Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sleeping Standoff

Since the day Stella was born I have not had one single night of solid sleep. My nights of nocturnal bliss actually ended well before her arrival with my third trimester. I suffered frequent wakings to flush my bladder, and a lot of tossing and turning with back pains and the insomnia of 'what-if'.
Today, we are still dog paddling through nights of interrupted sleep, and although this can be brutal, we have also learned how to manage and somehow drink enough coffee every morning to function through the day. Clearly, my husband does have it easier since he often wakes up, and obliviously looks at me like we've had a great night's sleep, only to discover the dark bags under my eyes and realize that actually no, I got out of bed three times to nurse our little milk monster. Of course, this is when I get my revenge, and insist that he's the first to get out of bed and go play with Stella well before sunrise.

Somehow, we survive. I know that this stage of poor sleep will pass. I also understand that some day, far, far into the future we'll be fighting a teenager who doesn't want to get out of bed before noon, and complaining about the fact that she sleeps too much. However, this scenario seems very, very, far away. Every night, I still crawl into bed with hope flickering in the back of my brain that tonight will be the night...who knows? maybe tonight.

This is a time when I wish I'd started blogging earlier, as there is much we have already experienced with the raising of Stella, and it is easy to forget how quickly things change. She is not even eleven months old, and her 2 month self feels like a decade ago. If I had kept a detailed record of the shit we went through with our colicky little nugget, it would only help to remind me of how we have conquered prior difficulties and adapted to each parenting challenge.

For posterity, I'm going to log the craziness that Ms. Stella has caused us to endure. I have specifically been inspired to do so, by some recently visiting friends. It seems that they have been pleasantly surprised by how good-natured and happy Stella is, as their memories of their first introduction were of a little baby who never stopped crying. Daniel and I were a little taken aback, as we knew, (believe me, we knew) that she cried a lot, but we had no idea that she had made such a strong impression on outsiders. Don't all babies cry a lot? Don't all babies cry? Come on! Apparently not.

I now think that Stella was inflicted with acid reflux. As a baby she simply could NOT sleep flat on her back, she was a major spitter-upper, and flailed whenever someone would try to hold her in a customary, cradling position. She was only comfortable sitting up. So began the days of using our co sleeper as a place to store dirty laundry and coats that needed hanging up. Stella couldn't sleep in her little bed, and would only nod off in her swing or car seat. Within 2 months, we must have gone through a grocery bag full of double A batteries. We moved her take-along swing from room to room, in an effort to appease the beast, and the electric sound of her mechanically rocking back and forth will forever be ingrained in my mind. We were trying all of the methods to ward off hysteria, suggested by Harvey Karp in the 'Happiest Baby on the Block', with what seemed to be limited success. On second reflection I realize that we did use all of his advice and it worked, we just had to execute his suggestions at the most extreme level. Swaddling? Not so great beyond the first few blob-like weeks, but lots of movements and white noise were spot on. No basic rocking for our baby, she needed a vigorous swing at level 8. No shhhushing to calm her screams, we had to whip out the hair dryer. No joke. I thought we might cause hearing impairment, because we had to turn the blowdryer onto HIGH and position it right near her head in order to stop her crying. The problem was that all of these tricks eventually became crutches that were required every night to get her to go down. There was a good month or two where we had a crazy night time ritual of putting Stella in her Bundle Me sleeping bag inside of her carseat, locked into her Graco stroller frame, and we'd push that bugger back and forth, back and forth, very hard and over the carpet edge that met our hardwood floor, because the bumpier the ride the better to sedate (?), and the hair dryer would be on at full blast until she gradually fell asleep and we could slowly change the speed from high to low and eventually off. We'd position the stroller by the side of our bed, and every time she woke up, one of us would have to stand in the dark like an idiot doing a monotonous push and pull.

I don't actually remember how we transitioned out of this phase, and finally got Stella to sleep in a crib, on her back, without being rocked and without any mind numbing soundtrack. We're certainly not out of the clear, as nursing seems to be the last barrier from a solid night's sleep. Breast feeding is my final trick, and the only way to sooth our baby back to dreamland. I loathe dragging myself out of my warm bed to go and attend to her cries, but I also love knowing that I can hold her tight and calm her down with my warmth and sustenance. It's a standoff. Frankly, I'm not ready to withstand any less sleep than I already have and begin the process of weaning her of these nighttime feedings. I guess it is just not bad enough - yet.

Hallelujah for caffeine!

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