Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sleep struggles of epic proportions

Life has been one crazy rollercoaster of crazy these past few months. I thought Aeryn was challenging in the early months, but I think Mary-Anne is more so. Or perhaps it just feels worse, since I can't nap during the day with her to ensure she stays asleep for more then 15 minutes at a time, like I could when it was just me and Aeryn. If Aeryn and I were having a bad day, we would just nap the day away. I don't have that luxury with Mary-Anne....since Aeryn no longer takes daytime naps.  And I'm not joking about the 15 minute cat naps. That is it. And they probably don't even really total and hour and half of sleep a day. Then it's 1am or so until she falls asleep "for the night". I should be thankful that she generally lets us sleep until 10 or 11, but I'm sure this time would be halved if we didn't co-sleep. It wasn't my intention to co-sleep again. And I'll admit, for the first few months of breastfeeding, and recovering from my second c-section, it sure makes life easier. But I'm kinda ready to have my nights back. I desperately need some quality alone time. And I don't mean alone time with my husband. I need time from ANYONE wanting me to do ANYTHING for them. Period. Dot. Since Aeryn was born 2 and half years ago, I bet I've had three hours of "me time". I went out with friends for lunch, once. And since we moved to this dreadful town where none of our friends live a year ago, I have had zero time to myself. I am going out of my mind. All I'm really asking for is a couple of hours each night before I got to bed, that I don't have to hold a screaming, whining, overtired infant before I get fed up and just go to bed, only to lay in bed for an hour with a screaming, whining overtired infant for an hour before she finally passes out. And it's not like I don't start the "going to sleep" process at 7 or 8. And she will generally  nap for a little bit before 10pm (again, one of her 15 minute cat naps), but after that, all bets are off. Perhaps sleeplessness runs in my family. Aeryn hardly slept, my little brother barely slept as an infant according to my mom. He would sleep for a few hours, then be up for a few hours, all the way until he started kindergarten. I had one cousin that was colicky as a baby, and another that only went to sleep in his carseat, in the car. So I know I'm not the only person that has ever had to go through this, just in my family alone, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating. At least the other members of my family only did this with ONE child (two only children, and my brother is five years younger then I) not with two, barely two years apart. Heck, we have just barely gotten Aeryn to sleeping in her own bed, all night through. For over two years, she woke up every few hours for something, whether it be a drink, her pacifier  or someone to snuggle with. She finally started sleeping for longer stretches, four to five hours, but would wake up and wouldn't go back to sleep unless someone laid down with her. It's only been in the past few months that she has started sleeping in her bed all night on a regular basis, and when she does wake up, she goes back to sleep on her own. I guess I should be thankful for that, right?

You see, I have this terrible secret. I cannot stand the sound of my own children crying. It's like fingers on a chalkboard to me, and after about 15 minutes or so of uncontrollable crying, I come unglued. And heaven help us all, if we are in the car when one of these episodes hit (oh, more stories on that later!) A few nights ago I was having a particularly bad night, Mary-Anne wouldn't stop crying. I had rocked, fed, sang, bounced and medicated (tylenol and mylicon) till I was blue in the face. She had already woken Aeryn up and I had to put her in the big bed. We all cuddled up in the bed, and she would still not stop. She would quieten down long enough for Aeryn to fall back to sleep, only to start again. I cursed at the wall a few times (I'd be a liar if I said this was a one time occurence)...which oddly makes her stop crying and smile for a minute, only to start back up. I have NEVER seen a child FIGHT SLEEP so hard in my LIFE. So I did the only thing I knew to do at that time, which was to throw her in her crib, turn off the lights, shut the door, and go take a long hot shower. It had to be 10 or 15 minutes or so.

I would LOVE to tell you this worked a miracle, and that when I had calmed down and made it out of the shower, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into the bedroom only to find her peacefully sleeping.

No dice.

She was shrieking so loudly I immediately felt bad and was totally surprised child services and the cops were not already at my door. Thankfully, unlike her sister, who would continue to sob for hours, even her sleep, after crying so hard, Mary-Anne quietened once I picked her up, but it was still another hour or so before she went to sleep.

I used to get a small break on nights the hubby didn't have to work, because he was able to walk her about and get her to go to sleep (this never worked for me) and she would actually sleep for a few hours. Not so much anymore. Apparently we are officially in the No Sleep Zone because that didn't even work this week. Last night was the final straw for me, and after about 20 minutes of her uncontrollable crying upstairs in bed, I brought her downstairs, packed her into her carseat and told the hubby to take her for a drive till she screamed herself to sleep. It only took him about 15 minutes to return. I didn't even bother taking her out of her carseat. He carried it up stairs, and put it beside the bed. I left her in there, in nothing but a diaper and a blanket, and went to sleep. She slept in that thing, all night long. From 2am till 10am.

Aeryn also slept all night in her bed, so I was hoping today would move along smoothly. Ugh, no such luck again today. After being up for about 2 hours, she started the sleep fight again. We ate, took a bath, and it was finally rocking that got her to settle down and go to sleep. She is currently in her crib (a miracle in itself) on her side, snuggled between two stuffed animals. It's been about two hours, so I'm hoping this will make the rest of the day go easier...

I know "sleep issues" is one of the biggest stuggles parents have with kids. And it's even worse trying to get advice on what to do about it. I don't know how many people tell me to just leave my kids to cry themselves to sleep. And while this might work for some parents, with some kids, I can't help but think there are consequences to doing this. Not to mention, that even for all my frustration, I really can't let my child cry senselessly for the sake of getting them to sleep. I personally think this is the root cause of insecurities in children, fears of the dark, and other fears and neediness that could just be avoided. My in-laws got custody of their grandson when he was about a year old, and in order to get him to sleep on his own, they would put him in his crib and let him cry for awhile, then peek into his door to soothe him (NEVER entering his room) and get him to go back to sleep..only to repeat this all night long.

He's now 8. He still wakes up alot during the night, needing someone to sleep with him, or a drink, or nightmares or any other various reason. They have to leave his door open, the hall light on, and with a whole trail of stuffed animals guarding his door...just to get him to even get him to go to sleep. And my father in law still goes in there to lay in bed with him on some nights to get him to go to sleep. Yet, my mother in law swears that is what I needed to do with Aeryn. She needed to sleep in her own bed, from day one (her own words). Even though her method had already failed on one child. She medicated one of her own children to get them to sleep (apparently her pediatrician gave her something to give my sister in law, to put her to sleep at night) and let the other one scream themselves to sleep while never going in the room to soothe. 

I tried the "cry it out" method with Aeryn. And it had the absolute worst reverse effect.At about 8 months, for a week or so, I would take her in her room, tell her goodnight, blah blah blah......and she would scream and scream and scream,  I would check on her for a few, calm her down...and we would repeat the whole thing as soon as I was out of the room. IF she did manage to go to sleep, it was only for a few minutes, and she would not go back to sleep. After a few nights of that, she would start screaming as soon as I took her to her room, she would wrap herself around my arms and not let go if I tried to put her in her crib, she would cry so hard she would stop breathing. I WISH I was exaggerating. I don't see how ANYONE could do that to their child. So I quit. It just didn't work for us. And it doesn't look like it's going to work for Mary-Anne. I don't expect getting them to sleep to be easy, but apparently I am awful at it. And while we have some long nights ahead of us, I don't think I could live with myself I just left her to cry it out in the dark, all alone. It's my job to, at the VERY least, try and be there for her, even if that means she is still co-sleeping till she is two as well. 

I really just want getting her to sleep to be easier....I don't care where she sleeps!