Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sleepstarved in Chicago

Cross Posted from Chicago Moms Blog

from August 27, 2008


Liz It's almost 3 am, and Avi is finally asleep after an hour of pacing, bouncing, singing and trying to keep her from nursing on my arm. It's our third night of "sleep training", and since I really feel uncomfortable with that term, let me rephrase that: it's my third night of not nursing her every hour, on the hour; it's my third night of trying to figure out a compromise between what's best for my baby and what's best for me; it's my third night of wondering what kind of mother I want to be, and what kind of mother I actually am.

See, we had it somewhat easy with Nourit. Yes, she did nurse 2 or 3 times a night for the first year, but she also had stretches where she'd sleep for 6 or 7 hours at a time. In her own bed. She'd at least sleep for 4 hours at a time, but it recently dawned on me that Avi has not yet slept for more than 4 hours in a row in the last 7 months, and I think my current record is at 2 1/2.

I have been reevaluating my mothering choices ever since Avi was born.

It suddenly didn't make sense to me that such a small human being should sleep by herself, away from the warmth and comfort that she'd experienced for so long in my belly. It didn't make sense to ignore her cries for milk or comfort, since she was too young for conscious manipulation. All the natural parenting books and articles I had stumbled upon started to make more sense than the regimented, orderly parenting philosophies that I'd been exposed to originally. Even though Avi is not my first child, I feel like I'm learning so many new things the second time around. And I'm starting to question my choices for Nourit. Even tonight, as I closed her door, I felt like she was still such a little creature to be shut away by herself, in her own room. Yet, she has been sleeping soundly through the night and through naps since she was 1, and that's a healthy thing, right?

When we brought Avi home from the hospital, I brought her into bed with us so we would both get more sleep (something we were too afraid to do with Nourit because we thought we'd squish her.) I didn't have the luxury of naptime now, with a toddler to watch, and work to do. And with so many visitors, I didn't want Avi to cry and disturb them. Sure, they were family, but I never felt comfortable subjecting my in-laws to long bouts of a crying baby. Even after borrowing a friend's co-sleeper, she seemed to spend more time next to me nursing than actually sleeping. But my instincts told me she should be kept warm next to me, and allowed access to me at this crucial time of growth. Unfortunately, Mike and I sleep on a Full sized mattress, not even a Queen, so he was soon relegated to the couch.

And now, here we are. I am sleep-starved, Avi has started to wake up hourly, and I'm feeling rather incredulous about the claims of the women in the last two natural parenting books I've read. For instance, how is it possible that one gets more sleep when they have their infant next to them all night? In my case, I'm always semi-awake and sore from posturing around the child so she can nurse, and for some reason, the smaller they are, the more space they take up. We have moved her from the bed to a crib in our room. But over the past week or so, each hour, it seems, her little head pops up like a turtle as she looks desperately over the edge of her crib for her comfort source.

So, I suppose my compromise is to hold my little force of a baby through the crying, just so she doesn't feel abandoned. (Or, more to the point, so I don't feel that she feels abandoned.) I'm not sure how far memory reaches back, but I have so many memories of crying behind closed doors as a child (which I'm sure fueled my depression later on.) I thought this was normal, until I mentioned it to my childhood friend and she told me she doesn't ever remember crying like that. So I really want to be careful to listen to my children, whether infants or toddlers or school-aged, and not have them retreat behind closed doors to cry. Hopefully, little Avi's body will adjust, she'll eat more during the day, and sleep longer at night. And she'll grow and thrive, and not have a lingering sense of abandonment. Hopefully, too, Nourit isn't learning to be "detached" and destined for co-dependence issues later on in life. With the amount of love we lavish on her during the daytime, I doubt that will happen. But those thoughts do cross my mind.

Maybe soon I'll start getting more sleep, too (and not be on the computer at 4am!) Over the past three years, since getting pregnant with #1, I have been continually amazed at everything I didn't know; had never learned; was never taught; about the “natural” act of giving birth and parenting. Some things come more naturally than others, but there is so much that just isn’t clear. (I seriously wished there was a manual when I left the hospital with Nourit, but then I realized that there are actually hundreds of them. Unfortunately, they all give different advice.) Which path do I choose with regard to sleeping/feeding/clothing/etc? Which philosophy suits me and my child, and to what extent? What happens when I change my mind half-way through? Have I completely messed up my child at that point?? Why didn’t my mother tell me how to be a mother??? (Okay, do you see how I can work myself up at 3am?)

In reality, I do know the answer to all of these – there is no one answer. This is life, and life is different for every child, mother, parent. One thing that is the same for all of us, though, is that we all need more than 2 hours of sleep!!

This is an Original Chicago Mom's Blog Post. When Liz isn't trying desperately to get her baby to sleep, she can be found at sulali.blogspot.com.

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