Sleepless nights

Maybe He’s Teething? When Science and Sleep Deprivation Collide

Not to brag, but my husband and I seem to have an uncanny ability to make babies who don’t sleep. We don’t want to make anyone jealous, but our babies are professional not sleepers. We have high hopes that one day, in the throes of a fitful night of no sleep, they will find the cure for cancer, or maybe solve that whole world hunger problem. But for now, they just keep us awake while we rock, shush, sway and wonder WHAT THE F*CK IS GOING ON WITH OUR KIDS SO THAT THEY DON’T SLEEP?! YOU ARE SO TIRED! WHY WON’T YOU GO THE F*CK TO SLEEP?!

Okay, that came out a little on the intense side, but I’m feeling a little intense about how much sleep I’m not getting. I am also feeling a little intense about needing to find a solution pronto so that I stop aging faster than Mother Gothel from Tangled after Eugene gives Rapunzel her snazzy new ‘do.

mother gothel

#SelfieSaturday!

I am not alone in my quest for golden slumber, as my exhausted husband is equally as desperate for some shut eye before he heads back to work next week. And just like when Baby 1.0 was a newborn, even knowing all she needed was time (19 months to be exact), we find ourselves frantically pacing around our living room, a fussy baby in one hand, and a freshly rejected pacifier in the other, wondering what we are doing wrong.

Because we are scientists (okay, I’m not a real scientist, but I once got a 104% on a biology test), we try to talk it out. We try to think through it. We try to be reasonable and rational, and above all else, scientific, because science doesn’t lie like assholes on the internet. And just like any good scientist, we start by asking questions. So many questions. Too many questions. Questions tumble out of our mouths like termites from a broken nest, wriggling around and making everyone edgy. Just this morning, my husband and I found ourselves in an all too familiar question spiral that pretty much went word for word like this:

WHY WON’T HE SLEEP AT NIGHT? Maybe he’s teething? Maybe he’s in a growth spurt? Maybe he’s too cold? Maybe he’s too hot? Maybe we should swaddle him? Maybe we should swaddle him with one arm out? Maybe we shouldn’t swaddle him? Maybe we should change his diaper more often? Maybe we shouldn’t change his diaper so much? Maybe we should hold him more during the day? Maybe we should be putting him down to nap by himself during the day? Maybe I’m feeding him too much? Maybe he’s hungry? Maybe we need to up our white noise game? Maybe it’s too noisy? Maybe I’m trying to put him down too soon in his sleep cycle? Maybe he needs to learn to fall asleep when he’s drowsy but awake? Maybe he has gas? Maybe this is normal? Maybe this isn’t normal? Maybe we should rearrange our room because maybe he will sleep better in that corner? Maybe we should Google it?

And I’m not even kidding, folks. This is *actually* how our conversation went. Sleep deprivation has turned us into crazy people.

Now a good scientist would pick one question, run an experiment to test the variable, and draw a conclusion that addressed their hypothesis. A good scientist would read the research, and trust that our baby, just like every other baby out there, will eventually learn to sleep. A good scientist would be patient, knowing results take time.

scientist

My scientific credibilities are about on par with what Bill Murray brings to the table.

But a good scientist, I am not.

I am a very tired, very irrational, very moody, very tired regular person who is very tired, and very desperate to find any kind of help that will give me even the tiniest chunk of sleep. So if you’ll excuse me, I am off to rearrange my room, order the latest swaddle sack off Amazon, feed the baby for 15-20 minutes on each side, burp him, rock him, assess his temperature, possibly change a diaper, turn on an appropriate amount of white noise, and attempt to put him down approximately 5 minutes after he enters deep sleep, which should be evident by slow breathing and floppy limbs…unless of course I decide to go the whole “drowsy but awake” route.

Yeah. Wish me luck.

Image credits: Mother Gothel, Bill Murray, cover image

Days Like This

Oh sweet baby Jesus. I forgot how hard this is.

Anyone who has had a baby will be quick to tell you how hard it is in the beginning, but much like the pains of labor fade (and they do, trust me, you DO NOT remember how shitty that part is), you don’t actually remember how hard it is until you’re in the thick of it.

But I’m here now, and I’m going to tell you, it is hard.

Your body hurts in ways you didn’t even know it could. Your brain is absolute mush. You are more tired than you’ve ever been. And on top of it, you are basically trying to solve a human Rubik’s cube with a very loud alarm that tells you over and over you are doing it wrong.

Even if you’ve already done this before, it’s all new again. Everything is different. Things that worked for your other babies doesn’t work. Or you’ve just forgotten (damn you Moby for making me relearn how to do fabric origami with a 15 foot piece of cloth on no sleep!). Or maybe some things are even easier. But regardless, everything is different.

