Archive for the ‘sleep’ Category

And On The Seven-Hundred And Second Day, She Took It All Back

March 1, 2009

What I wrote the other day? About sleep? Please disregard.

The gods, they were listening, and they did not approve. That, or you all weren’t making the necessary sacrifices on my behalf. Which I understand, sort of, because good sheets (the sleep gods’ preferred object of sacrifice) are a thing to treasure, but still. We’re talking about sleep here, the loss of which is all the more painful after you’ve luxuriated in its sweet embrace for a couple of days (and after you’ve tossed your supply of Ativan, in premature celebration of your reunion with Morpheus and Hypnos who, it turns out, were just in it for a two-night stand, the bastards.)

I am now going into mourning, and, also, am rummaging through the trash to find that bottle of Ativan.

As you were.

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And On The Seven-Hundredth Day, She Rested

February 27, 2009

Sleep has come to our household.

Sleep has come to our household.

I’m reluctant to say too much about it, or even to explain it (let’s just say that a combination of doctorly advice and husbandly heroism and sheer desperation and luck and blessedness probably have much to do with it.) I am terrified that if I even say the words aloud – sleep, glorious sleep, how I have missed you! – the gods will be quick to smite me for my arrogance and ingratitude. So I am reserving any commentary on this issue until I am reasonably certain that the gods are no longer paying attention, or until I have banked enough sleep that it doesn’t matter if they take it away from me again.

Because, sleep. Is precious. I want to hold it close and never let it go. So, don’t ask me how I accomplished this, what deity I prayed to, what divine strings I had to pull. Also, consider making sacrifices on my behalf. I hear that burnt offerings of 700-thread count Egyptian cotton bedsheets are particularly effective with the lesser Olympian gods.

Not shown: lesser Olympian gods.

In the meantime… my body has become convinced that it is going into hibernation (understandable, really: why else would it suddenly, after nearly a year of never sleeping more than two to three hours at a stretch, find itself curled up in a den of quilts, laying completely, uninterruptedly still for almost seven hours? Two nights in a row? I would make the same mistake) and I find myself wandering around in a sponge-brained, stumble-clutz zombie state, fighting off sleepiness at every moment of the day. Is this normal? Does this pass? And more importantly: is there a cure for this, other than actually, you know, hibernating, which is not option because 24 hours/day minus 7 hours sleeping = 17 hours, during which I’m still on duty. Are multiple shots of expresso my only recourse, or does someone out there have a cure for sleep-induced narcolepsy?

(Listen to me, asking for remedies to ward off sleep. I must be dreaming.)

The Science Of Sleep

February 3, 2009

I think that I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again: I’m exhausted. I’m going to say more about it right now, so if the topic of my slow spiral into sleep-deprived madness bores you, click away now.

When Emilia was a baby, I was pretty certain that I had the night-time sleep thing figured out. She refused, for the most part, to nap during the day, but was sleeping through the night from infancy and so I counted myself lucky. More than lucky: I was smart. I knew what I was doing, if only in this one area of motherhood. There were a lot of things that I couldn’t figure out (like naps, which I bitched about heartily), but getting baby to sleep at night? I knew all about that. When I spoke to other moms who couldn’t get their babies to sleep through the night, I shared my tactics – consistent bedtime routine, liberal use of loveys and binkies, a willingness to let baby fuss it out – and nodded sympathetically when they said that these tactics didn’t work for them. I nodded sympathetically, but secretly, I wondered: were they doing it wrong? They must be doing something wrong. My formula worked like magic. Of course it was because it was exactly the right formula, and not because Emilia was simply disposed to sleep at night. I wasn’t just lucky. I was doing something right.

I was wrong. I was lucky. Mostly. I mean, my tactics certainly helped – Emilia’s bedtime routine was made all the more straightforward for its consistency and its props. She did need to fuss it out sometimes, and my willingness to allow that helped us through some difficult periods. But mostly? She was, and is, a good night sleeper.

Jasper is not. And nothing that I do seems able to change that.

I’ve tried everything – routine, props, fussing it out, crying it out, nursing before sleep, not nursing before sleep, swaddling, not swaddling, vodka (for me) – and then tried it all again, and none of it has worked. Sometimes he settles easily into his crib, sometimes he will only fall asleep in his car seat, but regardless of how he falls asleep, he does not stay asleep. He wakes up, always, a couple of hours after going down, and then he will not return to sleep unless he is tucked in at the breast, in bed, with me, and then he will wake up, invariably, every two hours or so to nurse or just to grab at me and make sure that I am still there. If I sneak away to another room – as I have been doing most nights, just to remove the temptation of boob and try to extend the minutes between wakings – he still wakes up, and yells Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma until I return.

