Pitty Party

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I do not wear my exhaustion like a badge of glory. I wear it like a sack of potatoes. A heavy, heavy sack of potatoes.

E was a wretched sleeper, but he had a perfectly good excuse. B, on the other hand, gives the appearance of being a perfectly healthy "chunk'o munck'o," as E so roughly affectionately refers to her. Yet she doesn't sleep. My only consolation? That old ladies at the grocery store shake their heads and warn with crooked finger that "it's the smart ones that don't sleep."

We have been fighting for the past three nights. I want her to sleep till 2am without feeding. She wants to wake up and make sure I'm still there. This child was born with the worst case of separation anxiety you have ever seen, and it shows no sign of letting up. I literally, LITERALLY, can not leave the table and cross the ten feet to the refrigerator, even though I remain in clear view of her. Even though I only open the door on the opposite side of her so as not to block her from my view. Ehhh! EHhh! EHHHH!!!! The panic rises inside her and she starts to rock back and forth, banging on the tray of her booster seat, making it clear that ten feet is just. too. far. I make eye contact and send consoling phrases floating across the wooden floor in her direction. Not good enough. I smile at her and reassure her that if I had go-go-gadget arms, I could still touch her from where I am standing. EHH! EHHHHH!!! EHHHHHHHHH!!! I close the refrigerator door and collapse empty-handed back into the chocolate leather dining room chair. Her cries cease immediately and a hint of smugness creeps across her pouty little lips.

I want to sleep. You have no idea how much I want to sleep. It has been over eight months since I have had 1-2-3-4 hours of consecutive, uninterrupted, blissful sleep. And before that, we'd only been sleeping full nights for a few months, with intermittent night-wakings with E. So not counting a short three or so months of pretty regular sleep, it's been upwards of three years since I've slept soundly.

In the eight months of B's life, we've come close. There was one night where she slept almost six hours in a row. But my body was programmed to wake up after no more than three hours. Maybe if I'd had some warning. Maybe if someone had sent my boobs a memo. Or an email. Or maybe a goddamn text. But no. There was no forewarning. So like two ticking time bombs, they woke me up. What the...? I stared at her in disbelief. I fell back asleep and woke up just shy of three hours later, having squandered the only opportunity in upwards of eight months to get, what approximates in the land of motherhood, a full night's sleep. I look back at that night and try to recollect the circumstances leading up to it. Did she eat yogurt? Or baby cereal? Was her bath very warm? Was there a full moon? Did she wear fleecy pjs or the the light cotton ones? When I carried her up the stairs, did I skip steps? Did I turn the door knob clock-wise or counter-clockwise? What the fuck did we do that night that made her sleep for so long? Because I would do anything to have that opportunity again.

And as much as I want to sleep for myself, for my own sanity, I really, really want to sleep for everyone else. I want to sleep so that I can have interesting discussions and not actually have to move my head back and forth to be able to follow along, like some sort of conversational Stevie Wonder. I want to sleep so that I can be a nicer wife to my dear husband. I want to sleep so that I can be more patient with my children and have more compassionate coping mechanisms, instead of shoving E into the side of the tub when he accidentally leaned on B too hard in the bath and tipped her face first into three inches of water. He was at a weird angle and couldn't get the purchase to right himself. I panicked. She was starting to swallow water and was too slippery to grab out from under him so I just shoved him off of her and into the side of the tub. And it freaked him the fuck out. Rightfully so. They both screamed and cried for a solid, and head-splittingly loud, couple of minutes. I caressed her face and reassured her while I tried to apologize to E over the cacophony, amplified by the acoustics of the tub. All the while holding back tears of my own.

I am just too fucking tired. Things don't make sense. I'm naturally slow to process, being the introvert that I am, but these days...these days I feel like I'm not even processing. I feel like Lucy and Ethel in front of the chocolate conveyor belt, except that I gave up the Costco-sized bag of M&M's a few weeks ago so now my life is a less-delicious scurry to keep up. I forget things. I run stop signs (in my defense it was a sneaky one.) I have thrown more U-turns in the past few months than I have my entire life. For heaven's sake, last week I got turned around and didn't know what direction I was going in even though I was driving towards the mountains, which in this town are always to the west. I am in a sad and sleep-less state.

