Sunday, April 25, 2010

Five Nights of Hell: A debriefing and retitling

It's been a little while since I updated about our sleep "training" or "learning" or whatever you want to call it. We all survived, with a few bruises. But I feel it's important to rename this experience to better reflect the reality of the situation. It was more like One Night of Hell, One Night of Uncertainty, a Few Nights of Vast Improvement and Pride in our Boy, a Bit of Regression, then Unpredictable Sleep Behaviour From Now On.

Many of the books and theorists on sleep training promise (literally) better sleep or even sleeping through the night after just a few nights. They focus on the initial transition from being rocked, nursed, or otherwise parented to sleep and sort of lead you to believe that if you can get through those first nights that you'll never have a problem getting your baby to bed again. The book I used as a guide (The Sleep Easy Solution) was forthcoming about some of the obstacles that might crop up: teething, illness, travel, a developmental milestone, mum going back to work. It recommends not starting sleep learning if any of these things are happening. It tries to reassure that if these roadblocks do occur that there might be some backward movement but that it shouldn't be like starting from scratch.

Well tonight is night 15 of our transition. After the initial five nights (which I have already blogged about) we had a few really great nights of no crying at all at bedtime - the most satisfying being one where I heard Sam yawn and drift off as I was leaving the room. But we've also had at least 2 more nights of complaining for almost as long as the first night's marathon.

There are legitimate reasons for this: Sam has cut two teeth since we started; had a stomach bug earlier this week; and now he has a cold. I'm not cruel. On the toothy nights we gave him acetaminophen well before bedtime to ensure that he would be comfortable (and for the record, both of those nights he went down beautifully - maybe Tylenol could be onto something!). When he had the stomach bug, which I have also previously blogged about, he got to spend a whole day cuddling with me and was so tired that night that he went down easy, but the next night when he was feeling better he was like: what the hell happened to all the cuddling?!? Last night because of his cold and coughing I also gave him lots of cuddles at bedtime and he fell asleep with me before I had a chance to put him down, so tonight I'm getting that rebound question again: Dude, wtf?

So there are two of the things on the list that are guaranteed to interfere with sleep progress. Next? Well we are all headed to Calgary this weekend (presuming that Sam's cold is all cleared up - because there can't be a worse torture for all involved than a baby with stuffed sinuses and a potential ear infection on an airplane). So there's travel - check! And I am heading back to work in about a week and a half. Check! Maybe he'll decide to start crawling in the next few days.

My return to work was one of the reasons we finally decided to move forward with sleep training. I will be working night shifts and Sam needs to know how to cope without me here to nurse him at bedtime and all through the night.

Overall, and considering all the other crap he's been going through, I think Sam has done incredibly well and we are very very proud of him. Nevertheless, the nights when he cries, these little recessions in the road to solid independent sleep, have been difficult for him. And me. He wonders why we are inconsistent in our responses to what he perceives as his needs. While I struggle with a balance between comforting my sick baby and undoing all the hard work he has put in so far. Knowing what is the "right" thing to do is baffling. At least I know now that he can go to sleep on his own, so when he complains about it I can reassure myself that he is upset not because I am denying him something that he needs but because I am denying him what he would prefer. It's a hard lesson, but I hope he is learning resilience while also knowing that when he really needs me (sick, uncomfortable) I am there.

Am I glad we did it? I never thought I could, and I used to secretly wonder how on earth any mother could. But, yes. It was tough but it was the right thing for our family, and that's the key. My advice to any parent considering sleep training is to weigh the pros and cons carefully, make a plan for how you will cope with the crying during the process (because once you've committed, it's important to stick with it and be consistent), and use the advice of others and books as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.


Here is another example of my superior mothering skills. Remember I said Sam has a cold? Well instead of running for a tissue I ran for the camera.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our first sick day

David caught the signs first.

Sign #1: Sam slept in until 6:40 am. What? Nevermind! Don't question it, just enjoy!

Sign #2: Not as playful in bed with us when I brought him in for some milk and a cuddle.

Sign #3: Projectile vomiting which David literally caught - or tried to - in his hands while reading to Sam before breakfast.

