Saturday night: 

Who do I believe: myself, my partner, my baby, my own mom, my sisters who both have toddlers, the moms in my Mommy & Me group, other friends who have babies, the breast feeding community (book: Sweet Sleep), attachment parenting sleep styles (which means I have a baby barnacle attached to my nipples all night and barely sleep but is the path of least resistance) or the sleep training community (now my soul is dying)?

We nurse to sleep. Move Gia to her crib. Put her back all night long. End up bed sharing in the wee hours of the morning. Come up with a sleep plan we don’t follow because it doesn’t really work (The No Cry Sleep Solution, although I greatly respect this book and wish it would work better for us but Gia is just too persistent). Every night Gia’s sleep gets worse. I think I can’t take it anymore, only to be hit with a night worse than the one before. A typical night is bedtime routine at 6:30, nurse to sleep, put her down slightly awake at 7, she falls asleep, then is awake at 10, 11:30, 1:30, 3 – 4:30am, crying and laughing, then my alarm goes off at 6. I’m in a haze and my relationship isn’t fun anymore and I survive at work on coffee and have severe anxiety as nighttime approaches again. When she goes to sleep I lie in the dark listening for her first cry. I inevitably get confused, wishy-washy about our plan, passive-aggressive, and sometimes just plain aggressive in the middle of the night. I end up crying and nursing her in the bed, then getting ready for work in a bleary haze.

I know this is “normal.” I also know that the women in my group are NOT experiencing this. They’re still struggling with a few nights a week of difficulty getting the baby down or an extra night waking, but it’s nowhere near what we’re going through.

Did I hurt Gia with my “attachment parenting”? In my conviction to be there for her physically and emotionally, did I make her too needy? I’m terrified of this. I was such a sensitive kid, still am, and have so many serious attachment issues. Too many to even describe. Let’s just say I’m deeply insecure in my relationships. I have confidence in many areas of life, but on a personal level I’m impressionable, need a lot of reassurance, and also can be chaotic, both nasty and needy at the same time. I wanted to just love Gia and give myself to her completely so she never experienced this, but I’m slowly realizing that as far as sleep goes, both napping and nighttime, I haven’t given her enough autonomy and consistency to build her own confidence.

Yesterday I randomly texted a friend of mind who is also a psychologist. She’s someone I really look up to and trust. I don’t know her that well, but I know she’s happily married, is in recovery and therefore vulnerable but strong, and wouldn’t be okay with a harsh cry it out method. I thought she bed-shared because I’d seen pics of her and her sweet baby boy in bed together a few months ago. I asked her about it and explained what we’re going through, expecting her to reassure me that bed sharing is necessary and normal in our situation. But no, she said her boy has been sleeping in his own room for weeks thanks to a book called The Happy Sleeper and something called The Sleep Wave.

I literally grabbed the diaper bag and Gia and walked out of the house, drove to The Pump Station and bought this book. This morning I spent two hours reading it, taking notes and creating a plan, then the rest of the day reviewing things with J. We have to be on the exact same page or it won’t work. Already there are a lot of barriers – she wants to do bottles at night but I can’t produce enough milk for that. We can’t decide whether we’re ready to move Gia into her own room. Anyway, we came to some compromises and agreed on a plan.

Even bedtime, which is usually the only thing that works, has become a struggle. Gia cries after her bath and won’t settle down, a time that used to be fun and sweet for all of us. The Sleep Wave requires the same early bedtime we’ve been doing, but instead of nursing to sleep tonight, I nursed her and then we read to her. Then J took her to her crib and I made myself scarce. (This is because Gia is obsessed with breast feeding.) We let her cry for five minute increments. Every five minutes J went in and said the same loving confident mantra to her: “Time for sleep Gia, we love you, we’ll be right outside.” It took two cycles and then she went to sleep.

I can’t tell you what it does to me to hear her cry. I was in the kitchen crying myself. The distress and sadness I feel chips away at my soul. I swore I’d never ever do it. Gia needs help though. She’s just not sleeping. The past few nights she’s slept a total of like seven hours every 24 hours, no exaggeration. Even though she’s always in “bed” for 12 hours, she’s awake for most of it, then takes 30 minute naps during the day. The Happy Sleeper states that babies her age are ready to find their own soothing techniques. I know all there is to know about positive and negative sleep associations, ideal hours of sleep, nap schedules, nighttime routines, early bedtimes etc. I was beginning to want to throw it all away and just accept bedsharing for the next year or so, but even that stopped working for us. I was in a state of complete panic. I cried this morning when I woke up. I cried on the phone with my mother. I cried in front of Gia. 

Sunday night:

I woke up at 5am this morning confused. Then elated. It felt like Christmas morning but better.

After the sleep wave was over, J and I watched The Martian, ate frozen pizza, drank wine, I took a Xanax (not kidding), had ice cream, then fell into a deep sleep. 

I couldn’t wait to see my baby. I took her into the nursery where I’d been sleeping by myself and we had a sweet cuddly nurse. 

She was happy today and napped okay. Not great. Tonight’s sleep wave was harder than last night’s. I’m going to try to sleep now myself. Wish us all luck, and you other sleepless mammas out there, I’m sending you compassion and strength.

 

 

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