Friday, June 19

Exile in Momsville & the light at the end of the tunnel

Life has been anything but normal the past few months. We are still very much in the fog of baby-induced sleep deprivation. And with Noah being 4.5 months old now, and still waking every 2 hours at night, well, that's a fairly big sleep debt we've accumulated.
It's pretty much impossible to feel normal under such circumstances.
But! Two nights ago, out of complete and utter desperation, we had an unplanned impromptu sleep training session (more on that below). And last night Noah had his best sleep ever! So things are starting to look up around here. And I am just praying to God that this is a turning point and not just a fluke one-night stand in Sleepsville.

Read more after the jump....

The funny thing about having a second baby is that although this time around you are prepared, you know what to expect, and you vow not to make those same mistakes again... Somehow, despite your best efforts and intentions, you find yourself stuck in those same old patterns again.

This is how it was for us with Noah's sleep.

Noah was born an amazing sleeper. He literally slept for the first 4 weeks of his life. At around 3 weeks old someone asked me what colour his eyes were and I honestly couldn't answer. We had barely seen them!

But as that magical newborn sleepy dust started to wear off, Noah began needing more and more help falling asleep. And because we were exhausted, and because he was so young and innocent, we obliged.  We bounced him and shushed him and held him in our arms, and delicately lowered him down into the bassinet, fast asleep. Again. (I blame the reflux - it totally threw us for a loop!)

And from deep inside I kept hearing a voice reminding me "put your baby down awake so he can learn to fall asleep on his own".
Shut-up, voice!
And even though I knew this to be true from previous experience, the thing is that in those sleep-deprived newborn moments it is just so hard to do that. To keep the big picture in mind. You need sleep and you need it NOW. So you do whatever quick-fix solution works best for your baby... and then the weeks and months roll by, and there you are entrenched in your bad sleep habits, with a 4-month old baby who can't fall asleep without you. Exile!

We had planned to sleep train Noah at 5 months, if things hadn't improved on their own by then. At 4.5 months he was still nursing every 2 hours around the clock. It would take us 15-20 minutes of bouncing/shushing to get him to sleep each time. And that would only get us a 30-minute nap. I was exasperated and exhausted. On bad days I would cry my eyes out on the kitchen floor and believe that I might just actually be clinically depressed.

Ironically, the worse the night Noah would have, the bigger his smiles would be the next day. Like he knew... "Mamma's going to be mad, I better bring on the cuteness real hard today", and boy would he ever deliver! Look at that face!
It's his saving grace.

But two nights ago, shit hit the fan.

I had had an exhausting day with Noah, with missed naps and too many tears out of both of us. So Adrien kindly took the bedtime shift and was attempting to put Noah to sleep while I gave Zachary his bath.
After about 45 minutes, a beaten-up Adrien barged out of the room saying, "That's it! He's going to have to cry for a bit". He had probably put Noah to sleep about 30 times by this point - each time he'd lower him into the crib Noah would arch his back and scream in protest. Only to fall asleep instantly in his arms again.
"Okay, okay, I'll take over", I said.
But Noah just kept doing the same thing. He would only sleep in my arms, with me walking/bouncing him around. Even if I tried holding him while sitting he would scream. There was nothing I could do. I had another child I needed to attend to. Enough is enough.
So I put him in his crib screaming, kissed him on the head and walked out.

"You're right" I said to Adrien, "This is ridiculous. He's going to have to cry".

And so, we just let him cry. And he cried and cried for 40 minutes, and then finally his cries started to change to those sweet raspy noises he always makes just before he falls asleep. And finally, he slept. The next wake up I nursed him (he looked so happy to see me, poor little guy!), and then it took him 20 minutes of crying to fall asleep. Then 15 minutes. At 4am he couldn't fall back asleep, and I didn't have it in me to hear him cry anymore. So I slept beside him in the bed (that's not how you're supposed to sleep train - you're supposed to be consistent - but we were winging it, and frankly, I didn't really care at that point, I just felt he had cried enough and we both needed some deep sleep).

The next day, Noah was as happy and smiley as ever, and things just continued to get better and better (except for one skipped afternoon nap which was just an epic fail all around). And then last night he fell asleep after only 5 minutes of crying at 7 pm. And I only fed him at 10pm and then again at 2am. That was it. And for us, that is AMAZING!

And this morning, I put him in his crib for his nap and walked out. And there were no tears. None. He made his raspy noises and then fell asleep 3 minutes later.

The best part about sleep-training (once it starts working) is the incredible liberation that follows: You suddenly have SO much more free time. Since you're not taking 30 minutes (or 40, or an hour!) to get your baby to sleep. You just plop them down in their cribs and walk out. The rest is up to them. That is what freedom looks like, my friends. And it is nothing short of revolutionary.

And then you sit back and watch over the baby monitor as your baby happily talks himself to sleep, while you drink a (gasp!) still hot coffee in silence. Well you know then that you've done the right thing. You know that the brief amount of pain was well worth the reward. You know that you will be a better mother now that you are finally getting some rest. That every single member of your family is in a happier place now because of this.
Hallelujah! You did good.

So tonight I'll be opening a very nice bottle of bubbly because my exile is OVER.
I can see the light, and I can taste the freedom. And oh does it ever feel good!


Natalie said...

Finally catching up on my fave blog ;)

I know that for some, letting them cry it out seems too rough and disturbing to their attachment but for me, a person who NEEDS sleep in order to not fall into a deep depression, I worry more about what NOT sleep training/letting her cry it out sometimes would have done to her sense of safety and security. Yes, in the moment it feels awful but the way I see it, its either 30mins or so of ruptured attachment or prolonged exposure to a depressed mom which would be far more damaging... But really, in the end, I think as long as we're always just trying our best (which you clearly always are), they'll pick up on that and feel loved and happy and develop beautifully as a result.

Kisses to that adorable little monkey, these pictures melt my heart <3

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