I was surprised that I didn't see it coming too (10 points for dad!), but I certainly made up for my maternal oblivion during the rest of the day. Dad build us a little sick-fort on the couch which consisted of an empty duvet cover laid down to protect the un-barfed upon cushions that remained, a couple of prefolds for extra absorbency if needed, comforts for Sam (his bunny and blanket), and comforts for me (laptop, a book, a cup of tea, the DVD remote). We were set for a day of cuddling and tummy-rubbing.

After barfing again (all over me this time) and having a temperature increase of almost a full degree in two hours, we decided to take him to the doctor just in case. He is after all only 6.5 months old and we were worried about dehydration, etc. His doctor was in today and we barely waited at all - so nice. MD said his ears and lungs are all clear so likely just a stomach bug. Had we introduced any new foods lately? Well Sam tasted formula for the first time yesterday but I don't think it's related. So just wait and watch.

No problem.

Not the sarcastic kind of no problem which really means What do you mean wait and watch?!? My baby is sick and I can't believe you are not taking this as the most serious and important case you will see today! It was genuinely no problem. I surprised myself a little by being so calm today. Six months ago when I visualized Sam's first illness, I was terrified. I worried that he was too fragile, and I too incompetent, to survive viruses and bacteria. Fast forward to this morning: after leaving the doctor's office I popped into the drugstore for Smarties. Yep. Not for infant Tylenol or a thermometer (ok, because I already have these things at home), but for Smarties. Because that's what my dad would buy me as a treat when I was little and sick. Of course, they weren't for Sam they were for me. It was kind of nostalgic.

So 10 points for me for being cool and calm enough to buy myself treats while my son lay limp and pathetic over my shoulder.

And another 10 - no 20! - for managing to catch round three of vomiting with a single burp cloth thus protecting Sam's jammies and the car seat. Even though it came with such force that some came out his nose. Oh the poor kid : ( He was retching and gagging the way an adult does when they are sick. Then he just slumped back in his seat all glassy-eyed and miserable. That was a bit hard to watch. No more stops along the way, we went straight home after that.

Luckily that was the last bout of puking. He continued to cling to me all morning and into the afternoon, but he was able to nurse and keep everything down. Later he played for a few short bursts, and by dinner time he had some colour back and was showing interest in solid food.

Now he is in bed and other than the occasional dry cough, we haven't heard from him. Though I fully expect it to be a rougher night than usual.

Here is an example of my superior mothering skills: taking photos of my sick kid while he is pale and lethargic. Can you hear the Smarties I am crunching behind the camera?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Five Nights of Hell Part 5: A bit of regression

I don't know if it's the teeth coming in, or the fact that he basically skipped his afternoon nap, or because it's the first Canucks' playoff game and he wants to ruin any fun we might have . . . but our poor little Sam has been whining and crying in his bed for about 20 minutes already.

David has gone up to give him some tylenol and a little cuddle. Mum is going to stay out of the room for a while so as not to insight his rage.

I'm trying not to feel horribly guilty as I sit here and watch hockey . . . will update later.


One hour and 25 minutes since Sam went down and he is still whining intermittently. Is he asleep in between these little vocal episodes. I'm too afraid to go check because if he is awake and he sees me he'll lose his shit for sure.

In other news, the Canucks are tied 1-all with the LA Kings.


Second period, and the score is 2-2. Also Sam is asleep and cozily tucked in. Little love :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Five Nights of Hell Part 4: No baby, no cry

Tonight is the fourth night of our new sleep routine. I'm very happy to report that Sam went into his crib tonight, tired but completely awake. He didn't complain at all; he actually seemed to be looking forward to it! I cuddled and kissed him and left the room and he did not cry a single tear. When I went to check on him about 25 minutes later he was fast asleep with his bunny by his side.

I heard him stir just now on the monitor but he has not asked for me and I think he's gone back to sleep on his own (if he woke up fully in the first place).

All of this despite the fact that he had his 6 month shots this morning and cut his first tooth this afternoon! My boy is such a trooper - I'm really proud of him.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Five Nights of Hell Part 3: Four minutes yo!