And so it goes, night after night. The husband gets up with him in the mornings, when he can, which affords me a couple of hours of rest, but beyond that there is not much to be had. I stumble forward into each day, ever more tired, ever more slow, ever more blurred and bleary and dazed. I’m coping, in a way – there are worse things, certainly, than to be exhausted from caring for a beautiful, healthy, ever-happy baby – but still: I look ahead at the days and weeks and months of Jasper’s babyhood and wonder whether I am fated to remain awake for the duration. And I wonder whether I will stay sane.

Of course I will stay sane. I’ll be fine. Millions of mothers before me have endured sleeplessness. Many, indeed, have done it without the advantages of helpful husbands and king-sized beds and spare rooms and Ativan prescriptions. So I resist the urge to proclaim myself overwhelmed unto defeat. If my own mother could do it, so can I.

What I am having more trouble overcoming: the nagging worry that I am not just unlucky, that I am, in fact – against all evidence to the contrary – doing something wrong, that I am missing some vital resource, some work of science or art or magic that would change things, that would make my baby sleep at night. I think back to the nights of Emilia’s babyhood, when I would stand outside her door and listen to her breathing and fight the urge to go in and – the mind boggles, it just boggles – wake her up to snuggle her, to have more time with her in her babyness, and I wonder whether that was a different woman, a different mother, a mother who knew things, things that I do not know, or have forgotten.

And then I wonder whether I am going crazy, and I shake the Ativan bottle to see how many pills are left and I calculate the odds of Jasper deciding to sleep through the night before they run out.

And I tell myself that I am very probably not that lucky.

Okay, maybe I’m a little bit lucky. It’s just, you know, it’d be nice to look at them and not have them be blurry.

(I apologize – do I need to apologize? – for turning off comments so much recently. I’ve been doing it when a) I know that I need to back away from the computer – to, you know, maybe sleep a little bit – and won’t be able to read comments, and b) when I’m just posting video of the babies, because that whole thing where you give way too much thought to whether people are going leave comments saying how cute they are and ohmigod what if no-one says they’re cute? I don’t like that. So I avoid the issue altogether. Feel free to tell me that you think that this is terrible of me. Because I worry about that, too.)

The Story’s The Thing

January 13, 2009

Here’s the thing about maintaining a personal blog: one sometimes forgets that one is not simply maintaining a diary – albeit a carefully thought-out diary, one that is edited for style and for grammar – but publishing, virtually, a sort of memoir or collection of essays or some combination of these. One forgets, sometimes, that one has made, is making, one’s story public.

I forget this all the time.

The primary danger, here, is not that one might unintentionally reveal something that one might later regret. We most of us hesitate with our cursors hovering over the Publish Post button every time that we write, mentally reviewing what we’ve said and how we’ve said it and worrying over how it might be received. The Publish Post button reminds us, in the crucial moment, that we are in fact publishing, making public, our stories, our rants, our confessions. What the Publish Post button does not remind us, however, is that with every post that we publish we are constructing and furthering a narrative that is followed by tens or dozens of readers, tens or dozens of readers who might well want to know what became of that problem, was that issue resolved, what happens next? They follow a narrative, and our blogging platforms don’t provide tools for reminding us that we’re weaving such narratives as we write. And because we are not reminded, we – I – sometimes forget.

I was reminded – uncomfortably – of this the other day when I wrote a confused, rambling post that was a variation on another post that I’d written a few months ago. I knew that I had already written on the topic – whether or not I wanted to keep open the possibility of having a third child – and was just trying to sort my feelings out further. It was a post that I wrote for myself, not one that was intended to advance my story, such as that story is. And that pissed at least one reader off, a little: she protested that I was just retreading old ground and that it was frustrating and why didn’t I make more of an effort to let readers know what I was doing to prevent what seemed to be my inevitable slide into whiny insanity – for example, what had I done about the sleep issues? Had I taken any readerly advice? – because, seriously, if I kept this up – and certainly if I made the terrible mistake of committing mental suicide by further childbearing – she, for one, was not going to be able to read me anymore. (She later apologized for articulating herself so harshly, and made clear that she was just frustrated because she is a fan of the blog, and I’m totally comfortable with that, so please don’t smack her in comments.) Which: OUCH.