Well everything except one thing: This is hard.

But here’s the thing. Some days the hard will be too much, or at least it will feel like too much. Some days the tears will outnumber the smiles. Some days all you will do is sit in dirty pajamas and nurse, shush and rock your way from sunrise to sunset, while your messy house, greasy hair, and smelly breath taunt you.

Other days, though, you will get up and get out and feel alive again.

Now there’s no balance to these days, and it may feel like the scales are heavily tipped in the wrong direction. But eventually it will even out, and even further down the line, the scales will tip the other way.

So from one mama in the trenches to any one else out there, sitting in dirty pajamas dreaming of a shower, a cinnamon roll, and about 97 hours of consecutive sleep, I am here to remind you that we will get through this part, too.

And in the mean time, I will be available for Twitter chat or Facebook messenger tonight, and every night for the foreseeable future from the hours of 10:30pm to 1am, when I hand our newest Rubik’s cube over to his daddy with strict instructions to not wake me unless the house is on fire.

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The Musings of a Madwoman at 3am

3am: Pssst. Psssst. PSSSSSST!

Me: Yeah? What? Why did you wake me up?

3am: Because I’m lonely. Turns out 1 isn’t the loneliest number.

Me: Boo hoo. I’m going back to bed.

3am: That’s hilarious. No you’re not.

Me: Yes I am. I’m the captain of this ship. I do yoga. I will yoga myself back to sleep.

3am: Well that’s just stupid. You’re terrible at yoga. And you’d be a terrible captain. Your crew would mutiny. You’d walk the plank. You can’t swim. You’d probably get eaten by a sea turtle.

Me: A sea turtle. Right. Goodnight.

3am: Your financial future is unstable.

Me: Well that’s just rude.

3am: And you have a bag of rotting mushroom liquefying in your vegetable drawer.

Me: Yes. Yes I do.

3am: Don’t you want to take care of that before the baby gets here?

Me: The mushrooms? Yes. It is a little embarrassing.

3am: No. Your future. You should figure out a way to solve all of your financial shortcomings before the baby gets here.

Me: But that’s in like, 10 days?

3am: Exactly. So let’s think. And just to be clear, by think I mean worry. Let’s just lay here and worry until my shift is over.

Me: I hate you with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

3am: You should channel that fire into worry. There are so many things we can worry about! Like the rusty undercarriage of your car! And bills! And Donald Trump! And breastfeeding! And how fat your armpits are!

Me: My armpits are rather sizable. And The Donald is pretty concerning…

3am: Flint. Syria. Declining manatee populations. The number of fruit flies in your kitchen. Your inability to remember passwords. Your mother’s Christmas present that’s still sitting on the desk waiting to be mailed. Also your cat is so fat she looks like a baby panda who is about 12 hours away from a juvenile diabetes diagnosis.

Me: SHE’S ON A DIET.

3am: When was the last time you did the Macarena?

Me: The what?

3am: You know, that crazy song from the nineties… HEEEEY Macarena! Aaay!

Me: The Macarena. Of course.

3am: I just ask because whenever I’m feeling down I sing it and it perks me right up. HEEEEY Macarena! Aaay!

Me: I’m not down. I’m tired. And I hate that song.

3am: HEEEEY Macarena! Aaay!

Me: Aren’t there other lyrics?

3am: HEEEEY Macarena! Aaah! HEEEEY Macarena! Aaah! HEEEEY Macarena! Aaay!

Me: Oh look at the time, it’s almost 4! So much for worrying the night away.

3am: I was just playing. Everything will probably work out fine. Maybe. HEEEEY Macarena! Aaay!

Me: Jesus. Stop that.

3am: Macarena Macarena Macarena…

Me: Go away.

3am: One last thing.

Me: If you say Macarena…

3am: Having a baby is going to suck. I mean have you thought about the logistics of this? The baby is so big! You are so small. Hahahaha, oh man, this is great. There’s no way this is going to work. Do you remember how miserable you were last time? 41 hours of labor. The time we spent together then sure was entertaining, you know, for me. You looked like you were drowning on dry land. Or like you were having an allergic reaction to shellfish, while simultaneously being possessed by the spirit of an angry breakdancer. I can’t wait to do it all again. And so soon! Oooh, I gotta jet. 4 is here. HEEEEY Macarena! Aaay!

Me: Wow.

4am: Oooh I love the Macarena! Also it smells like rotting mushrooms in here.

