How it All Went Down

If someone would have told me four days ago that my baby would have slept through the night last night and taking naps in her crib today, I would have... well, I don't know. I guess I would have... just started crying or something. Because I would have thought you had confused me with someone else. And I would have been mad with jealously, desperately wishing that was me.
Except it IS me! And my baby IS currently taking her afternoon nap in her crib!!!!
I had a plan to sleep train Megan months ago. We trained our boys to soothe themselves when they were 10 weeks old out of necessity - and we were happier parents because of it! But I just couldn't justify it this time around. Why, oh why, would I let my little girl cry? I couldn't do it! She's only one baby. It felt so much easier to let her nurse to sleep and then I would gently lay her in her crib. Sure, she'd wake up at least four times a night. But I'd feed her again and lay her back down once she fell asleep. That whole process took about 25-40 minutes each time - not a huge deal. But add those minutes to the time I had to hold her during her two daytime naps (because she'd inevitedbly wake up if she heard her brothers while transitioning to her crib) as well as the hours I'd feed her in the evening before she'd fall into a deep milk coma... and I was exhausted.
This hit an all-time low about a month ago when I started sleeping on the couch with her all through the night so she'd be able to sleep sitting up - to help with the cough, the stuffy nose, the pink eye, the earache, the runny nose, etc. Transitioning her to the crib at night was no longer an option and I felt like I'd get better sleep this way if we just nursed all through the night.
We both kept getting sick. And more exhausted. I wish there was a word worse than exhausted to describe just HOW exhausted I really was. I was leagues beyond exhausted, beyond sleep deprived. I was restlessly dehydrated.
Last Friday, I was mumbling nonsense to myself.
Last Saturday, I was putting the remote in the fridge and the car keys in the cupboard.
Last Sunday, my eyes wouldn't stop twitching and I was a hair away from rocking myself back and forth in a locked closet while my kids screamed for their mommy.
So I'm sure you can just imagine what poor shape I was on Monday.
I'm being a little silly, but in all seriousness, Monday was the lowest I have been in a long time. I was drained. Completely empty. I couldn't think straight. I was having lustful thoughts about sleep. Thinking, 'I don't necessarily want to kill myself, but if I were dead, at least I would be sleeping.' Andy and my mom were willing to help, but I didn't know where to accept their aid. I was the only one Megan wanted. I was the only one who could nurse her. It was the only way she could go to sleep. The only clear thought in my head that made any real sense was: I. Can't. Do. This. Anymore.
I wasn't ready to receive EVERYONE and their brother's advice about what I should do (or what I should have done differently.) So I knew I was way too raw for an open Facebook status message. Instead, I wrote a private message to a few of my closest mommy friends.
You know, the ones who know you're crazy, but still think you're a good mom? Yeah. Those friends.
I asked for prayer. Real prayer. I knew I was at a low point and couldn't bear to sleep on the couch with Megan one more night. I needed to make drastic changes THAT NIGHT, even though the circumstances weren't ideal. Megan was still sick. She was still on amoxicillin for her earache and had acquired a new cold and cough. Ideally, I would have waited for her to be healthy before expecting her to cry through a completely new routine. She might throw up. She might drown in her own snot. Perhaps I should wait. But I couldn't bear the thought of doing it one more day.
Side story: my boys were (obviously) giving me a hard time about taking a nap. Largely because I was too emotionally gone to foster the loving pre-nap ritual we usually follow. I was giving empty threats. Just wanted them to be quiet and do what I wanted. I just wanted to nap and sleep my sorrows away for a few minutes. Give myself some time to soak in the prayers of my friends. Ben wasn't going with my plan and so I threatened, "Benjamin, if you don't be quiet, I will spank you so hard you won't even know what hit you." Let me be clear. I don't usually talk to my kids like that. I'm going to blame a phrase like that on my severe lack of sleep. But my three-year-old, in all of his innocence and goofiness, said, "Yes! I will know what hit me! It was your hand!"
Oh, Lord, forgive me.
Thankfully, my boys did take a nap that day. And Megan - completely exhausted from our bad night on the couch - fell asleep next to me on my bed. My friends prayed. And encouraged. And wouldn't you know, I heard the perfect words I needed to hear when I woke up. One friend, who also struggled more with her second born than her first said, "It can't get much worse." She was right. That was it. I was going to start that night.
