the sleeping thing.

>> 6.19.2013

So there was this time that I had a baby (you may have figured this out by now).

Before I had this baby, I had this general assumption that I would make his nursery so cute that you could post pictures of it to Pinterest and that we'd hang out in there a lot, and he'd sleep through the night by about 6 months or so, and nap fairly regularly and then when we wasn't sleeping in his crib in his nursery, we'd go out and do all sorts of fabulous things that you see moms and their babies doing.
Then I decided, well babies are supposed to wake up a lot in the middle of the night, so maybe we'll get a Moses basket for the first few months and he can sleep next to the bed where Daddy can change him and I'll feed him and then we'll lay him back down and go back to sleep and that might make things a little easier. So we bought a brand new basket with cute matching sheets and teddy bears, and got a little stand so that it would be even with the side of the bed and had everything set up for when I went into labor and brought said baby home.

Then came June 30, 2011. My water broke at 12:30 am, Jameson was born at 7:14 am, and we came home by 10:30 pm. I remember getting home and looking around at about midnight (after skyping with my sisters back in the States) and thinking, "So...what do I do now?" Then my mother suggested that we should probably go to bed, and I thought, "Oh yes, this is when I get to put him in that cute little woombie I bought and lay him in his brand new bed and go to sleep because I am so exhausted from being awake for over 24 hours and GIVING BIRTH."
So we changed him, zipped him up in his swaddle (after having a long and arduous discussion about how many layers he needed. The books all tell you to make sure they're really warm, but not too warm, but not too cold. So, that's clear.) and laid him down in his bed.
And he started to scream.
I looked at my mother and my husband with this dazed glaze over my eyes and said, "Well, that wasn't supposed to happen." So I picked him up and nursed him in bed, and kind of laid him down next to me while I waited for him to fall asleep. Next thing I know, it's 3 in the morning and he's screaming again (I remember it being the loudest thing I'd ever heard, but I'm sure that was because I was so tired and had never actually had a newborn baby lying next to me) and in my delirious state I ripped off his swaddle, thinking that he hated it and hurriedly tried to figure out how to work my nursing bra and get his mouth in the right place at the right time. And that's pretty much how the rest of the night went.
Hubs and I woke up the next morning in a complete and utter stupor, handed the baby to my parents for a few hours and tried to sleep as much as we could.

The next five days were fairly similar, with variations in the form of trying to get Jameson to sleep in his moses basket (the only way we could make that work was if Hubs slept with his arm on the edge of the basket and his pinkie finger in his mouth so that he could suck), trying sleep with the woombie, trying it without, drinking lots of coffee, drinking no coffee (it upset bebe's little system and made him so anxious he'd just cry for hours). It was, essentially, the most exhausted, emotional, exuberant, hellish five days I've ever been through.

Then my parents flew back home to America.

I remember hearing people say that in the beginning, you just have to do whatever it takes to make it work. You sleep however you can get it, whenever you can get it, but no one really explained how to get a baby to do that too. So we tried a bedtime routine (6:30 rolled around and he got a wipe-down, baby massage, and nursed to sleep) which ended with me trying to transfer him into his basket while rocking it and hoping that he'd settle in. Occasionally this worked, for about 45 minutes, at which point I would then go back in, nurse him down again, and start all over. By about midnight each night, we gave up on the basket and would end up just letting him sleep next to us.

When he was six months old, we traveled to America to visit family, and although my parents graciously bought us a toddler tent with an air mattress, the kid would have none of it and ended up in our bed for a consecutive five weeks. I told myself we'd start "sleep training" when we got back and then he'd sleep through the night in his own room and I could stop being so tired that I felt like I was going crazy. So we got back and we tried it. Started out laying him down in his crib after the bedtime routine. He'd sleep for an hour, I'd go in, nurse again, lay him down (and pray I could get him down without him crying. This happened maybe 25% of the time) and have another hour before he woke up. Again, at midnight I'd be so tired that I'd give up and he'd come in to our room.
By now I was getting the guilt trips and hearing that other people's kids were sleeping through the night, and it's so unhealthy for your baby to still be sleeping with you, and you're just letting him take advantage of your emotions because he's willfully acting out and so I broke down one night and bought Ferber.

