Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sleeping Ugly

The sleep gods are angry at my wife and I. You see, Olive was born a good sleeper. I think my first entry in the blog was about how much sleep my wife and I got and how we felt like we didn’t know what it felt like to have an actual baby. Alas, the sleep gods did not like such hubris, and have decided that we must know what it feels like to be so tired that you forget your way to work the next morning.

Somewhere between being a perfect sleeper and becoming a screaming, crying, wake-up machine, Olive decided that she wanted to wake up in the middle of the night for a snack. No big deal. Especially for me since I wasn’t the one feeding her. She had beeen a perfect sleeper for months, we can throw her a nipple every now and then. She'd have a little snack and go right back to bed. Well, then she decided that she would get up in the middle of the night, and then get up again at 4:00 AM and then not go back to bed. That did affect me. Then she had some nights when she just didn’t want to sleep at all. She really thought that 3:45 was a perfect time to cmile and play with daddy.

Of course, we are not without fault in this matter. Along the way we probably made some strategic mistakes.

1. If she woke up we either fed her, bounced her in our arms while walking back and forth, or we did both. We did this until she fell asleep.
2. If she woke up when we put her down, we immediately scooped her back up and kept walking and bouncing.
3. We flew to Chicago and stuck her in a strange hotel room in a strange crib, the same weekend she came down with a case of the sniffles.
4. If she woke up early in the morning, we either brought her to bed and let her sleep on our chests until morning, or we gave in and brought her downstairs and played with her cause she is so damn cute.

Most of these things were really designed to get us some sleep. We walked her and bounced her because she fell asleep right away, and if we did it for long enough, she would stay asleep when we put her down. Feeding her was always a sure-fire solution to get her to calm down. Sometimes when she wouldn’t let you put her down on her back, she would fall asleep on your chest. SOOOOOO…why would we stop doing any of these things. She fell asleep. We fell asleep.

Well, the problem is that over time, every time she woke up she wanted mommy and daddy to come in a hold her. And she refused to be put down. She knew that if she screamed, we would pick her up and keep walking. So why wouldn’t she scream? This came to a head, conveniently, the night before Leanne and I ran the Chicago Marathon. Olive didn’t know or care that we had to be up at 5:30 AM to run 26.2 miles. She just cared that her nose was stuffed and that she didn’t want to sleep in the strange crib. So we walked her. And we bounced her. And Leanne kept feeding her. It was the same the next night…except we didn’t walk her as much because neither of us was walking very well.

So recently we have been trying some new techniques. We try to put her to bed or down for naps when she is awake. Inevitably, she screams her head off. But we do our best to let her cry for five minutes. (And here is a little tip for non-parents. Never, ever, ever, ever, in a million years, even dream of thinking about possibly ever telling a parent to let their child “cry it out.” It isn’t that it is bad advice. It is probably good advice. It is just that listening to your child lay alone in an empty dark room, screaming until tears run down her cheeks, is not exactly as easy as it sounds. Yes, it gets easier, but only because eventually they don’t cry as long. Non-parents tend to make it sound easy. Sometimes telling a new parent to let their baby cry it out is like a skinny person telling a fat person to not eat so much.) After five minutes of screaming we go inside and we tell her it is going to be okay, and we rub her chest or her forehead. She usually calms down. Then we leave again, pledging to return in 10 minutes if she is still crying. This technique, as corny as it sounds, has started to work. Olive usually falls asleep within five minutes now. If she wakes up, we tend to let her cry for a couple minutes before going in, and a few times she has just fallen back to sleep on her own. For about 5 days we had limited the wake-up calls to about one per night.

Last night the beast returned. She woke up at 3:30 and wouldn’t fall back to sleep. Leanne threw her a boob and then tried to put her down at 4:00 (the times may be a little off, because Leanne tells me that in the middle of the night I tend to lose all reference to the time-space continuum). Eventually, we started doing the whisper-yell at each other. You know, where you are whispering, but trying to do it in a way that the person knows you are pissed. It happens a lot in places like movie theatres and kitchens on sitcoms.

-Why don’t we just pick her up?
-Cause we are trying to let her cry it out.
-She has been crying it out for an hour!
-It hasn’t been an hour…
-Yes, it has!
-Well, I have been the one getting up!
-Oh, like I don’t get up and help her ever?

Ah, parenthood. Olive ended up falling asleep on Leanne’s chest at 5:00 and slept for another two hours. My perfect baby that slept through the night at a week old is now just my perfect baby that sleeps four-five hours at a time. Things come in phases with a baby. What may happen one day or one week or one month, may be completely different the next. Everything I thought I knew about Olive and parenting a few months ago seems completely irrelevant now. Right now it may feel like I’m the one that needs to cry it out, but I’m sure that will change in five minutes.

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