Andy came home early from work and we talked over dinner while the boys watched a movie. In all honesty, I was so sick about all of this I couldn't even eat. We came up with the final plan and talked through every step. We would start that night.
If you don't want to read the specifics of how we tackled this, skip this next part and continue at the **********
First, we had to change her schedule so she wouldn't be eating directly before bedtime. I fed her before bathtime with the boys and then lotioned her up, put her pajamas on, brushed teeth, etc. After we said goodnight to the boys, Andy proceeded with their bedtime story ritual and I went in Megan's room. We turned on the new noise machine and sat in the rocking chair. Since I had already mounted our new video monitor on the wall with Command Strips, I knew I'd be able to monitor her progress from my bedroom. That gave me a lot of much-needed peace.
We rocked for a few minutes and I told her what to expect. I'm not sure she understood exactly what I was saying, but I know she understood that things were going to be different (but alright) by my tone. We read a few books together and then I sang some lullabies. Then I stook up, turned off the light and sang "Jesus loves me" next to her crib. I prayed, said, "It's time for sleepy time," a phrase that I've tried to work into her sleeping schedule now, and then put her down in her crib. That is our new ritual.
Then I rushed out and closed the door behind me.
You wouldn't be surprised to know that she started crying even before my feet left the room. It was horrible.
But don't forget what kind of day I had. I never like to hear my baby crying (especially when I knew it was because of a process I've encouraged and enforced since Day One!) but my resolve was strong. There was no way I could sleep with her on the couch again. I just couldn't. Physcially. Emotionally. Spiritually. I was done.
So she cried. And cried. But I knew she wasn't dirty. I knew she wasn't really hungry. She wasn't cold. There was plenty of light in there. And so we let her cry.
Our plan was for Andy (not me) to go in after 5 minutes and soothe her before putting her down again without saying anything. And then he'd go in again after an additional 10 minutes. Then 20, then 40, etc. Each time, the crying got more intense as she realized she wasn't getting what she wanted but then all of a sudden, it rapidly decreased. Her cries weren't intense, just whiny and constant. She was getting it. She cried for a total of 65 minutes that night and she didn't wake up until after 4am.
For those of you that might have just skipped passed that information, let me say it again. She didn't wake up until 4am. She slept from almost 10pm to 4am. That is phenomenal! Andy had been ready to go in and pat her back through the night if she was fussy, but he didn't even have to do that. At 4am, I figured she was probably hungry (or just wanted to nurse) and so I fed her for 10 minutes before putting her down awake again. She cried for an additional 45 minutes and then slept until 7:45am. And this was just the first night!
I continued with this same schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday, although her progress isn't as impressive during the daytime naps. But the nighttime sleep has just been amazing. Since that first time, we start the routine earlier so she's in bed by 7:30/7:45am, which seems to be better for her. (Our first instinct is to put them down later so they wake up later, but that has NEVER been true for my kids! Good sleep begets good sleep!) Last night - the third night in our training - she slept from 8pm to 5:35am. I fed her (actually, she threw up this morning because of the mucus in her system,) but after outfit changes for the both of us, I held her another minute before putting her down awake. Then she slept until 7:30am.
These are miracles, I tell you. Modern-day miracles.
As I said before, her progress hasn't been as evident with the daytime naps, largely because she longs to be awake with her brothers. That's difficult when she tends to need two naps a day and her brothers nap once (and honestly, only about 3/4x a week.) But the fact that right now, at 2:24pm on Thursday, all three of my kids are napping at the same time... in their own sleeping arrangement... after soothing themselves to sleep... is just miraculous.
I reviewed a lot of books while trying to discover which process would work best for Megan right now. The best one I found was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. It addresses sleep issues that you might have from birth through adolescents. I am, in no way, a model parent for the methods he recommends in his book. But I can tell you, I have found a way to feel human again. To take control of my home again. To think clearly and enjoy my side of my bed at night. And I've gotta say: it feels absolutely wonderful.
I had told my friends that I would join Pinterest when Megan started sleeping through the night. My mom remembered my pact and so when I woke up after a restful sleep this morning, I saw an invite from my mom on Facebook. Hmmm, Pinterest, huh? Yeah, I guess it is time.
So I joined.
Oh, Lordy. What have I DONE?!?!?


