Unofficially, the current photo would involve pinkeye.
09 December 2013
The winter is bringing changes, and all of them are affecting our nights.
Our sweet son stopped sleeping through the night almost a month ago. He is on the cusp of sitting up, rolling over, teething, and eating solid foods, and that combination is a volatile one as far as affecting the normal routine. T wakes up between three and five times a night now, and it is unpleasant, to say the least.
During the day, the baby remains an absolute joy. He smiles and giggles, and he tries so hard to sit up. The rolling over is more of an offhand maneuver, but it will come soon enough. I fear that teething will not come soon, so it might be a couple more months of drooling and gumming on anything he can cram in his mouth. As far as solid food goes, I’m excited to start. I know he’s young, but he’s been increasingly hungry at daycare (which might explain why he wakes up at night to eat now), and I cannot pump any more than I already am. Maybe solid food will help.
24/25 December 2014
The middle of Little Bear’s first night away from home, and it’s… okay. He is restlessly dozing in my arms. I am slowly rocking my weight from hip to hip as I stand, awake from sheer determination. I’m glad that there will be plenty of other people to hold him Christmas Day, but I know that his eat-play-sleep routine will be hard-pressed by the overstimulation. The rest of the year may involve a lot of re-training.
11 January 2014
It is 01:46 in the morning. Little Bear has just fallen back asleep for the seventh time since being put to bed at 20:00. Considering that last night lasted only about five hours and that both LB and I are recovering from a week of illness, you can imagine that tonight’s restlessness is not serving me well. This is the latest in a string of “worst night yets”. I know I endured some terribly disrupted nights during leave, but somehow they had less impact on my psyche than these recent ones. I mean, it’s the weekend and I could nap whenever tomorrow, yet I am tearfully begging LB to please sleep for longer than an hour at a stretch. Because let’s face it, napping “whenever” really means only “whenever the baby also deigns to nap”.
In hindsight, I was probably setting myself up for this misery. He slept through the night by two months, and for the next six or seven weeks, nights were blissful. Most of that bliss was during leave, of course, but it did allow me to get some much-needed sleep for and during my first couple of weeks back at work. Once Little Bear started into his next growth spurt, this was all shot to hell. By the time it seemed like he was probably through the spurt and could be gently coaxed back to full nights, the holidays kicked in, and the effort seemed overwhelming. Since November, it’s been a veritable perfect storm of routine-wrecking circumstances.
I ended the year with enough PTO to luxuriate in a couple days off each week through December. At first, I thought this was great. After a couple of weeks, I realized that LB’s capacity to cope with variable waking times and vague daycare hours was not strong. With no firm routine, his nights remained off the rails, and every other week or so brought a new “worst night yet.” I started trying to standardize his mornings, despite my serious desire to sleep in when he’d let me. But Christmas, and his first overnight stay elsewhere, essentially blanked the slate.
The week after Christmas was my last hope. I had a five-day weekend culminating in New Year’s Day. If ever there was a time to risk sleep deprivation for the sake of future rest, this was it.
So we decided to transition him to his crib.
Why was this the priority? Honestly, it just felt right. There were a couple of particularly rough nights, and the Pack-and-Play just seemed like the bulky elephant in the room. As much as the night feedings were tiring, I had various reasons for maintaining them as the baby desired, and I’d adjusted to them (as long as LB stuck to a nice every-three-hours rhythm). So we decided to get him used to his crib as the gods intended it to function, as opposed to a temporary play pen.
This went pretty well. He cried less each night, and I managed to get to spend increasing portions of my nights in our bed instead of the futon in the nursery. I worked up to a full night of (albeit feeding-interrupted) pillow-top bliss. I prepared to go back to work and the five-day weeks that entailed. But Mother Nature had other plans, and I ended the week with two snow days instead.
We tried again the following Monday, only for LB to bring home a stomach bug from daycare. He was down with it Tuesday. I succumbed Wednesday (hey, how not fun is caring for a sick baby while you are also sick, huh?). We both recovered from the unpleasant symptoms, but Bear clung to his fever all week and couldn’t return to daycare.