I'm not usually one to complain. I'm a problem-fixer. I pride myself in my ability to stop, identify the problem and then brainstorm possible solutions. And believe me, I've considered the solutions. In fact, I spent a week trying to "sleep train"* B. But this girl refuses to cooperate. She can clearly put herself to sleep because I've seen her do it. I've watched her fall asleep, completely and totally unassisted. But usually, I have to hold her down so that she doesn't flip over because she can not sleep on her stomach. We've tried. It does not work. And unfortunately, I do not have the endless hours to spend experimenting with her like I did with E. Back then, it was housework and the dog that fell by the wayside. But these days, these days there is a three year old that can entertain himself for only so long before he can no longer fight the urge to make sure that I am still alive. "Hey, buddy. No, I didn't die. I'm just trying to get your sister to sleep without me."

Where does that leave us? I realized with E that I do not have the heartlessness fortitude to let a baby cry it out. I can't do it. But I have let her cry while I brush my teeth and take out my contacts a couple of times and you know what? I'm pretty sure that CIO wouldn't work with her anyway. In those minutes that I stood in front of the mirror, trying desperately to identify the person staring back at me - she looks vaguely familiar - B's crying only intensified. It showed no signs of doing anything other than only getting more heart-wrenching. It's the betrayal, the recrimination, in her tears that cuts me to the quick.

I joke that in a past life we must have been twins separated at birth. Perhaps we were. Or perhaps I abandoned her. Perhaps in our own mother-daughter version of The Titanic, I left her behind. Or perhaps she left me to drown so that she could have the beautiful necklace all to herself and swore never to do it again, no matter how many lifetimes we spent together.

We are eight months in and if there's one thing I learned the first time around, it's that even though whatever stage you're in right now might seem endless, the one guarantee is that things will change.

What would the me in five years tell the me right now? To find a way to enjoy it. To get past the bone-tired and to enjoy this all-too-fleeting time. And maybe, for just one night, to give her some whiskey so that everyone can get some fucking sleep around here. The me in five years is probably crazy, so I wouldn't be surprised.

* I'd like to point out that it's been more than a month since this post. Just pointing it out.

12 comments to Pitty Party:

Geeks in Rome said...

I feel for you. So badly. I love the myth you've created about being twins in a past life. It's so cute and gives this craziness some sense.

I went thru the same thing with my daughter. She wailed constantly. I had to hold her in my arms constantly. We could never be apart, yet I worked and was able to get away from it for 8 hrs a day. the rest of the day and ALL night was "reattach the umbilical cord!"

Luckily she didnt weigh a lot so we just carried her all the time and I sucked it up and let her cling to me/suckle all night. When she got older (when she could understand what I was saying) I gave some limits.

The only thing that helped was having an iPod and I would go to bed with her and let her have my boob all night and I would listen to or watch my shows on the iPod. When I could I could sneak out to pee or eat or do a few things but in 10 minutes she was back screaming for me. No problem, back to 30 Rock!!

I cant remember exactly when all of this changed but it did overnight almost. You know it'll change. You just need to find coping strategies to deal with the neediness. For me it was going to bed with her at 7:30pm and sleeping in fits and starts.

You can always spend a night or two away and get some sleep at someone else's home. That's how we weaned both kids from wanting to nurse at night when they were no longer infants and switch them to water in a bottle.

Good luck!! Beware. Now that the kids sleep all night I stay up all night anyway, reading, surfing, socializing. I got too used to it. Not good.

hush said...

Sleep, precious sleep. Not happening at my house either. I don't have anything to say about a subject I so very clearly know jack shit about, other than the old ladies at your grocery store are probably on to something with the wives' tale of kid who won't sleep = smart.

Cloud said...

I don't have time to read and think deeply right now... but I wanted to tell you this: my first was a crappy, crappy sleeper for no reason other than she wasn't ready to sleep well yet.

She now sleeps through the night and goes to sleep on her own after a bedtime routine that I can live with for the forseeable future.

You are smack in the middle of one of the hardest times to sleep train. This is the time when separation anxiety hits full force. If B is already a bit clingy- well, my gentle advice (which you can totally ignore, but which is based on my own experience with Pumpkin) is to stop trying to fix that problem.

Start trying to fix the real problem- that you aren't getting enough sleep to function. Can your husband do one of the night time feeds with a bottle? Can he take both kids for massive long walks on the weekend so that you can sleep in (or nap- depending on the timing).

Look at the data you have and try to figure out how much sleep you need to feel human (for me it is 4 hours on uninterrupted sleep most nights). Then problem solve around how to get that.

You can come back and work on B's sleep in a month or two. It will be soooo much easier then. We were able to pseudo-nightwean Pumpkin down to one middle of the night nursing at about 11 months old. At 9 months old, she was still waking 5 times a night. If I look back on my whole sorry history of trying to "fix" Pumpkin's sleep, I only ever made progress in the "good" times identified in the Bedtiming book.

Good luck. I hope you get some sleep soon!

Cloud said...