Seriously. Sam fussed for 4 minutes tonight before he fell quiet. I checked in on him about 15 minutes after that and he was fast asleep with his bunny in the crook of his arm. So sweet.

And such a relief that he didn't regress. I was a little concerned because we are not working on naps just yet (I can't handle him crying during the day as well as at night), so I still nurse or rock or walk him off to sleep for naps. I don't want to send him mixed messages but it would appear that daytime and nighttime sleep are different enough that he is not getting confused.

The rest of last night went incredibly well. I woke him to nurse at 11pm and he was awake afterward, but I put him in his crib, rubbed his tummy, kissed his head and - no joke - he fell asleep right in front of my eyes!! After his second feed at 3am he was asleep before his head hit the proverbial pillow. Unfortunately he was so well rested that he decided to wake up at 5:45. We let him fuss until 6:30 then finally got him up and started our day.

As a result, though I felt rested this morning, I am bagged tonight and am going to bed. No marathon posts tonight.

Thanks for checking in - I appreciate the support through this.

See you tomorrow night!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Five Nights of Hell Part 2: Convincing ourselves it's ok to continue

Good Evening again. Thanks for rejoining me tonight.

I'd like to apologize to anyone who I may have offended with my complaining or self-loathing over the past 24 hours - here and on FB.

Two things have occurred to me (or been brought to my attention):

1) I don't mean to make anyone feel bad if their baby sleeps well (or better than Sam). If yours does, please count yourself lucky and know that mums like me are jealous but we don't hate you. We just hope that your child needs expensive orthodontic treatment when they are older. JK :)

2) The guilt I am experiencing over this CIO process is my own reflection on how I feel as the mother of my particular baby, and not a judgment on other parents who chooses this method, even if they aren't as morally distressed about it as I am. Sarcasm and self-deprecation are just how I cope. Every family has to do what works for them. And since I am not your child's mother, I have no comment on how you help / teach your child to sleep. Or on any other parenting matter. Unless you beat them. That's not cool.

Recap of last night:

Sam cried for 116 minutes (until 9:10pm). I woke him up to nurse at 11:00 because we are still night weaning. He cried for about 30 minutes after that. I woke him again at 3:00 to nurse (It's been so long since I set my alarm clock that there is dust on the snooze button) and he fell right to sleep after that, no crying. I didn't hear from him in between the feeds and not again until 6:18 am! I can't remember the last time I didn't have to get up between 3 and 6 in the morning. I ignored him for a few minutes, and he might have drifted back off, but by 6:30 he was clearly up and so, then, was I.

I think the biggest success is that Sam did not wake up on his own during the night - or if he did, he went back to sleep without calling me.

This morning he did smile at me, like everyone promised he would. He didn't seem scarred or traumatized or hateful. He did not produce a particularly vengeful poop. He was very tired and definitely more sensitive to me being out of his site for the beginning of the morning. Of course, I projected my guilty feelings onto him, becoming certain that I had irreparably damaged our trust relationship. David said he felt the same way, so maybe it is just us.

Naps today were a challenge, unfortunately, since he usually naps like a pro. He was clearly a little skeptical of us and would not settle in the usual cuddly manner so I put him in the crib awake and he howled for an hour. After that I gave in and took him for a walk in the stroller where he promptly fell asleep for 2 hours. It was a beautiful day so I kept walking and we both got some good fresh air.

-- Here I will take a moment to recognize how we are lucky that Sam is generally a good napper, and that there are babies out there (Noah!) who sleep poorly both at night and during the day. To the mums of those babes, I apologize for complaining and I apologize that your babies hate you. --

Here's the update on tonight - and I apologize that it is not in "real time" like last night because before I had the chance to sit down and start typing, Sam fell asleep.


Mind you, it still took 43 minutes, but that is a far cry (ha ha) from last night's almost 2 hour marathon. By the time I had come downstairs, done the dishes, put the toys away, vacuumed the living room, and been distracted on FB for several minutes, it was all over. We waited for 15 minutes after the crying stopped to go check and sure enough, the Sandman had taken over.

