Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sleepless in Scottsboro

I have to thank my dear mother for giving me the apt name of my blog. It perfectly describes the last few months of my life. Charlotte was a pretty good sleeper when we brought her home from the hospital. She immediately new night from day, and for a long while I fed her two and sometimes only once in the night. I was ecstatic when I thought night time feedings where over. At around four months, she slept through the night. She did this for about four or five days…such blissful days. Then she started to wake again, and things got progressively worse.

I could handle the middle of the night feedings. It was tiring, and I had a hard time falling back asleep but I could survive. However, Charlotte was refusing to take naps. From birth she has been more of a cat-napper, but she started to have to nap on me. And then it got to the point where I couldn’t move, and if my stomach gurgled or I tried to hold in a sneeze she would wake up screaming.

Night time routines also seemed to get worse. At first I nursed Charlotte and held her till she fell asleep. Then I started to have to stare at her till she fell asleep. I’m not kidding; if I didn’t look at her, she would start to fuss. Then Charlotte wanted me to sway (standing only, rocking chairs where a no go) while I did the above. I had to wait until she was totally knocked out and then gently put her in her crib while praying that she didn’t wake. Sometimes screaming commenced, and the whole routine had to be started again. She was starting to wake at least twice in the night, and three to four times was becoming more typical. When Charlotte woke after 3am I would have to let her sleep on me for the rest of the morning. I even tried co-sleeping, but it did not work well since Charlotte wanted to be on me. She ended up getting little sleep while I got none. It wasn’t just me who was suffering. Charlotte’s sleep issues where affecting the whole house. She is a good natured baby but started to become easily fussy and never seemed to play hard. Charlotte and I were just flat out exhausted most of the time.

My sweet mom, seeing my state of fatigue gave me a book she had used when I was having trouble sleeping: How to Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. As I read it I laughed, because it seemed Dr. Ferber had interviewed Charlotte for the book. I also laughed because it made SO MUCH sense. I resolved to start the process of graduated extinction (cry-it-out).

We went on a women’s’ retreat this past weekend with my home church, Trinity. It was wonderful, but Charlotte and I were still exhausted from sleepless nights. After talking to many women and my mom, I resolve to start Sunday night. People had prepared me that the first couple of nights can be tough, but it would all be worth it to Charlotte and me when she was sleeping. I also had many people praying for me. I prayed as well, and decided that I really didn’t think this is how God intended me to spend the rest of my days. I also remembered my mom’s favorite saying: “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.”

Sunday night seemed to creep up on me, and I was extremely anxious. I’m terrible at letting Charlotte cry. I was afraid that she wouldn’t love me anymore. I know that’s crazy, and I also know that just because she cries or tells me she hates me in the future does not mean I should cave. Isn’t sleep deprivation just as bad for her as a diet of all sugar or bad TV?! I got all weepy before I even put her in the bed (thank goodness she is still too young to understand her mommy crying) and prayed the Lord would bless my decision.

The book says at first to let them cry for 3 min and then go reassure them that you are still there. She cried, and I cried upstairs while I listened to the monitor and waited for Ben to let me go back down. I told her how much I loved her, and I told her it was hard for me too. Charlotte, one day when you are my age, we will laugh about this together. I went back upstairs, and she proceeded to scream. This time I had to wait five minutes before rushing back down stairs and once again promising her this was what was best. After the 5 min wait comes a 10 min wait, and it is 10 min every time after that. If the crying dies down, the book says not to go in, because it would be interrupting their learning to settle themselves. I went back up stairs where Ben comforted me and told me she would be fine. At around the 8 min mark Charlotte began to die down. I honestly thought she was just taking a breather so she could really let me have it, but she whimpered for about 10 more minutes and went to sleep! I was shocked! That night she had one session where she was up for about an hour before settling back down and sleeping till 5:30am!