We tried it for a week and a half and I cried every single night.
Not once did he EVER sleep through, and at the end of the week and a half we found out that he had another ear infection. So we gave up on that for awhile, brought him back in with us, and decided we'd try it again when he got better.
He healed, we decided to go with the Sleep Lady Shuffle. He cried for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT, with me sitting right next to him telling him I loved him, but I couldn't pick him up and singing "Jesus Loves Me" with my heart in my throat. Quit after the second night.

Finally, when Jameson was about nine months old, I reached the point where I literally thought I was going to have to be hospitalized for sleep deprivation and depression. I was so tired that I would forget what I was saying in the middle of my sentence and couldn't think rationally about anything. I'd break down in tears over everything. Nothing was okay, nothing felt right, and I felt like the world's largest failure as a mother--I mean, who can't get her kid to sleep?!

I remember the moment I decided that I was done with everything. My last sane thought was, "I have got to start sleeping, and it doesn't matter how that happens." It didn't matter that everything I thought I knew about co-sleeping was that it was indulgent, dangerous, and letting-my-kid-have-his-own-way. I told Hubs that I was giving up on trying to get Jameson to sleep anywhere other than with us and he said, "Okay". And Jameson's been with us ever since.

And here is why I am telling you this.
I am telling you this, because I wish someone would have told me all of this, waaaaay back at the beginning when I had all of those expectations of pretty cribs and seven straight hours of sleep.
If your kid will not sleep in a crib, you are not a failure.
If you want to cry every time bedtime rolls around because you feel like you have no idea what you're doing, you are not a failure.
If you are terrified of "the sleeping thing" with your second child that you are currently pregnant with, you are not a failure. (Oh good, because that's me).

The Mommy Wars are raging hard, and for some reason, the sleep thing is one of the biggest battles.
When I think about this, logically and rationally however, it boggles my mind.
Why does it matter where anyone else's kid sleeps? Why does it matter if my kid sleeps for seven hours straight a night, or only recently stopped waking up in the middle of the night even though they're almost two? Why does everyone have an opinion on this, when there are fact-based studies showing that co-sleeping can be completely safe (and even, *gasp* desirable) if done correctly?

Why did I spend almost a year feeling bad about myself for letting my kid sleep in my bed, next to his momma, where he felt the safest?

I'm not here to argue either side of this, but this post has been on my heart for a long time. I see so many new parents who are trying desperately to cover up how much they are struggling with all of this and it breaks my heart. You don't have to keep your newborn on a minute-to-minute schedule, you don't have to go out and buy BabyWise, you don't even have to look guiltily down at the floor when someone asks you how your baby is sleeping and you say, "Um, they're okay, you know, they're still a baby!" I just want to run up to those people and let them know that right now, staying sane is the most important thing of all, and if that means letting your kid sleep in your bed, then let your kid sleep in your bed.

And if your kiddo loves their crib, and is happy in there, and sleeps straight through the night, then that makes me so happy for you, momma. But please, remember, there are those of us out there whose babies just don't work the same way as yours, and as much as we loved that crib we bought and that nursery we decorated, we're just trying to do the best that we can.

4 thoughts:

Morgan June 19, 2013 at 2:30 PM  

Oh my goodness. I think this is something that EVERY mom learns at some point or another. The sooner the better! We're hard enough on ourselves--we don't need anyone else telling us the same things we tells ourselves all the time. The mommy-guilt is hard to squelch. Thanks for sharing Cami.
~Morgan
morganmotz.blogspot.com

Sarah Bolocan June 19, 2013 at 11:55 PM  

Not to mention there are many benefits to cosleeping... not just staying rested. We have been co sleeping since the beginning and Israel is now four. Sounds like you guys are gonna need a bigger bed!

Anonymous,  June 24, 2013 at 4:33 PM  

Great blog post. Don't get discouraged or let anyone down you as a mom! You are the best mom for your son and are doing a great job! These tough years will pass and leave only sweet memories of your baby boy. keep on truckin!

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