Hello, lovelies! We've been experiencing some of the joys of parenthood lately - like growth spurts, the four month regression, and teething - and with all the fun, I haven't had time to blog much lately. No, seriously, we have been enjoying joys - like smiles and real, deep belly laughs, and little baby gibberish as he tries to talk to us...but the last week or so has been, um, how should I put this? Awful. Terrible. The worst week we have yet had with him.
But before we go on, let me clarify. I love, love, love my son. I love being a mommy. I wouldn't trade it for anything - not money, not a social life, not even sleep. And I know that all of this will be terribly, terribly funny one of these days. So, yeah, that beings said...
Let me explain.
Actually, no. That will take too long. Let me sum up.
Jamesy has decided that he wants to wake up not once, not twice, not even three times in the night - no, he wants to wake up AT MINIMUM four times every night between his 7pm bedtime (any later than that and he has one big, long temper tantrum until we DO put him to bed) and his 7am "for real" wake up (any earlier or later than that and he is either still so sleepy that he can't fall asleep again for being so upset or he is so well-rested that he wants to skip his mid-morning nap, which is no good). And preferably at least one of these midnight wake-ups will last between two and three hours. The others range between 30 to 60 minutes. And naps during the day are generally a longer fight than the actual time spent sleeping (like say, 2 hour screaming and fighting for a 20 minute nap. That's about average). Bless his heart.
And these do not consist completely of eating, either. As the doctor tells us, he is "perfectly capable, metabolically, to make it through the night without eating." Yeah, thanks - that's helpful.
Apparently it's common during a four month regression for the baby to not want to fall asleep ever, because he's "forming emotional attachments" and he is afraid of the separation that happens when he sleeps. There may also be some mild headaches-teething-growth-spurt-acid-reflux-related triggers, but medication has little or no effect on his sleeping habits, so it doesn't seem to be that.
We have tried varying bedtimes, nap times, eating habits, ways we lull him to sleep, sleeping places, lighting, white noise...everything you can possibly adjust for an ideal sleeping environment has been tried and discarded. We have maintained a very predictable "ritual" for bedtime (which he seems to love and look forward to) and a less involved but no less predictable ritual for naps. I have read every possible view on sleep training, helping babies get past these rough patches, and growth spurt survival...and I have concluded that you get the baby you get, and if he's a good sleeper, by all means, take the credit and enjoy your sleep. If it's an "easy" baby, bask in the sweetness and simplicity that God has given you, because some of us don't get that lucky.
I made the mistake of reading this article that someone linked to from pinterest, and I'll admit it - it made me see red. The author criticizes the culture of women who she believes have a conspiracy of sorts to make motherhood seem to be nothing but suffering and who get mad at "honest" mothers who discuss how much they love it. She gives a little wave to women who are suffering PPD, but that seems to be her only exception to the rule, which in her mind is that motherhood is easy.
Motherhood is without a doubt, the single most difficult thing I have ever done, and I've only been at it four months (well, 13 months, if you count pregnancy). Every aspect so far - physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual - has been a struggle, full of questions and issues and decisions and efforts, some of which are easy and intuitive, and others which are difficult, painful, and tortuous. Let's take yesterday, for instance.
My sweet husband was busy doing some work-related paperwork and was unavailable to help me with our customary partnership for bed-prep, so James was bathed, medicated (acid reflux), clothed, fed, read-to, prayed-over, and tucked in solo. At which time he screamed for a very brief ten minutes before passing out mid-cry. (By the way, this was after an impromptu dinner party for some out-of-town friends who dropped by with only a few hours warning...just long enough that I SHOULD have the house clean and some kind of dinner ready. Especially since it was Valentine's day. Oh, and they have dietary restrictions, so it had to be a very specific meal plan...which actually worked out fine, but the point is, it wasn't a lovely relaxing day with our usual schedule).
I ran around, doing a load of dishes (since there were an abnormally large number due to our dinner party) laundry (since everything I own and the baby owns had puke on it), and trying to get to bed as soon as possible...only to be interrupted as I took out my contacts by the sound of tears in the nursery.
I went in, tried and failed to soothe him, and soon gave in and began feeding him, at which point he fell asleep in my arms. after four successive failures to transfer the baby without a tantrum from my arms to either his crib or swing, he finally stayed in his swing and cried himself to sleep. I jumped into bed to try to get the most sleep possible before he next awoke...which was less than an hour later. Repeat the preceding activities. My poor husband had to go to work at 5 in the morning that morning, so he was exhausted and after the second crying fit was settled, he fell asleep as well.
I lay in bed, now wide awake and unable to sleep. I drank a glass of milk, stretched, counted sheep...and then more crying ensued from the nursery. Repeat the paragraph above. Repeat the attempt at sleep. Forty minutes passed...and I dozed off. Five minutes later, the monitor erupted with flat out screams from the nursery.
I ran in, expecting to find him engulfed in flame or hanging by one leg from the side of his crib, but he was fine, just screaming for no apparent reason. Diaper...clean...anything causing pain...nothing...hungry...not at all. Rocking, feeding, cuddling, playing, cooing - nothing consoled him at all, so I finally set him in his crib and came back to Ryan, and told him I couldn't do anything with the baby, so he went in to try. Immediately there was silence, and I fell asleep. (I was told the next day that there wasn't actually "silence," just a much lower grade of displeasure, which took two hours until he really fell asleep.
Thankfully (and unlike the preceding two nights) he slept TWO FULL HOURS before he next awoke, and this time he was hungry. A mere hour later he was asleep again, and two hours after that he was ready to eat again. An hour after that, he was ready to really get up, and so our day "began".