The comment struck a nerve, because a) I’m sensitive about the possibility that this blog can be, you know, angst-ridden at times, and believe me, my angst bores even me, and b) oh, gawd, I like totally can’t maintain the thread on my own stories, can I? But there’re reasons why I don’t always (read: almost never) maintain a narrative thread: because sometimes doing a follow-up on how nothing has changed and how I’m still angsting out over the same old miscellaneous bullshit seems, I don’t know, tiresome, and because – more often than not – I forget. Some other issue comes up – the girl pours canola oil on the living room sofa, or I become obsessed yet again with the finality of vasectomies – and whatever thread I had begun to weave about sleeplessness or feeding baby or finding long lost siblings gets lost.

Which is fine, in a way: this is my story, and if it’s disjointed, so what? But still: I like a coherent narrative thread, and so far as coherence is possible in personal narratives, why not pursue it? I can’t promise that I’ll follow up on every little issue, but I can promise to make an effort to not just abandon cliffhangers (I laugh even as I write this. Who among you was waiting with bated breath to see if Her Bad Mother would ever sleep again, dun dun dun DUN?!?!?) So, to that end: the first of a series of semi-occasional, whenever-the-hell-I-feel-like-it, will-probably-forget-to-do-this-ever-again updates on stories that you probably don’t care about but this blog is a narrative, dammit, and so the story must go on:

1) Did Her Bad Mother ever sleep again? No, she did not, and probably will not again, ever. She has tried most of the suggestions offered and none, so far have worked. She would just give up and look into becoming a vampire, were it not for the fact that she doesn’t want to eat her baby (I don’t care what Stephenie Meyer implied in Breaking Dawn about mother-love overcoming the temptation to sink one’s teeth into buttery baby butt cheeks; if I were a vampire I would totally eat my baby because, my god, the deliciousness), so she’ll just persist in this lovely and only slightly inconvenient sleep-deprived fugue state.

2) Did Her Bad Baby ever take to solid foods? Yes! He did! He does! But only if they’re, you know, solid. As in, able to withstand the clutch of a chunky little fist. Which is to say, hunks of bread or cereal biscuits or meatballs or whole baby carrots or, for some reason, pickles. Anything mushy, anything on a spoon, anything in a bottle (sigh) is rejected with a swat of a chubby hand.

3) Did Her Bad Mother ever find her long lost brother? Has she made any progress? Not so much. Believe me, you’ll hear about it when – WHEN – anything happens.

4) Whatever happened to the Phallic Lovey? He (Christian name: Toadstool) was tossed aside by the girl – who declared herself to be ‘too big for Toady now’ – a few weeks ago. It was like a sad Toy Story 2 sub-plot, really, and Her Bad Mother got a little weepy. Her Bad Husband, however, rejoiced. And then this happened:


And so it goes.

Any other questions on narrative threads that I may have dropped, recently or, like, eons ago? Fire away in the comments, and I’ll follow up them, someday. And tell me, what are the narrative threads that you’ve dropped? I’m not the only one out here who can’t tell a story, am I?

Also, oh, hai: yesterday was Delurking Day, and I missed it. Feel free to make up for that today.

How To Feed A Baby And Not Lose Consciousness Trying

December 18, 2008

My baby? Is a big baby. At 7 months old, he’s a husky, roly-poly, chubby-cheeked, fat-thighed chunk of Gerber baby who looks nearly a half year older than his age. He is, as his doctor said at his last post-natal visit, robust. Which is not surprising, because he nurses more or less around the clock. I mean, he was big to begin with, but a steady diet of booby has kept him on an upward curve on the growth charts. Which is great and all, but I’m getting a little tired of being the sole source of nutrition for a ravenous jumbo-tot. The problem is, he won’t take solid food or a bottle or indeed any source of nutrition that does not come wrapped in a nursing bra.

He just won’t do it. I’ve tried. I try every day: rice cereal, oatmeal, mashed fruits, mashed veggies, mashed fruits and cereal, mashed veggies and cereal, cereal with formula, formula with cereal, cereal with expressed milk, everything. But if it comes on a spoon or in a bottle, he just won’t take it. He’ll actually grab the spoon from me, shake the food off, and then gnaw cheerfully on it until I wrestle it away from him again and try to slip a little cereal into its bowl, at which point he hoots angrily, grabs the spoon, shakes off the cereal, and we start all over again. If I manage to get any into his mouth without him grabbing the utensil away – it just seems wrong, a little too close to waterboarding or some other Guantanamo-like exercise, to hold his arms down for the purposes of getting the spoon in – he makes a sour face and tries to push it out of his mouth. It’s a little frustrating.

It’s a little frustrating because I suspect that a rapidly-emptying belly is what keeps waking him up at night. I just don’t think my humble boobies are up to the task of keeping him filled for hours at a stretch. He’s a big guy, and I imagine that he’s got a big tummy tucked away in that pudgy belly of his. A big tummy that I can’t fill.