 

 

 

 

Getting A Toddler To Sleep Through The Night (Without The Heavy Use of Narcotics or Alcohol)

I’ve said it time and time again: Baby 1.0 is just not a sleeper. 19 months into it, and we’ve only had a handful of blissful nights where she has actually slept all the way through, and subsequently woke the next morning with enough energy to burn a hole through concrete. Finally, after being pushed to the absolute brink of sleep deprived madness, this weekend my husband and I decided to put our collective parenting foot down, and declared, once and for all: “Enough is enough, Child!”

Until this weekend she would wake, like clockwork, several times a night and cry (scream, wail, holler) until I came in and nursed her back down, which, out of habit and fear of her waking up more, I would do shortly after she started up. While I understood my participation via multiple nightly nursing sessions was contributing to the problem, until this weekend, I didn’t understand it was the whole problem.

In my mind, there were any number of things that factored into her wakefulness. Laying in bed at night, fighting the urge to go in and put her back to sleep with a warm milk nightcap, I would think about all the things that could be keeping her from sleeping, like for example:

1. The air. It’s touching her face. And her hands. Can’t sleep when there’s air, you know, touching your face or hands.

2. She has just discovered she is incapable of moving her ring toe independently of her other toes, and for reasons I will never know, is utterly devastated.

3. Her hair is growing.

4. She can’t find her belly button.

5. She is trying to figure out if she’d rather be stuck on an island with M.C. Escher or MC Hammer.

6. She just realized the important role the thumb plays on the human hand, and her mind is blown.

7. She doesn’t know what a fox says, and doesn’t understand why that video was an internet sensation because obviously a fox wouldn’t say any of those things.

8. She is a vampire, or a mostly bald nocturnal opossum with no tail, and very cute, human-like features.

Opossum hiss

Well aren’t you a cute little fella?

Until this weekend, these things seemed more plausible than me being the source of the problem. I mean hello? I’m the mom! I’m not the problem! I’m the solution!

And speaking of solutions, we have tried them all. About a year ago we tried the Cry It Out method, which ended in vomit for her, and about 15 gray hairs and a stress ulcer for me. We tried every device, potion, book, website -anything- you name it, we’ve given it a go, all to no effect. Everything, that is, except the old “You Just Have To Figure It Out” method.

After another heinous night of interrupted sleep, my husband looked at me with weary eyes, and for the 100 bagillionth time, asked me in his unflappably gentle way, “what if we just turned the monitor off tonight?” and for the first time, I didn’t fight it.

We knew she was safe. We knew she was comfortable. We knew if she worked herself up enough, we’d hear her through the wall we share. We knew it was time.

That night, after much hemming and hawing, I placed the monitor next to our bed, turned it on, and then with great effort, turned the sound all the way down. For a few minutes I thought of all the horrible things that could happen with the sound off (alien abduction, spider infestation, Bermuda Triangle), and then mid-totally unrealistic worrythought, I fell asleep and slept the whole night. The. Whole. Night. And even better, when I woke up, my baby was alive, sleeping, clothed, and totally fine. Did she sleep the whole night? I honestly have no idea. But if she didn’t, she figured out a way to get herself back down, which is something we’ve been begging her to do (but not allowing her to do), for her whole life. The next night, we repeated the process, and again, we (all?) slept like champs.

Should I have done this months and months ago? Probably. But could I have done this months and months ago? I don’t know. I think as much as she needed to be ready to figure it out, I needed to be ready to let her try. Is this the end of our sleep problems? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe, by showing bravery and trust, we’ve unlocked a new tool to use in the battle against turning into sleep deprived zombie parents.

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I’m more of an Audacious Dreamer, but that combination apparently isn’t available in Street Fighter.


Image credits: opossum , sleeping child, Street Fighter graphic, cover photo belongs to HMDHM

Welcome to the Thunderdome: When The Bedroom Turns Into A Post-Apocalyptic War Zone

It had to happen. I knew at some point I’d break down and write about the “S” word, because the utter lack of it is a theme common to most (all?) new parents. It’s absence hovers over us, a constant grey cloud, reminding us of a time when things were much more simple, a time when it wasn’t so hard to obtain. For 16 months and 11 days I’ve waited patiently, obsessing over my desire for it. I’ve tried everything to bring it back into my life. I’ve read books, spent countless dollars on specialty clothing, purchased hours of tailor-made music designed to help set the mood. Recently I’ve taken to incorporating aromatherapy into the bedroom, out of sheer desperation to find something that works. Each night, I go through the same routine, hoping that this night, this one night, it will happen, because I need it. “Oh please, please little baby. Please just sleep.”