The one thing I did when I checked in on him (despite the book saying "don't touch") is rub his tummy gently for a few seconds. I think it helped because he immediately quieted and stopped kicking his feet like he does when he wants me to pick him up. He even drifted his gaze off to the side like he might fall asleep. He still cried for a little while after that, but I think it helped him relax and give in to sleep sooner than last night. Just goes to show that the books on sleep training may be a good resource but they are not biblical; we know our babies best and can choose to adjust the "rules" as we need to.

So now he sleeps, and both mum and dad feel supreme relief that tonight was an improvement. We were really stressed over last night and had discussed for how long we were willing to continue this "sleep learning" plan. Our limit was 3 nights. If the crying didn't lessen and the sleeping didn't improve we were going to call it off and beg Sam to forgive us. Probably regress to having him sleep in bed with us and let him stay there until he is 12.

My final thought for tonight also came from our conversation today (read: desperate rationalization for torturing our child). Whether this crying business works or not, being distanced or denying Sam our presence and comfort while he learns how to fall asleep on his own is simply one skill-teaching technique that we are trying for this specific issue. It is not a parenting style that we are adopting. David and I are loving, devoted, attached parents and we show him that every day in multiple ways. He will not remember us as those assholes who wouldn't pick him up a few nights in a row.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five Nights of Hell Part 1: There is no No-Cry in this sleep "solution"

We have been having sleep issues with Sam. To say the least.

He is 6 and a half months old and still does not sleep through the night. Not even the kind of "sleep through the night" that authors on baby sleep warn you is only 5 hours. ONLY?!?

I'd love 5 hours!
Sam sleeps for 3.
Or 3 and a half.
Or 4 and 15 minutes (once in a while).
Or 2 and a half.
Or 45 minutes (thankfully this is also rare).

On occasion (and usually for several nights in a row) he will sleep for 3.5 hours then be up for 2. Like between 11pm and 1am, just when we would love to be going to bed. He enjoys following these kinds of nights with a 6am wake up.

I think he hates us.

We kept waiting for that magical age of "sleep maturity" when babies start sleeping longer and longer chunks of time. We are still waiting. And being forced to listen to other parents sing the praise of their 6-hour, 8-hour, 10+ hour sleeping babies. This is particularly frustrating when
a) their babies are younger than Sam, or
b) they still complain about their baby's poor sleep pattern.

Because are you serious? I have not had longer than 4 hours of consecutive sleep in over 6 months!!!

And we don't know what to do. Some people would say that we have done this to ourselves by letting him sleep with us when he was young, by letting him nurse to sleep, by holding him too much. I don't really believe that any of that is true because I know many mom's who are just as attached and who have fallen into similar "accidental" parenting traps (re: nursing to sleep), and their babies sleep like proverbial babies.

So what is it about Sam that makes him such a night-wakeful baby?

It's not that he wakes up hungry, because we are able to rock him back to sleep without a feeding. His room is not too cold or too hot. He's not teething. Yet. He has good naps during the day. We have a predictable bedtime and bedtime routine that we all enjoy.

We've tried Elizabeth Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution: The ever-baffling advice to put your baby down drowsy but awake and let them learn to fall asleep on their own. The goal is to teach the baby to soothe himself to sleep initially so that when he wakes up in the night he does not need our help to go back to sleep.

Pantley's take on this involves getting the baby sleepy but not asleep,
putting him to bed,
then if he fusses or cries, pick him up and soothe him until he is drowsy again,
repeat as many times as necessary.

Sam's take on Ms. Pantley's strategy:
get drowsy in mum's arms (this is nice),
realize that she is putting me down and startle immediately awake (hey, what?!?),
look at mum, smile, kick my feet playfully (this should work :),
realize that she isn't going to pick me back up,
get picked up again and repeat as above, until . . .
wait, I get what's happening here and I think it eff-ing sucks,
now I'm going to continue to cry even when mum picks me up,
now I'm going to get hysterical,
now dad has taken over, but he is offering nothing new so I'm going to continue to cry hysterically until I pass out from exhaustion.
Two hours later I will wake up anyway.

