July 26, 2010

Sweet Dreams

I suppose in the spirit of brutal honesty I should run through my parenting philosophy… And what do I know, really? However, if I am going to admit my mistakes here I should at least start by saying: “I knew better. I did not take my own advice…and I knew better”

• I believe the housework and laundry can wait – My kids, building forts, making messy arts and crafts, going to the pool or park, getting ice cream, reading stories, just sitting on the floor watching the girls while they play and just about anything else we can think to do together comes first.
{And - If you judge me by the cleanliness of my house versus my devotion to my girls, you can hit-the bricks – Cause I don’t need or want someone like you in my life!}

• I do not believe in the family bed – No judgment on my part if you do. It works for some families. But of my close friends who either have a family bed by choice or by accident – They are all currently wondering how in the world to put an end to this sleeping arrangement – I would rather avoid the fight all together by never starting a habit that needs to be broken…
{Yes, I am aware that I am at this very moment writing about fighting a monster that I CREATED!}

• I do not believe in always saying “Yes” – I try live by the motto: "If we meet all our children's needs all the time, they will not develop coping strategies of their own." 
{Again, I am not judging you if you cannot say “No” to your child – What works for me, does not necessarily work for you, and does not need to. I do not claim to have all the answers or be doing this whole parenting this right by any stretch!}

• I believe kids fall down -- I believe kids should fall down -- And I believe if you never let anything happen to your kids, nothing will ever happen to your kids.
{But NO, I would not let my girls do anything overtly dangerous!}

• I believe adventures are more important than clean shoes or clothes – Okay what I am really saying is I believe in getting dirty!
{mud pies rule!}

• I believe in taking a moment to watch what happens before swooping in.

• I believe in letting my girls try to figure it out first – both while learning something new and in their interactions with other kids.

• I do not believe in “I Can’t Do It!”

• I believe in pushing {not physically} – and almost literally believe in the “sink or swim theory”.

All that said – I have had some major issues with my youngest and sleep. I will almost always participate in and win the most insignificant battle of wills just because I-am-the-Mom…. But I lost the battle over sleep long before it started.

I now find myself in the process of breaking my almost 21 month old daughter of her ‘awake during the night’ habit. A habit that I fully admit I enable, and maybe even {okay totally} created. I can and do take full responsibility for her wakeful nights and my spending the last near two years trying to remember what a full, uninterrupted night of sleep was like. Note I said “near two years” and not “three years”. I do as you all know have a 3 year old daughter. Gigi was 18 months old the day Lula was born. G had been sleeping 11 hours a night most nights for a year by the time Miss Lu arrived. Gigi was a dream when it came to sleep. She took amazing naps– she slept from 7pm to 6am pretty faithfully. If I got less than 8 hours of sleep it was my own fault. Then Lula was born…

I think the best place to start is at the beginning… When Gigi was 2 months old the builders vacated our home and we moved in. Prior to that Gigi slept in a crib in our room. She was a typical baby – slept all day and woke every two hours to eat. Our first night in our new house Hubby decided that since Gigi had her very own room, she should sleep in her very own room. Quite to my surprise I remember wanting to scream out “Noooooooo!” I could not believe that I was feeling this way – I always knew {before I actually had a baby} that my child would never sleep with us! If for some reason that baby needed to sleep in our room he or she would be evicted as soon as possible and never in our bed! For all of my moaning and groaning about sleepless nights, waking to feed Gigi, then spending the next 30 plus minutes pumping, only to fall back to sleep just in time to start the entire process all over again…. When it came time for my teeny-tiny little baby to move out, I could not fathom being so far away. "Far Away"... I think it is 13 steps from my door to hers.

I vividly remember saying to Hubby “What if she needs me in the middle of the night?” and as I can recall I did not think it was a ridiculous thing to ask either! That night, at all of 9 weeks old Gigi slept 10 straight hours. She didn’t “need” me once! I must have walked down the hall and looked in on her 3 or 4 times that night. I remember holding my breath in a panic and touching her just to be sure she was still breathing. {something I still so to this day – she is the quietest most peaceful sleeper I have ever seen in my life!} That was the beginning of getting my sleep back. There were ebbs and tides to her sleep pattern for the next two or three months.  She must have been about 6 months old when I finally decided that we needed to sleep 11 hours every night. So I started putting her to bed awake instead of rocking her to sleep first. I really missed rocking her - and listening to her cry while she tried to soothe herself back to sleep was difficult, but after a few weeks she was fine and I became that mother everyone hates!! The one who says… “Oh? Really? Because my baby sleeps 11 hours a night.” – Yup…That was me! Guess the joke is on me though - Payback is a mother! {or a wakeful baby at the very least!}

18 months to the day after Gigi was born: Enter Lula. {My, polar opposite of her big sis in almost every way baby} I had a "significant", post c-section, internal bleed with Lula, and spent the next several weeks akin to a narcoleptic. I would fall asleep mid-sentence while recovering in the hospital. I couldn’t stay awake long enough to nurse. So someone would prop me up with Lu in my arms and pillows stuffed all around so that when I passed out cold she could still nurse safely until she fell asleep. This anemic exhaustion continued for the next few weeks at home as well. I would wake up an hour or two after sitting in the rocking chair to nurse only to find we were both asleep and for God only knows how long…

Long after the 9 week mark passed Lula was still in her bassinet in our room. I am determined that my girls will share a room; an important life experience in my eyes {even though we have a 3 bedroom house} - So, until I could get Lu sleeping through the night like her sister, it was decided she would stay with us. That meant that every time she woke up we raced to her side for two reasons. One-She was right-there… next-to-us… and we didn’t want to listen to her crying. Two- the last thing we wanted was both kids awake and crying in the middle of the night. So, we found ourselves doing anything to appease Lula before she could wake her sister.

