It's pretty important, right?
Well, as many of you know, pregnant women and new mothers don't get much of it.
So, Jill was a really good sleeper at the beginning. She would sleep for five straight hours frequently even right away. Every now and then, there would be nights around three months where I would get eight hours of sleep with no interruption. Then, things took a turn for worse.
She started staying up later and later, not falling asleep until after 10:00 pm and sometimes staying up even until 1:00 am. She would wake up around three times during the night and then wake up late. This was throwing my schedule off as well, because I couldn't go to bed before her, and then I would sleep in with her.
Things really came to a climax in January. You remember January. The month of fevers, diarrhea, four new teeth, an ear infection, etc. Well, she pretty much forgot how to sleep. She would wake up all the time. It was not unusual for her to wake up five times at night. I thought when she got healthy, this would go away, but it did not.
Then a friend from church lent me her "Sleep Bible": Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby.
I read it and gained a lot of new information about the brain while sleeping, sleep cycles, sleep disorders, etc. One of the things that really struck me was how important sleep is to our health and intelligence. When you're sleep deprived, you are more likely to get sick and you have more trouble learning, because your brain can't focus like it should, etc.
I also learned obvious things that I really felt dumb about. Haha. On average, babies that wake up crying were not well rested. Babies that wake up happy, got a good night's sleep. I know, right? Haha. I also learned that what I thought were "tired signs" were actually "overtired signs." I used to see Jill rub her eyes and think, "Oh, she's getting tired." When, usually, that means the baby is overtired, and I missed the tired signs.
(Please note that not all babies are exactly the same, and these are generalities.)
So, armed with my new knowledge of sleep, I was able to create a nap schedule and bedtime schedule for Jill that she was doing very well with—except for in one area. She was still waking up at night. For example, one night last week: She went to bed around 8:00 and woke up at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 5:00, 6:30 and then for good around 8:00 am. (I usually try to start calming her down around 6:30 or 7:00, depending on when dinner ended up being.)
Obviously, waking up that many times is no good for her or me.
I didn't know what to do. She would wake up crying, but even if I held her she would still cry. So, it didn't seem like she was lonely or missing me, because if she were, she would have stopped crying when I held her. (Because for some babies, that is a reason they cry at night.) Her diapers weren't dirty, and she didn't have a fever. I would nurse her to see if she was hungry. Well, she would suck a bit and then pretty much fall asleep immediately. So, she wasn't hungry. She just didn't know how to fall asleep on her own.
We all wake up throughout the night. We roll over. We glance at the clock. We go to the bathroom. We say funny things that our spouse remembers in the morning while we do not.
However, we usually fall right back asleep. Jill didn't know how.
So, my usual routine would be to stay awake with her until I could get her to go back to sleep. Like I said, she would usually suck for a few minutes and fall asleep. Occasionally though, that would not work and she wouldn't be able to sleep and she would just keep crying or trying to play. Both were equally bad, because I would be exhausted.
I had some low moments where I would cry along with her or be willing to do anything possible to get her to just GET SOME SLEEP.
That is when I knew I was hitting rock bottom. Month after month after month of not having consistent, uninterrupted sleep was beginning to weigh on me, and I gained a tiny window into understanding why some babies get abused.
Please know that I did not hit or do anything to Jill, but I started to see how it could be possible.
So, two nights ago, Jeff and I decided that I would nurse Jill like normal. If she fell asleep, great. I'd put her in her crib. If she didn't fall asleep eating, then I would still put her in her crib, walk away, and shut the door.
Honestly, and I feel like the world's worst parent for this, I don't know how long she cried the first night. At first I had a pillow over my head, trying to block out her cries, but that was really uncomfortable, so I switched positions and just lay there listening to her cry, thinking that time had never moved as slowly as it was during this ordeal and that I would never sleep. I told myself that it was just like the car seat or the diaper change. Sometimes, she cries the whole time she is in the car seat. Do I tell myself that I am a horrible parent for letting her cry and then take her out of her seat and let her roam the car while I'm driving? No. I let her cry and keep her in her car seat. Also with diaper changes, sometimes she cries the whole time I change her diaper, because she doesn't want to be on her back and she's trying to crawl around. Do I leave her in a dirty diaper, because I don't want her to cry? No. I say, "deal with it; you're getting a clean hiney." I told myself this was the same. Sometimes babies just have to cry. Crying isn't really that bad when she's not hungry, cold, hurt, or dirty.