Chomping at the Bit

I feel like the newbie on the team. I'm jumping up and down excitedly, saying, "Put me in, coach! I'm ready! I'm really ready!"
Because it's been more than ten months of nursing my baby to sleep. For every single nap and all through the night. And I am ready for it to END! I'm chomping at the bit to start. I've read a ton of books, talked to a ton of moms, and read a ton of stuff online. A ton. It's taken me a while to feel 100% ready, but now that I've got a plan, I can't start. Because I have to wait until Megan is 100% healthy.
Two weeks ago, it was pink eye. For all three of my kids. Last week, it was a nasty cold. For all of us. And this week it's been an earache for Megan. Oye. I am so anxious for this child to not be sick anymore! Poor baby has had four teeth come through on top, most likely a big part of her recent shenanigans. I spend most nights on the couch with her so she can be upright, counting down the hours until the sun rises and the rest of the house wakes up. My back aches and the bags under my eyes are so not attractive. I long to sleep in my bed again and wake up to the soft coos of my loves after more than four hours of sleep at a time.
I'm ready. And as soon as Megan is healthy, it is GAME ON!


The Value of the Truth

You know when you have those A-HA! moments? Those moments when you stop and think, Wait a minute. I did just something good right there. I've gotta remember that!
Well, they don't happen a ton, but when they do, I tend to take notice.
I've learned that I can get my boys to do just about anything if I'm completely upfront and honest with them.
I've always tried to be honest with my kids, when I can. If they're going to get a shot at their 3-year-old well visit, I tell them. It makes it a lot easier in the long run. So maybe it's just what they're used to. But when all three woke up with pink eye on Sunday morning, I knew it would involve a 'dreaded' visit to the doctor. Well, I wasn't positive it was pink eye, but when I consulted my reliable sources on WebMD, I knew that had to be the case! I didn't think the pediatrician would be open, so we planned on going to Immediate Care. We changed our outfits from Sunday Formal to Saturday Comfortable and piled the kids in the van. On the way, I explained what I knew about our current situation.
"We have to go to a new doctor's office today to get some medicine for our eyes."
"But I'm not sick," Ben said. Yeah, right. His eyes were the reddest of the bunch.
"Well, the doctor wants to look at your eyes anyway. We may need some medicine to help us all get healthy again."
We exchanged a few more questions and answers before having to say, "I know you don't want to go, but sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do." I'm finding many occasions where that's appropriate lately. They don't like it, but they have to learn that's part of life. I'd rather them have a fit in the car than in the doctor's office.
A few minutes into our carride and I took my sister's advice to call the pediatrician - I hadn't realized they were open! Plans changed. She was calling in a prescription for us, over the phone! Oh, how lovely. We were all grateful not to have to drag all three kids into the pediatrician if we didn't have to. We changed our course to pick up the antibiotics at our grocery store. Eye drops. For all three kids. Which would need to be administered three times a day.
Oh, Lordy. Eye drops. How am I going to explain this one?
I explained that we would no longer be going to see the doctor, but that I'd be picking up some medicine instead. "Our medicine is eye drops," I told them. "It will help our eyes feel better. It will be like I'm splashing your eyes with water and I'll have to do it a lot of times."
They were, obviously, a little unsure of this new method and immediately threw a fit. I kept calm and emphasized our goal: being healthy. They asked a lot more questions until they were a little more comfortable. Then they were fine. We were barely out of the car and the boys were BEGGING to have their first eye drops 'splashed' into their eyes! Oh, the tumultuous life of a three year old little boy. Or two.
Now, I've never done this before. I knew I wouldn't like it. I've never had glasses (much less contacts,) but the thought of me - or other people - poking around my eyes makes me sick to my stomach. So I had to suck it up and just do it. Another part of life where it kinda stinks being the adult.
Knowing my boys, I let them gain some kind of control. I let them choose whether they wanted to stand or sit on my lap. Which eye was first. If they wanted to cover the other eye or not. And they were the ones to tell me "GO!"
I've gotta be honest. It was not the devastating situation I had imagined. They flinched, but they took their medicine so much better than I would have. Not even twenty four hours later, we were able to be excited together to see how much their condition had improved. "The medicine is working! The medicine is working!" we all jumped around the kitchen this morning. It was so rewarding to actually SEE their virus improving. Their 'hard work' had begun to pay off.
I know I sorta came the long way in explaining my point, so I'll say it again. My boys like knowing what to expect. They don't like surprises. I tell them what they need to know before it's staring them back in the face. Because I'd rather have a little time to answer questions and relieve their nerves than get to the doctor's office when that huge needle is aimed at their bloodstream and it takes a fleet of nurses to hold them down. There's no time to explain then.
I believe this helps nurture trust.
I want my boys to know that I can be relied on. Trusted. Counted on. That if they ask me a question, I will do my best to answer it. That I won't spring something on them the last minute in an effort to catch them off guard. Because I want them to be as emotionally and physically prepared as possible. It's for this reason that I try not to tell them if someone is coming over for a playdate until a few minutes before when I know they're on their way. As much as disappointment is a part of life, I try and limit the number of disappointments I have to explain. That's just me.
As always, you know your child best. Some of your kids are better off not knowing they're going to get a pint of blood drawn a half-hour ahead of time because their nerves kick into high gear and make them nervous beyond functionality. This is just something I've learned about my kids.
Now, if we can get everyone healthy again, then perhaps I can start reading about how to get my sweet baby to sleep through the night. Because sleep would just be a DREAM now. Literally. Or figuratively. Or... whatever. You know what I mean.
I want sleep.


