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?!?!?