OK, coming back having had time to read and think more carefully.

B sounds a lot like Pumpkin was. She was a very clingy baby. I remember crying about a note I got home from day care about how we needed to help her learn how not to be held all the time. They were right... but they also weren't. She was just a baby that wanted to be with someone ALL THE TIME. That made certain aspects of day care hard for her, and they were right to suggest we work on it. But I still held her as much as she wanted (and I could stand) when she was home with us.

As she got older, I could see why she was so clingy as a baby. She is a very social little girl. Now she plays on her own, and has finally settled on a comfort item other than my hair (that didn't happen until about 2 years old). But she is just a people person. And there are many aspects of that personality that are delightful in her. The sleep issues as a baby were not one of the delightful aspects.

Anyway, this is just to say- I feel your pain. I lived your pain! I just about lost it when Pumpkin was 9 months old or so, because I was so freaking tired. But I got through it, and so will you.

I stand by my earlier advice- problem solve on a different problem, the problem of how you need more sleep. You'll figure something out for that.

caramama said...

Oh, girl! How I feel your pain!

With my Pumpkin, she slept horribly from 4 months straight through 9 months. But I remember specifically at the 9 month point that she was up every. 45. minutes. all. night. long! My hubby and I took shifts, and I spent a lot of time sleeping in the glider/recliner when she wouldn't settle down next to me in bed.

Bright side is that after she was about 10 months, things got A LOT easier in the sleep department. Well, by her standards anyway.

I couldn't imagine having to go through that while having an older child.

If I lived anywhere near you, I would insist on coming over one night a week to give you a break, like my SIL did for me when we were going through the 6-month-growth-spurt nursing-every-hour-all-night-long hell. I slept in the basement, waking up once or twice to pump. Hubby stayed in our room to be there when the Pumpkin came in to cosleep. SIL gave the baby bottles of breastmilk when he needed it. I got to sleep in big chunks, and it was pure bliss.

Is there anyone who can give you a night or two to get through this time period?

nej said...

Thanks, ladies. Thanks for the support, the commiseration and the advice.

D tried to get B to sleep for what seemed like an hour but was probably only 20 minutes and she screamed the entire time. With no signs of letting up. So I don't know if that's going to work out for us. And then there's the whole doesn't-take-a-bottle thing, which I admit is totally my fault.

I know it'll change soon and I know that if it doesn't, once we get over this hump, we'll work on it some more. @Cloud is right - this is a terrible time to be trying any sort of sleep "training" and if I wasn't so out of it, I would have realized it without having to have the painfully obvious pointed out to me as if I was four (doh!) I don't know what I was thinking. Ah, I wasn't thinking. Because that requires brain power.

And @CaraMama, thanks for the offer to come take over for a bit. Just the thought warms my heart and reminds me that I'm in good company.

Cloud said...

Don't be hard on your self. Sleep deprivation turns your brain to swiss cheese.

If B won't take a bottle, I think I'd go the long weekend naps route. Heck, I went that route when Pumpkin was a baby, and she DID take a bottle. Hubby would go out for these mammoth (~2 hour) walks with her. He'd go out right after I nursed her, when it was time for her nap. She'd nap in the stroller, and I'd nap in my bed. I find that I need a good 1.5 hours to really make a difference if I'm as sleep deprived as it sounds like you are.

I'm not sure how it will work with an older kid, too- but I highly recommend it if you can figure out how to do it. I can still remember how great those naps were.

mom2boy said...

Yeah, what they said. Be gentle with yourself. It is a brain frying time. That you can string together a single coherent sentence much less a blog post is more than I could've done when Tate was B's age. And I didn't have a toddler to boot. I'm a wimp. You are wearing your sleep deprivation admirably. Hang in there.

Flo said...

I second mome2boy's comment about the coherent blog post. I'm really impressed with your ability to put words together in the right order like that given the sleep situation.

I do remember that time of no sleep and no time to myself. The hardest time of my life. Ever. You have all my sympathy and I'm cheering for you through cyber-space. It sounds like you're doing so well in such difficult circumstances.

caramama said...

How are you doing? How are things going? Any easier?

nej said...

@caramama - Thank you so much for coming back to check up on me. That is so very sweet of you. B is still not sleeping, and after making a few half-ass attempts at convincing her to do otherwise, I've just given in. It helps when I don't look at the clock and some nights, like last night, she sleeps for a much longer chunk (10:40 till 3something!) and I cling to that with a kung-fun ninja grip as proof that she's eventually going to start sleeping through the night, on her own, with little to no intervention on my part.

caramama said...

Hey, it could happen. You never know. My daughter certainly goes through phases when that happens. :-)

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