Mum and dad are frustrated and feel guilty that Sam basically cried himself to sleep despite the so-called No-Cry strategy. Sam has learned precisely no self-soothing skills. Everyone is exhausted. So now we are here: part one of five nights of hell (hopefully fewer than that). Sam has been upstairs crying in his crib for 30 minutes. PLEASE DON"T JUDGE ME!! Especially if you are my mother-in-law and you are reading this.

How did we get here? Six and a half months; 26+ weeks; 200-ish days of no good quality sleep!!! And it's not just us. Sam has dark circles under his eyes. He's rubbing them after he's been up for only an hour. The child is chronically tired.

Nothing has helped him sleep longer. He slept in bed with us for the first 10 weeks of his life, then in a co-sleeper beside us for another 6 weeks, then in his own crib in his own room. He has been eating solid foods for a month now. I top him up generously before bed. We have a white noise machine. And a fan. He has a nightlight. He has a favourite stuffed bunny. Nothing helps. He has never slept well. Never.

(It's now been 45 minutes - David is doing a check - there are still furious tears sounding from upstairs)

We finally weaned him off off nursing to sleep (thanks in large part to David who was willing to do the first few hard nights of rocking whilst denying Sam his nipples). Now he drifts off easily with a soother in our arms. We introduced the soother with the goal of anyone other than me being able to put Sam to bed. This was an important achievement because I have to go back to work soon and will be working mostly nights, so Sam has to be able to settle with his dad.

Even though he goes down easily, he continues to wake up a truckload of times in the night and the bigger problem still exists: we are all pooped. So we have moved on to "crying it out".

I cringe even to write that. I hate the idea. I never thought I would do it. It goes against everything that I thought about myself as a mother. I fear (irrationally) that it will undo all the attachment that Sam and I have developed; break his trust in me. They say that after 6 months it is ok to do CIO if that's your choice - that the trust bond is well established by then - and there is little (if any) evidence to indicate that crying for a few nights causes trauma, but I still feel like a dick.

I have not cried yet. I did earlier in the day while I was thinking about all this. But now that we are actively in it, I'm feeling kind of numb. Except not really. My chest is tight and there is a lump in my throat that would come out in one big fat sob if you asked me how I am doing.

(one hour - my turn to check) We have a 90 minute cut off. If he's not asleep we bail on the plan and have created all this stress
for nothing, so please Sam, be asleep by then. It's bad enough that I'm making you cry, at least don't have it be for nothing.

I'm going to go read someone else's blog for a while so that I don't have to think about my poor neglected baby upstairs.


(68 minutes in and he sounds like he is loosing steam. I am a terrible evil mother.)


(85 minutes and he is no longer crying, just complaining quietly. Maybe that's because he has lost his little voice. Sob.)


We've reached the 90 minute mark. Sam is still wide awake and complaining, but not so much crying. We've decided to continue and see how it goes. It would be such a shame to give up after putting him through all this . . . but seriously, if we get to 2 hours and he is still awake, he is clearly not ready to self-soothe . . .


(112 minutes - we can't believe he is still awake! He is definitely down to a quiet whine now, but still.)


Ok, Sam is asleep. I just checked on him and gave him his bunny and covered him with his blanket and kissed his sweaty little head. And cried a little. It took 116 minutes, but we made it through the first night of hell. I'd call this a success if I didn't feel like such a douchebag.

And my boobs hurt.

Thanks for being with me through this. See you tomorrow night . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

Excuses and Promises

I have the perfect storm of characteristics to be a shitty blogger. I'm a slow writer to begin with and this is compounded by my interminable editing (I've already re-written this sentence four times). Also, I am easily distracted by the vast interWeb and it's infinity of shiny objects. F.aceb.ook is particularly detrimental to all things productive that I might otherwise do out here. Finally, I'll be honest, I'm a little lazy.

