There is so much beauty in the truth being spoken. It is in the truth that we can accept grace. It is in the truth that we can identify with others. Without knowing the real experiences of others, we are so often left to think we’re alone in our challenges. I am able to share my truth because I know I’m not alone. Thanks to the vulnerability of those women in my life who’ve gone before me, I have felt supported.
So, here’s how I’ve been. Since most loveoirs readers are close enough with me to know, this will not be completely new information. For some, it will. Parenthood is hard! Now I realize that’s not news. But, the extent to which these past few months have worn on me might surprise some. After the first few weeks, Miles began waking every two hours and usually had at least one of those waking periods last for several hours. This meant that on good nights I would sleep 3-4 hrs of segmented sleep. To top it off, even if both boys were sleeping at the same time, I couldn’t nap most afternoons because the unit next door to ours had remodeling work taking place. Also, the neighbors on our other side have frequently been loud until 11pm and unwilling to change their ways despite our (kind!) requests. To say I was going looney is an understatement. I have had frequent headaches. I have had many days when I feel like I’m rocking on a boat. I have heard my babies cry in my head, even though all was well. I have left the oven on. I have nearly overboiled a pot of water. I have avoided driving many days because I knew I wasn’t safe. I am constantly echoing Anne Lamott’s famous cries of “Help me, help me, help me!” and sometimes I sound like a sailor.
Emotionally, I have had intensely difficult moments of wondering why I had ever become a mom, let alone to two children. I have had enormous guilt about how Charlie has suffered because of needing to put Miles first so frequently and how long getting Miles down for a nap could take…all while Charlie was left to watch DVDs or play computer games or, let’s face it, tear apart the house. I have had a short fuse. I have lashed out at Harry for no reason. I have been quick to anger with Charlie for his normal, healthy three-year old developing ways. After a night of decent sleep, I feel much better and these feelings fade. A bad night, I’m right back there. And I can’t get enough chocolate and coffee. I am experiencing all the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression but they are completely dependent on how rested I am.
Since Miles’ sleep, both daytime and nighttime, is not improving dramatically, and my ability to cope is rapidly deteriorating, Harry and I decided to use drastic measures. Last Saturday night, Miles was unable to be soothed to sleep. We tried for five hours and finally got him down at 12:45, only for him to wake at 5. We have a very similar night again last night, extreme difficulty soothing him to sleep and he was up at 3:30 until 6. And when I mean extreme difficulty soothing, picture Harry and I doing deep, rapid squats for hours because an up and down bouncing motion is the only thing that will calm him. I am beginning to have legs of steel to prove it. We simply can’t keep it up, though. We are worn out, physically and emotionally. Something’s gotta give.
Since Charlie has had significant sleep needs (eg, longer hours than most kids his age and a very regular schedule), we’ve been able to realize that Miles is also particularly sensitive to sleep deficits. He has simply not been able to handle all the times his naps have been cut short due to us being out and about while he’s sleeping and this was exacerbated by his difficulty falling asleep at night. It’s a vicious cycle. Seeing Miles fight so badly against what he really needed was our sign that we couldn’t get him the rest he needed. He needed to learn to do it. So, we have started to let him cry. This does not mean crying all night long, but rather to his first sleep. I am more than happy to feed him in the night and will gladly continue to do so for many more months. Geez, take a look at the kid. It’s obvious I am more than happy nurse him.
Anyways, this has been ridiculously hard for many reasons. It goes against every parent’s desire to comfort their crying baby. It subjects Charlie to more intense, frequent crying and often competes with his appropriate bedtime. Charlie has already had a really tough time with the adjustment to being big brother, but having a high maintenance younger brother has only made that worse. We are having to proactively fight against some challenging and heartbreaking behaviors related to his anxiety. Plus, Miles hasn’t been quick to learn and we’re often having to change poopy diapers, which sabotages his learning all the more.
My attachment parenting friends might be horrified to hear that we’re letting a baby cry. I would’ve been horrified to hear this, too, until I experienced Charlie’s horrid sleep from months 5-9 and saw how it impacted our family, Harry and my marriage, and my general ability to enjoy motherhood. Once Charlie learned how to sleep on his own we ALL were much happier. Charlie wouldn’t fight bedtime and he’d often even request naps by leaning towards the crib. He knew he needed it. But, Charlie was 9-months old! Miles is only nearly four, which has made this all the harder. Basically, it’s awful and I would never wish this on anyone.
So, if you see Harry, Charlie, Miles or I, give us an extra hug and a kiss. Pray for us. Come play with us. Come hang with us. Send us an email. Call us. We need all the love we can get right now. And thank you for being gracious enough to hear our truth and know we’re trying to do what’s best for our family.