Another Humbling Experience

It's December 10th, definitely time for an update. I'm just feeling grateful that I actually have something new to report!

Today was Day One of Phase Two: Operation Sleep On Their Own. For the past (fill-in-the-blank) months, we have been struggling with the boys' sleeptimes. It started off with the boys discovering their brother/partner in crime just inches from where they slept. They would take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to soothe themselves to sleep, then I'd have to wake them up after they had been sleeping for just a short time. They were obviously still exhausted and the rest of the day was a nightmare.

Then Jack began waking up between 2-4am seeming to have nightmares and being afraid to go back to sleep. We did what we could to soothe him, we altered our nightly routine to be calming and reassuring, put another nightlight in their room and responded to every cry through the night. But that turned into much more comfort than we could handle on a regular basis. Andy would wake up through the night, multiple times - letting his pregnant wife stay warm in bed - in order to comfort Jack and try to coaxe him back to sleep. He eventually took a twin mattress and put it on the floor so he would be more comfortable in waiting it out. Jack just liked to know that daddy was there. And that's even after Andy would lay in the room with them until Jack fell asleep (usually about an hour and a half.) For naptimes, I would also sit in the room with them until they fell asleep and then muster enough energy to get ANYthing done before they woke up crying. This was incredibly draining. For all of us. The boys weren't getting the rest they needed and Andy and I were frustrated to know what we should do to change the bad habits we had acquired.

I sought the advice of a good friend, who also happens to have twin boys (as well as another boy after them.) She recommended the book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. In the book, he suggests enforcing sleep rules for toddlers between 2.5 and 3 years old, complete with consequences and rewards. Not only did it make us feel better that we weren't alone in our struggles, but it gave us a solution to work toward. We researched, planned and talked and talked and talked until we were confident that both of us were on the same page. With another baby coming in about four months, we had to get back on track. We didn't want them in our beds with another baby on the way and we certainly didn't want to spend every night in their room. We decided that we would begin our new plan on a weekend, when Andy wouldn't need to worry about working during the day. We were all set to go. I had gotten poster board for the posters and a ton of prizes from the Dollar Store... and then the boys got sick. We would have to wait until they were healthy to start training.

Two weeks later, their colds disapaited and all that's left is a slight cough. We were FINALLY ready!

This morning, I worked on creating Sleep Rules posters with the boys while Andy emptied their room of the recliner and the mattress, two modes of comfort we have relied on. We talked about the rules as I wrote them and I drew corresponding pictures for each. We joked about the difference between quiet and loud, eyes open and closed and they seemed genuinely excited about this new game. I let them color their posters with markers and decorate with stickers, all while making a HUGE deal about our new rules. And they're really simple, too: 1. Stay in bed, 2. Close our eyes, 3. Stay very quiet, 4. Go to sleep, and 5. Stay in bed until you hear the music. The boys clearly understood the concepts. We hung our new posters in our room and eagerly communicated our excitement to Daddy.

We were ready for a battle. Well, ANDY was ready for a battle. He asked that I stay locked in our room during the training so he could do the fighting. What a great friend. The process encourages you to silently put them back in their crib whenever they get out, which is extremely difficult (if not forbidden) for a pregnant mommy of almost six months who's not supposed to lift more than fifteen pounds. I am more than grateful to have married such a wonderful man who is 100% invested in the day-to-day lives of our family.

The nap went better than we had anticipated: Ben got up once, Jack got up four times. They finally fell asleep (after a lot of jumping, goofing around, crying and calling for daddy) after an hour. Victory! The alarm clock in their room was set for 3:30pm, which was set to go off with music. Pure joy. The boys were still pretty sleepy when they each got to choose a prize from the prize box, but we were sure to stretch the praise all night long. Obviously, we would get more of a struggle at night.

Tonight went even smoother than this afternoon. They didn't even jump in their cribs when we put them down. I am, once again, locked in my room and Andy is sitting in the hallway where they can't see him. It's been about 45 minutes and it's STILL quiet. I'm telling you. For a process that has lasted for about three months, this is heaven. I haven't talked to Andy yet, but I'm sure he's ecstatic, too!

Now the real struggle will come tonight, when Jack wakes up between 2-5am and remembers that Daddy isn't sleeping on his floor. I'm sure he'll cry out and expect Daddy to come running, just like he has for the past few months. But tonight, he won't. He'll wait for Jack to get out of the crib, remind him of the rules once, and put him back in the crib. The biggest question will be how many times Andy has to silently return him to his crib before he finally gives in and goes back to sleep. Two times? Twenty five times? One hundred times? One hundred fifty times? We have no idea. But as long as he DOES go back to sleep and wakes up to the music at 7am, he'll receive another prize. Oh, how I pray this goes well!

So, anyway, thanks for walking this journey with me. What a humbling experience this has been. We are no where near the finish line yet - I have a feeling this is a process that will constantly evolve as the boys grow - but I am so grateful for good friends, good advice and prayer.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'd like to go watch a movie with my husband - something we haven't been able to do in a loooooong time!