When Sleeping Is My Best Option

Oooh, I have so much I want to do.
Why is it, that I think of so many things I want to do when I have the least amount of energy to do them?
I finished a big craft project for my Mothers of Preschoolers group this week. Like, huge. As in "use every free minute during the day and stay up until 1am for two solid weeks" kinda project. For the last few days there, I wasn't even cleaning my house. And let me tell you, dishes pile up pretty quickly over here. So when it was done, I was exhausted. Relieved, but exhausted. That's when I started making my wish list of projects.
You know what that means, Super Moms. The list of projects you want to do after you've made dinner, thrown a few loads of laundry in and fed your starving children. I like to think of it as extra credit.
First up, was my bedroom. I desperately want our bedroom to be a calming place. No paperwork on the dressers, no clothes on the floor, blankets on our bed, just a place to relax. But our room has never been that way since we moved in eight months ago. It's pretty embarrassing, actually. And after I finished that, I wanted to work on the dining room table. You know, the one that has been housing the craft supplies from my big project! Then it was the basement. Oooh, the basement. If the rest of my house is clean, it's only because I've stashed everything down there.
I was ONE day away from feeling like my room was almost clean and Megan got sick. Just a cold, but sick, nonetheless. So not only was I recovering from MY lack of sleep, but now I was caring for an adorable, snotty baby who just wanted to be held. All night. So that turned Mommy into a warm pillow with a backache. The couch was our makeshift bed for a few nights while she benefitted from the sleeping-in-the-upright-position sleep. And I just... well... you don't really sleep very well with an infant on your chest. Especially one that cried whenever she tried to nurse because she couldn't breathe.
I'm getting a book delivered tomorrow called "No Cry Sleep Solution." I'll give you one guess as to what I'm struggling with to need a book like that.
Normally, nighttime is my work time. I get so much done in the evening after all of the kids are asleep. But tonight, I can barely keep my eyes open. My throat is sore, my voice is barely there and my whole body aches. Andy worked late tonight and I did the bedtime routine on my own. And it was a really rough afternoon. I love my kids like crazy, but I am so over this whole screaming/tantrum/whining stage. It's good to see their angelic faces fast asleep in order to reaffirm my love for them. This. Mommy. Is. Exhausted.
My dining room can wait. My bedroom can wait. The basement can definitely wait. I'm not going to think about the fact that there are eight puzzles thrown all around my family room, puzzles that I was too lazy to make the boys put away. I'm not going to think about the possibility that I'll be up with my ten-month old again tonight. I'm not going to stress about how I will EVER get her to sleep through the night until after I've had a few minutes to peruse the book that hasn't even been delivered yet.
For now, I'm going to lay down in bed. Close my eyes. And hope sleep finds me soon.
I have so much I want to do. But for now, sleeping is my best option.