle of the night tantrums stopped. It’s been two months now and while he still often stirs and needs a drink or help finding a binky that’s escaped him, these problems are typically remedied in a few brief minutes and seem hardly a bother in comparison. As Cooper snuggled up against me and we rocked in his chair last night I thought about how this new sleep development is nothing short of a miracle and how nice it’s been to not fret about my distressed toddler these past two months. While I’ve put in an order for this next baby to be a good sleeper and I have my fingers crossed that Cooper won’t have any more problems, I know that the God really is “faithful [and] will not suffer [us] to be [tried] above that [we] are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Growing up, my parents often took a nap on Sunday afternoons. I was certain that they were the most boring people in the world. For years I eschewed naps (previous related post here) and only surrendered to them out of sheer exhaustion when I was a pregnant high school teacher and a frazzled new mom. My attitude towards naps has been changing though. Maybe it’s because my one-year-old still wakes me up an average of three times a night or maybe I’m simply embracing my role as a “boring parent,” but once a week after church and a good lunch, I allow myself the simple pleasure of an afternoon nap. I look forward to this period of time we refer to as “Family Nap” when everyone is snuggled in their beds and the house is quiet. Sometimes I’m sure nothing could make me more happy.
It’s hard to say whether yesterday’s low was when Cooper cried inconsolably from 12am-2am or when we forgot about the bike on the roof rack and tried to drive into the garage. By the time we swept up the shattered glass and plastic in the driveway and found our chicken dinner half cooked in a dead crockpot, we were feeling pretty defeated. Famished, we threw the chicken in the oven and decided to start dinner with salads, but paused first to say a prayer. As I expressed gratitude that “the motion sensor was the only thing that broke when we drove our car into the garage with the bike on top” the whole situation suddenly struck me as being very funny and I found myself suppressing giggles. I hurried and ended with an “amen” just in time for Noel and I to erupt into deep belly laughs.
Noel sent me a link to an NPR snippet titled “Want to Live to 100? Try to Bounce Back From Stress.” The clip talked about a 109-year-old lady that still lives at home. Her gerontologist attributes her longevity not to exercise or a healthy diet, but to her “adaptive competence” or “the ability to bounce back from stress.” I’m not the best at keeping a positive attitude when difficult or even minorly irritating things happen, but I’ve definitely felt better the times I’ve laughed instead of cried. Joseph B. Wirthlin wisely said, “the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life” (from “Come What May and Love It“). There are a million things to want in life (and I surely don’t have a small wishlist), but I’m learning that one of the most valuable things I may ever possess is a good sense of humor.
Growing up in Northern Utah, snow wasn’t that big of a deal. I only remember school being canceled once and it had more to do with the structural integrity of our school than the hazards of travel. Our school had hard plastic awnings that were cracking in the winter conditions and the school board decided it was better to fix them and miss a few days of school than have a lawsuit on their hands when a broken awning injured someone’s child. Snow or ghetto buildings aside, I was an ecstatic first grader. That is my only recollection of a true snow day. Otherwise, no matter how much snow there was everything was business as usual.
Today, Noel’s work had a delayed start because of all the snow we’ve accumulated. They also will periodically have full out snow days when the weather gets bad. We haven’t had one yet, but we think this is the most fantastic thing in the world. It was nice to have Noel around for a few extra hours this morning.
Thanks to everyone for their sleep advice. I went to the library and checked out all the decent sleep books that were on the shelf. (Some of your wonderful suggestions were of course being utilized and I needed something ASAP.) I’ve read parts of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child as a sort of informational resource and then have been putting some techniques from The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happyinto practice. The title is long and I was sure that anyone that called themselves the “Sleep Lady” was probably a little nuts; however, I’ve really enjoyed it. I would say that the method falls somewhere in-between crying it out and doing everything you can possibly think of to soothe your baby (which is pretty much what I was doing before). It’s a good fit with my parenting style. While we did have one really awful night where Cooper fussed for almost two and a half hours straight, he has gone four nights without eating till at least 5am and three of those nights he slept for at least 8 hours straight. I should also mention that we decided to increase our night temperature after Noel and I almost froze to death during the two and a half hour vigil. Since it was in the middle of our four day trial we’re pretty sure that the cold wasn’t the only factor in Cooper’s inability to sleep, but we definitely think it was a factor. Getting more sleep has been wonderful and I kind of wish I’d tried something like this months ago. I just wanted to make sure I was listening to my baby’s needs, but I think in the process I may have overlooked some of mine. Anyway, that was kind of a long report, but thanks for all your empathy and encouragement. Hopefully things keep going this well because I think it might help me finally shake this retched cold I’ve had for several weeks.
Even though Cooper isn’t crawling yet (Don’t worry, I’m learning to count my blessings on this one), we definitely have a curious little monkey on our hands. Here’s a little peak.
The other day I was reading a blog post where the writer was talking about how growing up she fully trusted her mother and truly thought she knew everything. Then she said, “Sometimes I think, wait, I can’t be a mom, I’m just a random person, I don’t know all the answers!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had thoughts almost exactly like that, especially in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, I have this sneaking suspicion that I will probably feel at least somewhat befuddled and inadequate for quite awhile (15-20 years? Indefinitely?). In the meantime, I truly appreciate the unwavering faith Cooper puts in my abilities.
PS If anyone has any tips/advice on night weaning, please let me know.
Historically, I’m not a nap person. When Noel and I first got married this was kind of a sore spot. He loved to take a nap Sunday afternoon and I thought it was the biggest waste of time. He told me it helped him function better and I told him people were supposed to sleep at night. Even when Cooper first came along I fought taking naps, which was a mistake. It only took about a week of trying to stay up all day while he tried to stay up all night before I caved.
Lately, Cooper’s been better at sleeping longer stretches at night and never stays up for more than 20 minutes at a time when he does wake up. While I often crash on the couch before 10pm, I’ve been able to avoid taking naps for the past couple of months. Honestly, I think I was feeling pretty smug about it. Today though, I was being crabby. I didn’t feel like cleaning the house (that’s not really too much of a surprise), reading books with my child, eating, or even blogging that’s how bad it was. When Cooper went down for a nap the thought occurred to me (I’m not beyond saying it was inspiration) that I should lay down for a couple of minutes. An hour later I feel ready to take on the world. I guess Noel was right all along.