I’ve read that some babies just aren’t ready for food until closer to eight, nine, or even ten months. I’ve read that breastmilk is sufficient for most babies in their first year. I’ve read that some babies bypass soft foods altogether, and refuse to eat anything until they’re ready for more solid varieties of solid food (Jasper does, I should note, like organic teething biscuits. He holds them in his hand and gums happily away until they’ve turned to mush.) I don’t think that there’s anything wrong him – at least, I hope that there isn’t – but I am at the very end of my coping-rope and will soon reach the point of utter collapse if I don’t get a full night’s sleep soon. And because it has become clear to me that he is waking from hunger, I need to deal with his hunger before I can get some rest. I need that rest.

I need that rest BAD.

So what do I do?

********

UPDATE (Sunday): HE TOOK A SIPPY CUP. REJOICE.

********

Miscellany…

Congratulations to the winner of last week’s What Would Linus Do? Good Karma GiveawayMaria! Maria asked for a donation to a pediatric ward, so I’ll make the donation to Toronto’s Sick Kid’s Hospital. And because Maria asked to pass on the iPod shuffle, I did a second random draw and the winner is ZombieDaddy. (ZombieDaddy, could you get in touch with me with your address?)

Also… I need ideas on how I might pay forward the wonderful experience that Emilia and Jasper I had last week. Money’s tight, so it needs to be something that draws more upon spirit than cash. Thoughts? Leave your ideas here. Whoever leaves the idea that I choose gets a Scrabble Diamond Anniversary Edition game…

Hush

December 1, 2008

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I haven’t slept in days.

Jasper is six months old. He doesn’t so much sleep at night as he does snooze and hang out between bouts of crying for mommy. He invariably ends up in bed with me, which is in some ways great, because he is as soft and snuggly as a cashmere pillow stuffed with kittens and dusted with baby powder and fairy farts, but also, in some very important ways, not great, because he inevitably kicks me in the boobs a few dozen times. I don’t sleep when he’s tucked up against me. I haven’t slept in days. Weeks even. I’ve lost track.

I have the dim sense that this is not quite right, that this is sub-optimal, that things really shouldn’t be this way. Emilia slept in her crib, swaddle-free, through the night, from about five months of age (of course, she didn’t sleep a wink during the day, but at least our nights were restful.) For the life of me, I have not been able to recall how or why she did this. I don’t remember doing anything special. Except for, you know, a little bit of crying it out now and again.

Ah.

It finally sunk in last night – late, late last night – that we had been willing to let Emilia cry, a bit, at bedtime or during night wakings. Not very much, and not for very long – you could hardly call it Ferberizing; more like Ferber lite – but on those occasions when it seemed that she needed to fuss herself down and when it was clear that her cries were fussy tired cries and not desperate needy cries, we’d let her cry it out for a minutes on her own. And it worked, and she was fine, and we all slept, and it was good.

But I can’t bring myself to do it this time around, and I’m not even sure why. All of Jasper’s cries sound desperate to me; every whimper out of his throat yanks at my heart and rakes across my nerves. His sobs and shouts and grumbles ring in my ears – he needs me! My baby NEEDS me! – and every moment of tears passes like an eternity. My heart lodges itself in my throat and my blood thrums in my ears and my whole body tenses. I cannot let him cry.

And sure enough, when I hold him, he stops, and herein lays the problem, I think: he does need me. He needs me in a way that my spirited, independent baby girl never did. She never cried to be held or to be snuggled: she cried (as she still does) to be free, to stand alone, to have her way. She cried in resistance to shutting her eyes against the fascinations of the day; she cried from the exhaustion of having rolled/crawled/climbed/raced her way through every moment of her wee existence. She cried and raged against boredom, against constraint; she cried with the fury and spirit of a tiny Beat poet, shouting her rhythms into the shadows and demanding that world give way to her presence. Jasper, on the other hand, only cries for boobies and hugs and – in the event of an epic shit – a clean diaper. Those, I can provide. And so I do.

So it is that I cannot let him cry. I cannot let him cry because I know that it is within my power to soothe his cries. I cannot let him cry because he cries for me. Such is the vanity of motherhood, that I am weakened by his need for me, that I am weakened by any such need, that the needing – the feeling that I am necessary, that I am fundamentally necessary, in any given moment, that I am the only being in this world that can provide the desired comfort – becomes the focal point of all my motivation: gratify his need (indeed, their need, for my daughter knows well that she can have me wrapped around her finger only by uttering the words I need you, Mommy.) So it is that his need, my need, our need for sleep become secondary to the need that is articulated – that he articulates – most forcefully: the immediate need for comfort, the need to be held, the need for a hush to be wrapped in love.