The thing is, I really enjoy blogging. And ask any of my friends, I am never short on thoughts or shy to share them. In fact, lately I have found myself drafting blog posts in my head. Of course they are all brilliant. And often lost (to distraction, laziness, etc.) before I ever get them typed out. I have several scribbled ideas strewn throughout the house which will one day make it on here if I don't bury them forever beneath unread magazines, unchecked-off lists, and unredeemed coupons.

It's not that I'm a procrastinator. Not entirely. The important stuff gets done on time: the bills are always paid; the baby is always fed; I usually shower before noon.

It's just that there are only so many hours in the day. It's not fair to be on the computer while Sam is awake, and the lists of things to do once he is down for a nap is already too long:

make baby food
make adult food (although David really does most of the cooking now - thanks, babe)
go to yoga
go for a run (this one is oft neglected)
take a nap too (this one is oft indulged)
put off thinking about / looking in to child care for Sam - Ack!!
tidy up
clean the litter boxes and inevitable puddle of cat pee on the garage floor (topic for another post)
help with the family business
review strata business (I will not be on our strata's council again next year!)
online banking and work the family budget
once in a while read a book or one of the many magazines in my stack
plan my BFF's pre-wedding fun
check my email
get distracted on FB

Then, when the kid is in bed for the night there is kitchen and general clean up to do, baby food to defrost for tomorrow, breasts to pump, maybe American Idol to watch, and on occasion I like to have a bath or, y'know, spend some time with the husband.

So as a consolation for this excuse-ridden post, here is a short list of topics I've been meaning to blog about and promise to soon:

my love-hate turned hate-hate relationship with cloth diapers

inspirational women out there who blog too

how naps have ruined my social life

why Sam has the best dad (and I have the best husband) out there

my imminent return to work and how that is wreaking havok on my psyche

how I miss being pregnant

a guest blog from Sam's dad

first-time mom syndrome (or maybe it's just me)

the SLEEP ISSUE (I might actually right this one tonight between 12:30 and 2:00 when Sam decides that it's party time)

oh yes, and the explanation for the cat pee on my garage floor (though really there is only one explanation, and you guessed it, the cats pees on the garage floor)

Since this has already taken me an hour to write (slooooooow . . .) I will call it here and go spend some time with my awesome husband before he gets too deep into Fable 2 and I lose my opportunity.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


It's Easter Sunday . . .

. . . and if I can indulge in an aside only 3 words into this post . . .

Eff-you, you snobs at Westlake High School in 1995 who made fun of me for referring to Easter Sunday and Easter Monday - "What, do you have Easter Tuesday in Canada too? Ha ha!" Way to make the new Canadian girl in class feel welcome, assholes! And you know what, you flaky twats? Jesus rose after three days. THREE! From Good Friday to forget-it's-a-religious-holiday-and-continue-on-with-your-hypocritical-lives-Saturday is one day. To oh-we're-Christian-again-Sunday is two days. To Easter Monday is three DAYS! He rose. We eat ham. You're just pissed because my French was better than yours.

. . .

And that's certainly not how I intended this post to go, but sometimes you have to just let those pop-into-your-head-thoughts out. On the internet. For all to read and judge. Well, who am I kidding, I have 4 followers.

I was actually going to post about how peaceful and lovely my house is at the moment with David out and Sam napping. I was going to wax poetic about the joys of parenting and what a lucky wife and mother I am. But I don't think I can do that now. It might seem forced and somehow disingenuous.

So instead, here are some recent pictures of the boy. He is cuter than any baby those girls in high school who teased me will ever have.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Island vacation . . . well, kind of.

Sam and I were generously invited to Vancouver Island with Auntie Christine this past week. It was Sam's first experience on the ferry and in Victoria (though he slept in his stroller through most of the sites).

Sam on the ferry

Harbour seal looking for a snack

The Legislature

Waiting for the ferry home

The weather was very nice and Spring: cool but sunny. Sam diligently took his naps in the stroller while Christine and I cruised around the waterfront and downtown. In order for Sam to be in bed on time, our evenings at the B&B were spent sipping wine, eating take-out and watching American Idol. Seriously relaxing :)

Thank you Auntie Christine for thinking of us and I'm sorry we didn't win the 649 on the Wednesday night.