Truthfully, I’ve been on the fence about writing anything regarding sleep. When you are so sleep deprived it takes you 30 seconds to figure out which end of the shampoo bottle shampoo comes out of (true story), it is hard to put anything together that doesn’t just sound horribly whiny. Also, there are already people who have done it, and done it very well (for those of you who don’t already know the blog How To Survive A Sleep Thief, check out the post I’m referring to here; it is brilliantly funny, and perfectly sums up everything I wish I could say about living with a kid who doesn’t sleep, but can’t because it took me 30 seconds to figure out which end shampoo came out of).

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In case you were thinking, “maybe her shampoo bottle is confusing?” let me show you a picture of my shampoo. Not exactly a brain buster, under normal circumstances.

So what made me do it? Well, for starters, I’m delusional. With tiredness. Because the last time I slept through the night was back when the words “North West” and “One Direction” referred to parts of a map, rather than a bagillionaire toddler, and a handful of post-pubescent weasel boys ruining music. And lately, little Baby 1.0 has decided that getting up 2-3 times in the night wasn’t enough, and has increased it back up to 5 times. 5. Times. A. Night. Little reminder, she is 16 months. Being plunged back into the thick of what is essentially newborn level of sleep deprivation, I am reminded of a few things:

one-direction-24v

Pick One Direction, and head that way, away from me, forever.

1. Removing regular sleep from your routine changes who you are on a fundamental level. For example, I turn into a crazy asshole when I don’t sleep. Like, seriously, a totally crazy asshole. Case and point? This morning, after another absolutely brutal night, I spent no less than 12 minutes hunting down a fruit fly who landed innocently on my arm, and when I finally got it, I smashed it with a smile on my face, like some kind of insect serial killer. Did I have to invest 12 minutes of time in hunting down a solitary fruit fly? No. Did I have to smile when I killed it? Big time no. But No-Sleep-Emily is currently the captain of this ship, and she is a scary asshole.

joker

This is me, the morning after another sleepless night.

2. When I don’t sleep, my mind turns into a garbage disposal of thoughts which A) immobilize me, preventing me from completing any kind of task,  further perpetuating my garbage disposal tendencies, and B) keeps me from falling back asleep. Usually, somewhere around 3am after Baby 1.0 wakes up for the umpteenth time, my mind does this: I need to go to the store and get dinner food. We need to eat healthier. I need to buy more vegetables. I need to buy organic. Organic is too expensive. I need to get a job. I don’t want to have someone raise Baby 1.0. I need to socialize Baby 1.0 more. I NEED TO STOP THIS. I will count until I fall asleep. 1, 2, 3, 13, purple, I need to email every single person I know, urgently. I need to clean out my email inbox. I need to vacuum. I need to clean out the litter box. I need to order cat litter. I need to order cat food… AND IT GOES ON AND ON.

Charlie's_list

This is my brain at 3am.

3. Being horribly, hideously, sleep deprived makes me feel like I have the worst hangover of my life, but nothing makes it go away. Well I can’t say nothing, because I have a sneaking suspicion a couple of vodka tonics would do the trick, but I haven’t entered that territory since my bachelorette party where I peed (basically) in the doorway of a Walgreen’s, while leaning up against a newspaper box. My head aches, my eyes burn, my muscles are weak, my stomach hurts. I can’t help but wonder if hardcore sleep deprivation is used against spies and terrorists to break their spirit. Let me just say, I would tell someone anything they wanted to know if that meant I could start sleeping through the night again. Update: just this morning there was a news story about how the CIA used sleep deprivation against suspected terrorists. I’m not condoning torture in any way, even though I am being tortured, and misery loves company.

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This would work… but probably not a sustainable solution.

4. I hate nighttime. The more sleep deprived I get, the more I dread going to bed. It’s one thing to bump along during the day, feeling crappy, but having things to distract you from the crappiness, and another to be forced out of bed for hours of the night trying, in vain, to convince another human to do something they have no interest in doing. It is frustrating on a level I still can’t wrap my head around, and more depressing than watching one of those science programs that always shows the baby deer being hunted by a wolf. Stop with that. We get it. Wolves eat baby deer.

deer

Stupidly, very stupidly, I just googled “wolves hunting deer.” Bambi with a butterfly on his butt is better.

5. Lastly, this has served as a reminder that this is hard. This is hard, man. Not always, but sometimes, and sometimes for long chunks of time. It is hard to be patient and kind when you feel like a rabid raccoon. It is hard to be empathetic and understanding when all you can think about is the burning behind your eyes, and the heaviness in your limbs. Forget being the perfect mom. When you are bone tired, it’s all you can do to remember to put on two shoes that maybe match. So the next time some little turd kid rips a toy out of my little dumpling’s hand, and their mom just stares blankly ahead, I will try to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s just tired. I get that.


Image credits: Cover, ShampooOne Direction, Joker, List, DrunkBambi