I couldn’t believe it! I honestly felt kind of stupid about my anxiety. Naps are not going nearly as well, but I really think we’ll get there. It’s just going to be more of a process. Last night when I put her down, she cried for about 2min and then fussed off and on for 10min, so I didn’t even have to go in. She slept through the entire night without a peep! We are both like new people. I think both of us still have sleep to catch up on but the road ahead looks much brighter. Thanks to all who prayed; man, did God answer!!

No two children are alike, so I don’t think there is any book that can solve all problems and give you all the answers. I fully believe that parents have to pray and do what seems best, and many times the paths are different. You might think I will do it differently the next go around, but I’m not so sure. I’m grateful for how much I held Charlotte as an infant, and I will always cherish that time (trust me, she is still in my arms plenty!). I hope to do the same with the next. Hopefully, the next go around I’ll know what to do when not only am I exhausted but the baby’s sleep is suffering as well.

I hope that those parents who are still having trouble with sleepless nights will find solutions that work for them and until then, that God would give them grace and strength through the fatigue. I’m sure I have many more sleepless night ahead of me with stomach viruses, nightmares, sleep-overs, etc., but I can rest much easier knowing that Charlotte is developing good sleep habits now.


Brittany said...

I'm so happy that you and charlotte have gotten more sleep lately! I will pray for continued rest for both of you!

Kristen said...

I'm SO glad that you got that worked out! I have prayed for Charlotte's sleep difficulties, and I am thankful that the Lord resolved them swiftly.

We had some sleep issues, and we had to do the cry it out method, too, but now Ella sleeps great. Just so that you know, when we were deciding whether to do the cry it out method, I read a lot of different opinions. Some people tried to convince us that making your kid cry it out and go to sleep somehow damages them emotionally or mentally, causing issues later in life. James read that, and he said that it is absolutely not true, and it contradicts all of the neuroscience research that he's ever seen. (Which is a lot!) He insisted that we needed to let her cry, and he was absolutely right. She still cries for a few seconds when we put her down sometimes, but she's a great sleeper.

I'm so thrilled that little Charlotte is letting you snooze!

Francie said...

Pay it forward! I am sooooo going to laugh when one day Charlotte is using this same learn-to-sleep method with her child...like I did with you...like you did with her :)
Lots of love, Chicha

Timsha Coleman said...

I hope things continue to get better for you. I let Grant first cry it out around 10 months, and he has done great since. It was so hard letting him lay in his crib and cry especially when he was saying mommy, but as hard as it was I didn't go back in there. He now takes one nap a day and goes to bed at 8:00 pm and sleeps to about 7:30 am. It will get better and you will soon forget all about these sleepless days and nights!

Meghan said...

yay! Glad you're getting some sleep and Charlotte is too! Your mama is a wise woman. =)

Dana said...

Hooooray for answered prayers!! Reading Timsha's comment makes me thing about how difficult it would've been to wait until Charlotte could talk to do this! Wow! So glad things are looking up, keep us posted! Love y'all!

Henry said...

I imagine it is easier for Daddys than for Mommys, but sometimes "tough love" is what is needed. It certainly does not mean you love your child any less, but it's kind of like discipline...for their own good. So glad sleep issues are on the up and up...can't wait to see you guys soon.

P.S. Since I've never been a good sleeper (as an adult), maybe at night I should holler for 10 minutes and let Dana tell me everything will be ok?!

Susan B. said...

Hi Ben, Esther, Charlotte, and Lily:

Its always good to hear from you. Praise the Lord for answered prayer and a good night's rest! We just can't function without them! I feel like I'm runnin on empty without my sleep...or my Jesus!

Have a blessed day!

Love always!
Susan Barber

BBarber said...

We can't wait to see all the family in Al on Saturday and especially glad to hear that "little Charlotte" will be all rested up and ready for a lot of loving. You and Ben are wonderful parents, just keep up the good work in training "that little girl in the way she should go". We love you and will see you in a couple of days "Lord Willing".
Mimi and Dada