{come to find out Gigi could sleep through a stampede of trumpeting elephants – If we only knew that a year ago!}

Lu slept in our room until she was 9 months old. It finally got to a point where Hubby and I needed her to leave our room – But she still was up 3 and 4 times a night. So, I gave in and we moved her to the guest bedroom. We set up an extra crib in there and she would have to sleep across the hall from her sister until she could sleep through the night. We went on appeasing her and quieting her with a bottle for months. Shortly after she turned 1 we started putting her to bed with a bottle and giving her a bottle in the middle of the night and walking away. This actually worked for us! No one had to do much more than go downstairs, grab a bottle from the refrigerator, hand it to Lu and go back to bed. She would drink the 3 or 4 oz and go right back to sleep for a few hours and then we would give her another bottle.

I knew it was wrong.

I knew it was weak.

I knew it was lazy.

Mostly I knew that it would rot her teeth and it was perpetuating the sleepless nights.

But I am at home all day with the girls and more-often-than-not, I am home alone with them all night too. {hence the “part-time single mother” statement in my bio} It was easier to give her a bottle and go back to bed. At some point after Lu turned 1 I stopped telling people she was still up all night. I knew that if I told people she STILL did not sleep through the night, I would have to admit that it was my fault and that the mother who can walk away from her kids crying during the day cannot seem to do the same at night, when she is exhausted beyond words. The mother that believes in tough love, still gives her 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 month old a bottle to quiet her down and get her back to sleep quickly. It was just getting so bad!

I waivered back and forth between letting her have the bottle until she was 3 and I was sure she would understand me when I said: “No – Just lay down and go to sleep.” And dueling with her for a week or two, making her “cry it out” and win the war of the sleepless nights. I switched the bottle from milk to water and I started letting her cry longer before giving in and bringing her a bottle. By 19 months old things were starting to get worse. We went from up one time a night, or rather up at 4 or 5am, then sleeping until 7am after having a bottle, to up 3 and 4 times again. *Pause… reassess…*

I know that my child is now in charge.
I know that I have created a monster.
I know I took the lazy route and I was doing no one any favors, least of all Lula.
I know that I am not taking the advice that I give to friends who ask about Gigi and how she came to sleep through the night.
I Know! I Know! I Know!
*pulling my hair out*

Two weeks ago Lula and I said good-bye to the bottle. We gathered up the few we had left, threw them in the trash and said “Bye-Bye. No more bottles!” That night Lu moved permanently into the crib in the girls’ room and out of the guest room. She was given a sippy cup at bed time and told I would see her in the morning. She cried for an hour that night – Gigi was put in the guest bed and I turned off the baby monitor {should have done that months ago!} But I did not get out of bed.

The next night Gigi was moved back into her room and told that Mommy was not coming to get Lula if she cried. Lula had a sippy cup and would need to just go back to sleep. That night I left the bedroom doors open a crack because of G. After hearing Lu cry out a few times in the middle of the night I heard G say to her sister: “Louie! Go-Back-To-Bed!!”, and then - not another peep until morning.

The next few nights I barely heard Lu and Grace never came to get me and we were sleeping straight through until about 5am – at which time I would refill Lu’s cup and tell her to go back to sleep. Then Hubby came home and we had a few nights of screaming. I am sure it’s because Hubby was home and Lula figured he’d give in and rescue her. {Truthfully – I think he might have once or twice.}

The next step was putting the girls to sleep at the same time. Something we have not done because they chat and laugh and play and do not go to sleep – But again… If I keep fixing it for them, they will never learn to go to sleep together!

Two weeks later I can report – Lula is not sleeping through the night every night – the girls still have trouble laying down and going right to sleep after being put to bed together...... but we are 90% of the way there! We don’t hear Lu every night – The girls are quiet down faster and faster each evening… things are looking up.

I have no one to blame for this whole situation but myself. We could have been sleeping through the night long before now if I had simply dropped the hammer months ago and said “This is bedtime! I will see you both in the morning!”

Learn from my mistakes people – there will be plenty!

1 comment:

DarkTouch said...

Its interesting to me how closely our parenting philosophies mirror each other. The only big difference that I can spot is over the importance of laundry/clean house and then only because I don't feel the pressure of it so don't think it needs to go on a list either way.

Thinking about it, that might just mean I'm not as social as you.

Anyway, good job on fixing the situation you created.. or at least mostly fixing it.

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