And as soon as I saw sleepy signs, we went for a nap. It was earlier than usual, but after only an hour of screaming (and refusing to eat or be consoled in any way) he fell asleep in his swing, holding my hand. I decided that now was a good time for a shower (a luxury I hadn't enjoyed for more days than I care to remember). I gently pulled my hand away and replaced the finger he'd been clutching with a sock monkey's arm, and I snuck out of the room. SCREAM. I turned down the baby monitor and sprinted for the other end of the house, hoping for the best.
The screaming faded after a few seconds, but it recurred throughout my very short shower, and intermittently continued as I ate a bowl of cereal, fed the cats and the fish, made my bed, straightened the house, and planned the menu for the upcoming week. There was probably a solid fifteen minutes of sleep when he finally woke up in earnest and was DONE napping. I went in and picked up my now-cheerful offspring, who cooed and chirped and talked to me happily as I changed his explosively dirty diaper and included him in what household tasks I can do one-handed. (We've tried a tasteful variety of slings and baby packs, but he despises them. His Bumbo is too small, his Boppy or high chair are only acceptable for brief periods of time. We use the stroller whenever possible, or when that gets old, a fluffy rug and blanket on the floor.)
After a charming interlude of blissful happiness on his part and a nagging weather-related (read: medicine-resistant) headache on mine, he began to show signs of sleepiness again. It was still three hours till my sweet husband got home from work, so I was still on my own with this one.
After a decided refusal to eat the normal way (which, of course, might lead to SLEEP), we engaged in a recently began ritual of spoon-feeding rice cereal, which has a high entertainment factor (though low in the nutrition department, since he refuses to actually swallow most of it). When that got old, we tried rocking for a few minutes (screaming) and then we went downstairs to see if watching the Piglet's Big Movie would be an acceptable transition to naptime. Five minutes later, we came back upstairs (screaming) and I settled him in his crib. As my baby drifted peacefully to sleep (just kidding, he was still screaming and kicking) I pondered whether they made earplugs that would actually cancel out the level and pitch of sound my son achieved. I wondered if there was a Guinness World Record for loudest baby scream (there is not; however, there is the most breastmilk donated)
If I left, he got so agitated that I was afraid he'd hurt himself, whaling against the side of the crib. I sat in a rocking chair, holding my son's hand as he wept and cried, apparently heartbroken. Tears dripped down the sides of his face, and he clung to the side of the crib where I was, looking into my eyes as if to see into my very soul, but screaming even more forcefully if I tried to move him, touch him, (other than his head resting against my arm and my finger in his grasp) or talk to him.
I pulled the tail on the musical dog great-granma gave him. It played it's little music-box melody and the screaming went down a pitch. At the end of the song, the screaming resumed it's full fervor. I pulled it again. A little less screaming. We repeated this, with variations, but for an eternity there was nothing outside of my one hand, asleep, held in place by his little grasping fingers, and my other hand pulling the dog's tail to restart the song every few seconds.
Finally, after an hour of this, he dozed off, only to awake every few seconds to check if I was still there. Gradually, over the next twenty minutes, his jerk-awake checks did not include him opening his eyes, but merely a cry a squeeze of the finger he was holding, and then a little sigh as he'd fall asleep again. I grabbed a tiger toy he loved, nestled it against his head, and tucked the tail in his hand and waited for his next check. Sure enough, without opening his eyes, he squeezed the tail, nuzzled what used to be my arm and was now a beanie baby tiger, and then dozed off again.
I snuck out of the room.
As I tried to close the door, Izzy - that darned cat - slithered in the room, and I had to go back in and chase him out. Naturally, he ran under the crib where we were most likely to wake up James. After a few minutes of silently willing the cat to come out, speaking very stern commands with my mind and mouthing, "GET OUT," the cat finally meandered out, and I shut the door.
As I walked back to the other end of the house, I glanced at the monitor and was horrified to see Irony, both paws up on the edge of the crib and looking at James, almost nose to nose with him. She must have snuck in while I was dealing with Izzy.
I ran back in and scooped her up and shut the door again, double checking that Izzy stayed outside.
I sat on my bed and texted my sweet husband at work, who I had been giving a blow-by-blow.
I hit send.
In the nursery, before the monitor registered it and played the sound to me, I heard a scream.
I thought, maybe he'll keep his eyes shut and squeeze the tiger and think it's me. But I looked in the monitor and saw James holding up the treacherous tiger, shaking it toward the monitor camera as if to say, "I saw what you did there and it DIDN'T FOOL ME." He threw it at the foot of the crib and I sighed and went back in to the nursery.
By this point it had been a full four hours since he'd eaten, so I though I'd try that again. It worked! He latched! He ate! He dozed off! Oh, blissful silence! Oh, sweet peaceful rest! Oh, is there anything more beautiful than a sleeping baby? A happy, peaceful, resting baby? A baby who is in his mother's arms, safe and ignorant of the cold cruel world outside?
No, there is nothing more beautiful, bless him.
And we stayed like that for a good forty minutes, and it was amazing.
Then he woke up, and pooped. Like, a lot. So I stood up to take him to the changing table. He was all smiles and coos, probably telling me all about what happened in his diaper.
"Aw, did you go poopy?" I asked, facing my little cherub as I carried him.
I immediately regretted this, as he promptly projectile vomited right into my mouth.
So yeah, I don't think being a mother is easy. Totally worth it, but definitely NOT easy.
And by the way, ten minutes later, my husband got home from work, and the day got significantly better.