Finally, he was ready. And boy, was I ready, too. I was finally free of my desire to stay home and be cozy and instead desperately desired the “solo” time work would bring. Thanks to a tip M found on Reddit (teething babies like an inclined mattress), the week got better and better, with LB going as long as five hours before waking.
16/17 January 2014
We move forward, we fall back.
He had such a good time this evening. He smiled and giggled and played with his toys and drank in the sight of his parents. He went to sleep a bit later but easily. And then he woke up roughly every twenty minutes for the next four hours. I don’t know how exactly he knows which nights are the absolute worst for me, but he’s a whiz at it. If I’m sleeping horribly, coming down with a cold, trying to shake an all-day headache, you can be sure that Little Bear has decided to sleep even worse than I.
There are times when I perform the dark-of-night dance in a fog of semi-consciousness, later wondering how I didn’t drop him. And there are times when I’m roused to alertness immediately, kept there for hours, cursing aloud in the dark, ostensibly to him but really to my own exhaustion. And, often, times when I get him to sleep finally, lay down, and feel guilty for being angry or upset, then climb back out of bed to touch his sweet fuzzy head, and reassure him (and myself) that I’ll be more tolerant next time. That despite the effects of sleep deprivation, I will rise above and be endlessly gentle and patient even as I slip further into exhaustion.
Since he cannot do the midnight feedings yet, M has taken upon himself more and more of the work around the house, cooking, tidying, following the routine. I am so grateful and overjoyed when I come home and only have to worry about feeding Bear and getting ready for bed. However, I find one of the worst consequences of these terrible nights is my increasing impatience to leave this age/stage behind, even though everyone tells me I’ll miss it so much. The responsibility for getting through the nights weighs on me. I wish that all of M’s hard work and support instantly mitigated the effect of the toughest sleep trials and gave me superhuman endurance. I wish these worst nights didn’t stretch before me as the loneliest moments.
18 January 2014
Here we are again.
This is unusual for Little Bear. Usually, his worst nights occur singly in between relatively good nights. For some reason, however, he is waking every hour or so. I am grateful that it’s at least not every ten minutes, but I am starting to develop a resentment of tucking myself back in after he goes back to sleep. What’s the point, when he’ll just wake again right when I drop off? Right now, it’s really just because I’m having trouble staying awake. Otherwise, I might go full insomniac rather than continually attempting truncated naps.
04:30, and M finally had to come take over. The baby has been awake for an hour and a half, which is really unusual. I am curled up in our bed for the first time in two weeks, and all I can think is that the library opens in five and a half hours, and I can pick up the baby sleep book I requested. I am determined to curb this (lack of) pattern.
20:10 and good friends are visiting. It’s wonderful to see them, but I’m prioritizing naps, so when LB shows signs, even as late as 6 p.m., I follow them. I figure he won’t sleep more than half an hour, then he’ll be up and playful and ready for a last feed and bedtime right on schedule.
Two hours have passed since I got him to sleep, curled up next to me on our bed. I’ve slept, too, which is probably the biggest reason I was reluctant to rouse him despite the time. I’m thinking of how messed up the night could be after this. But Little Bear shifts and raises his face toward mine, clutches my shirt in his hand, and sighs in his sleep. I let the rest of it go, accept the possible consequences, and revel in the knowledge that the only thing more beautiful than my son is his father.
These are the best and worst times. They are lonely and love-filled, desperate and determined. Each night seems unendurable, but each morning reminds me that I am more resilient than I previously knew. I am not foolish; the sleep deprivation cannot go on indefinitely, or nor will I be able to. But the baby learns, and he will adjust. As he mastered rolling, sitting, and eating mush from a spoon, he will figure out how to sleep as he once did. I have every confidence in the abilities of this tiny, growing being. Of course, I’ll be backing that up with sleep training, effective immediately.
Don’t worry, kid. You can do it. So can I.