It's been well over 9 months since I have slept in the way that only non-parents sleep. Come to think of it, it's been longer. The last few months Knight was on the inside, I'm pretty sure he was doing push-ups on my bladder, so I was up every few hours to pee. A sneak-peek of sorts. So, for over 9 months, I have not had more than 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and that was once, many many months ago. And when I awoke from that alarmingly sound slumber, I was sure my baby was dead. The monitor battery had died in the night and I never heard the beeping. When I found that the baby was still alive, I wondered if he cried for hours in vain (remember, I didn't even hear the monitor's death beeps). Would he be forever scarred, suffering serious abandonment issues from the night he cried and cried and his mommy never came? We will never know how he suffered that night, or if he just slept like a baby. But for the past couple of months, my son sleeps for maybe 2 1/2 hours before he wakes, cries, sits up in his crib and cries some more until I come in and nurse him back to sleep. A matter of moments— maybe long enough for me to pee. Clearly, I'm an enabler, right?
I went into active labor at around 3:00 pm on November 19. For obvious painful reasons, I did not sleep until about 20 or so hours later when they drugged me (for the first time, by the way) specifically so I would sleep, at least momentarily between contractions. But he wasn't coming out theta way. I think I dozed off for a few minutes on the operating table while they dug through my insides to fish out my giant baby. When the adrenaline of giving birth (finally!) had eased, and my perfect new baby was sound asleep in the bassinet beside my hospital bed, I ate about 10 red Jell-O cups and snuggled down to sleep. By then, it was about 4 am on November 21. Never had I been more deserving of sleep (or Jell-O!). It was deep and oh so yummy. Then, 2 hours into my blissful dreamless slumber, I was abruptly awakened by Wombat, a fierce little Filipino nurse, shoving my blissfully sleeping baby to my breast, telling me I must feed him every 3 hours. Her name wasn't actually Wombat, but it was something very much like Wombat, which I can't recall right now because I'm sleep deprived. Anyway, this baby that she insisted was so hungry, weighed nearly 10 pounds. Also, he had eaten for 45 minutes almost immediately upon arriving on the outside.
For the first few weeks after we arrived home, I would try to put the baby down in his co-sleeper after nursing him to sleep. But as the night progressed, he would stir and I would sleepily bring him to my breast for some late-night snacking. He and I would both fall asleep, and he would spend the remainder of the night snoozing on my chest. You see, our bed is small, a full- size mattress, not even a queen. John, a very sound sleeper, was nervous about smothering him, making it impossible for him to sleep when the baby was positioned between us. When the giant baby outgrew the co-sleeper, John relocated to the couch to make room for my new man, my main squeeze. Then, one night about 4 months in, Knight fell asleep before I was ready to settle down for the night, so I put him in his crib. As it grew later, I grew increasingly guilty and sad that my baby was asleep alone, apart from me. But he slept soundly for a long time, and so each night from then on I would lay him in his crib after nursing him to sleep. And John moved back in. Then when Knight awoke after John would leave for work in the morning, I would bring him back to our bed for an additional hour or so of snoozing (for both of us). It's a little confusing, all this musical beds nonsense, but try to keep up. People come up with some crazy sleep arrangements when they have babes, believe-you-me! Eventually, that transition into our bed made it nearly impossible for baby bear to fall back to sleep, so I would nurse him in the glider in the nursery and lay him back in his crib. By the way, I realize not all my numbers are lining up. I'm f*ing sleep deprived! Did I mention I'm tired?
The number of times Knight wakes up over the course of a night has varied. Historically, if one can call 9 1/2 months of life a history, he has gone through phases. He has slept for a 7 hour stretch each night for maybe a week or two. That is not to say I have. If he goes down at 8 pm and I don't go to sleep til 11 pm, then that allows me 5 hours, interrupted periodically by moments of panic when I wonder if he's still living. There's a lot of math happening here, huh? Then there are the stretches of time when he wakes up every hour and a half. The first time we experienced one of these horrific stretches is when he was 4 months old or so. Just when I thought I couldn't take any more and drastic measures would have to be taken, ie. "sleep training," he slept for 5 hours. That is, until this last, I mean current time. Knight wakes up every couple of hours. We're talking about 5 times a night! If I nurse him, there is a 95% chance he will quickly fall back to sleep. About 50% of the time, he will only remain asleep, as in not scrying (that's screaming + crying, by the way) if my boob is in his mouth. 50% of the time, I can pop him off the nip without incident. Then, if I lay him back down in his crib, he might roll onto his side, sigh and sleep. That happens, let's say, again, 50% of time. So, if my math is correct, and it seldom is, he easily goes back to sleep after being nursed for 10-15 minutes 25% of the time. 48% of the time, when I place him back down in his crib, he rolls onto his stomach, immediately gets up on his knees and starts crying. And we begin the whole process again. 2% of the time, his eyes pop open and he smiles. That is the worst case scenario. Then he wants to chat, coo, cuddle, like for an hour!
The whole lack of sleep/broken sleep is really taking a toll on my mental and emotional well being. While I have a hard time letting my baby "cry it out," it's impossible to be the kind of mother I want to be on such little sleep. Such broken sleep over such a long period of time can't be good for Knight, either. I have talked to so many people, questioned everyone I know with a child. I have consulted books and the internet looking for a solution that feels right. But nothing feels right. When I respond immediately to his cries, offering my breast for comfort, I think all sorts of things like This is never going to end. How will he/why would he ever sleep through the night? Comfort eating is probably not a good idea. This boy needs to sleep! I need to sleep! I decided that at 8 months we would "sleep train." But he was teething like mad, and that would just be cruel, right? Then a couple of weeks ago, an opportunity presented itself. Knight had had a big dinner and nursed plenty. When I put him down in his crib, he woke up. It was fairly early, so his scrying would probably not wake the neighbors. I did not want him to feel abandoned, so I stayed with him, kept my hand on him and whispered "shhhhh. shhhhh." He cried. He got up on his knees. He pulled himself up. I laid him back down and gently said, "Lay down. Go to sleep." He rolled and cried and screamed some more. He must have pulled himself up 50 times. I laid him down 50 times. I rubbed his stomach and said "shhh" until my throat was sore. His throat must have been on fire. Poor baby. After an hour, I scooped him up, cuddled him, and nursed him back to sleep. A few nights later, after nursing him to sleep, he woke up as soon as placed him in his crib. So we tried it again. And he cried, but then he calmed down. He got up. I laid him down. He got up again. I laid him down again. I sat on the floor beside his crib and we held hands, and eventually he fell asleep. But he was still up about 5 times during the night. The following night, I was too exhausted to let him "cry it out," so I just nursed on demand. But then a funny thing happened. At one point, he had woken up and would not go back to sleep, but I was simply too tired to pick him up and I couldn't take the crying anymore, so I went into our room to decompress for a few minutes and vent to John. As I expressed my frustration and conflicting feeling about letting him cry himself to sleep, letting him self soothe etc., the crying faded and (Hallelujah!) the kid fell asleep.
So that's what we've been doing. And it seems to be getting better, slightly and gradually. Of course, he is teething again, so, afraid he's in pain, I don't want to leave him in his crib to work it out on his own. But for the past 3 nights he has slept for a 4-5 hour stretch. It's progress. I will take it.
Uh-oh! Baby's awake. Gotta go. I will keep you posted.