So, after my rationalization and new comfortable position, I actually fell asleep. I have no idea how long she cried. I would like to think that I was able to drift off to sleep because she stopped crying, but I honestly don't know.
AND THE BEST PART: She did not wake up once. From that moment of crying asleep, she slept until the next morning. I actually got to wake up BEFORE HER and read a bit, talk to Jeff, have a bit of a morning. It was amazing.
So, I was geared up and ready to go for night number two.
(Here's a funny side note: I was talking to Jeff about how hard it was to let her cry, and he just kind of looked at me. "Well, honey, wasn't it hard for you, too?" "Honestly, Mimi, not really. I mean, I either don't wake up, or I hear her crying in there with you, so it's pretty much the same." Harumph. Men. Teehee. Also, these are not direct quotes, but approxomations, because my memory is not that good. Sadly.)
Night two. I didn't get her to bed as early as I had wanted, because Jeff and I had an appointment with the missionaries at 7:00, and then when we got home she was really wound up and not tired. I felt like it would be a little harsh to put her in her crib to cry when she wasn't actually tired, we waited. Around 9:15, she had calmed down again. Jeff sang her some songs. She was put in her pajamas with a clean diaper. I sang her some songs. I nursed her. I hoped against hope she would just fall asleep nursing, but she didn't. So, I cuddled her up in a blanker, kissed her, walked away, and shut the door. I sat on my bed: 9:50. Jeff went to sleep, but I read a book, because I wanted to know how long she cried. 10:04: No more crying. Less than fifteen minutes. That was it!!
A few hours later, she woke up again. She cried for ten minutes and then fell asleep.
A few hours later, she woke up again. She cried for FOUR minutes and then fell asleep.
She woke up an incredibly happy baby.
So, she cried for less than thirty minutes total. That is about the same that she would usually cry even when I would go in to get her, because she would wake up so many more times at night crying and then in the morning she would cry, too, because she was cranky after not sleeping well.
However, this time, for the same amount of her crying, she got better sleep and was really happy in the morning, and I was really happy, too.
It feels so good. I still woke up twice during the night, but I didn't have to leave my bed!! I didn't have to try to figure out why Jill wasn't asleep or battle my dark thoughts about ways to get her to sleep after nursing, singing, rocking, new diapers, and swaddling all failed.
I definitely know what to say thanks for in my prayers tonight.
All that said, there is another sleep book that I plan on reading. It's called The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. I have had a few friends and family members read it, and they really liked it. And honestly, to what mother does it not appeal to not have your baby have to cry at all? (Wow. Read that sentence again with its properly placed preposition and its double negative.) I actually already requested it from my library, and it had no other holds, so I should be getting it soon. I am excited to learn even more about sleep and babies. There's so much I don't know!
And, please know that I am not meaning to complain in this post. I would rather be awakened by Jill ten times every night than to not have her. (I know, I know. I went ahead and split the infinitive!) I am so grateful that Jill is my daughter. No amount of lost sleep would ever come close to making me wish I didn't have her here.
And, please also know that I while I did sink low some nights, I never fell into the possible depression that is common with pregnant women or new mothers. (Although, there is no shame if I had. I just didn't happen to.) I just started to understand that a baby who refuses to be comforted is really hard to handle. Mothers of colicky babies—you're amazing.
Oh yes, and if you have any advice as to what worked with your babies or your friends' babies or even what your mom did with you, please share! :) Or other books to recommend. I remember my friend Brittany P. had one, but I don't remember its name. I love hearing stories, and the more you know, the better decisions you can make.