But love cannot sustain the sleep-deprived mother, and the sleep-deprived mother is an impaired mother and all the hugs in the world aren’t going to help anyone if I’m passed out on the floor and the children have to crawl over my body and forage for sustenance.

So do I do this? Do I let him cry and hope that sleep comes and that my heart doesn’t explode? Or do I forge ahead on the fuel of love and hugs?

******

Toronto-area peeps – if you’re interested in joining me at a breastfeeding demonstration (to save breastfeeding clinics in Ontario) on Wednesday, let me know. Details are at this post; leave a comment or e-mail me if you wanna go. UPDATE: Mister Jasper is a very sick little baby, and I simply can’t go to this. E-mail me if you want details, to attend yourself. (And? Anyone local who wants to go and do a brief story on it for BlogHers Act Canada? I would LOVE you. E-mail me.)


Look At Me Not Sleeping

November 6, 2008

Update below.

I haven’t slept in four nights.

Which, you know, isn’t totally bad, considering that until about four weeks ago, I’d gone nearly five months averaging only three or four hours sleep a night, every night. New mothers don’t sleep. That’s just a fact.

But when you’ve passed that ‘fourth trimester’ grace period – wherein, it seems, Nature gives you a pass on needing sleep and proper nutrition and enables you to function like a superhero, leaping over the newborn weeks in a single bound, fueled by the nitro-force of a wicked hormone buzz – when you hit the wall, somewhere around week 13, the lack of sleep catches up with you and no amount of cinnamon rolls and double-shot espressos will set you to right. So you set about pursing sleep with a vengeance (so appropriate, that idiom – you chase sleep hoping to tackle it and wrestle it and punish it for so cruelly withholding its gifts) and when you finally get some (oh yeah) through some combination of spousal support and anti-anxiety medication you cling to it desperately, desperately, determined to never let it slip your grasp again.

And then when it does slip your grasp, you go to pieces.

Four nights it’s been; four nights of wrestling a vibrating baby who is development-spurting at the speed of light and spending his nights rolling and crawling oh god help me around his crib – or, when the victory squawking has become too much, in our bed – in pursuit of some invisible gold ring that I assume hovers magically just beyond his reach. Four nights of spending hours trying to get him to just be still, to just chill out, to save the gymnastics and the glee-clubbing until the morning, please oh god please, only to have him settle into something approximating a sleepy calm at the precise moment that the preschooler wakes up coughing and hollering about her nose hurting.

I’m so tired that I can’t see straight. And I just can’t see any solution. Crying it out doesn’t work because he seems to have an infinite capacity for wakefulness and so can outcry, outsquawk, outholler, outlast us with little effort. Bringing him into bed with us doesn’t work because although he’s more likely to take a few sleep breaks from his gymnastics practice when he can crawl up tight against my breast, he never actually stills, and so even though he snoozes while he’s cuddled up against me he also kicks me in the ribs and/or punches me in the head every few minutes and that’s, you know, not conducive to sleep.

The husband does all of the actual getting up, the hovering over the crib, the delivery of child to my side when it seems there’s nothing left to do, but still: I can hear it all, I can feel it all, and not even the Ativan helps when your body is shouting at you to tend to your baby. So what’s next? Do I just check into a hotel for a night or two – seriously, we talked about that last night – to catch up on sleep? Or do I just ride it out? How long can I go without sleep? How crazy will I get?

Mama said knock her out.

(And, and… how long can I go on just barely coping? I have an out-of-control inbox – I am seriously weeks behind in responding to e-mails – and an ever-lengthening to-do list and – worst – a backlog of things that I need/want to write about – my frustrations searching for my long-lost brother, my ongoing struggle to figure out how not to be dominated completely by my nearly three-year old daughter, some thoughts on raising children under the condition of post-modern capitalism, an anecdote or two about politesse as it pertains to penises, etc, etc. My brain is backlogged and cramped and sore and all this sleeplessness is making it worse. Is it possible for one’s brain to simply explode?)

Seriously. If my husband were to bring up the issue of vasectomies right this minute? I’d give him one myself.

Update: Last night (Friday night), he slept over eight hours straight. EIGHT HOURS. No idea why. Things we did differently: kept him up a bit more in the day, so that he had two longer naps rather than multiple shorter ones, put darker curtains on his nursery window to block more light, and put him to sleep in a snuggle (modified, arms-free swaddle) blanket. Will repeat these steps today and see if it works again. Whatever it is: AM SO ABSURDLY, MANICALLY GRATEFUL.