(Um. This got really long, possibly because — see below — I am really tired. But I added pictures!)
Big changes afoot chez Bionique. I went back to work on Thursday, later than expected thanks to Irene. It sucked. The farther I got from home, the sadder and more frightened I felt, and I work very far away. As in, no way to get home in under two hours. Work itself was lonely. I teach writing at the college level, which means that in the fall, I teach freshman comp. I love teaching freshman comp, but it does mean that on the first day of the new year, my students don’t know me yet. I’m an adjunct, so I don’t know many of my colleagues, either. It can be pretty lonely. The building I teach in is falling apart and is now wrapped in a fence to keep people away from the plummeting masonry. So my office window looks out on chain link. I know, an office with a window! It is not grand and it is shared — think linoleum, dank half basement, horrible overhead fluorescent lights that turn off if I sit still for ten minutes — but I don’t get one at all in the spring semester. For a prison, it’s very nice.
The good news is that Sugar gets to stay home with the Bean on Thursdays. Yay! Sugar’s office probably agreed to that schedule only because they are so terrified to lose more staff, but whatever, they did agree. I’m really happy that the two of them are getting some regular time alone together.
Despite our attempts to rush the Bean’s interest in food, he really isn’t eating much yet. He likes to grab things and put them in his mouth and taste them but feels quite betrayed when bits of them try to get down his throat. At least he’s grown out of the exuberant gagging that led to vomiting. I’m still glad we started giving him solids over the summer, as it’s made me feel less sad about giving him formula now; instead of the formula intruding on our perfect little wonderland of breastmilk (which I didn’t think I cared about until it was so fucking miserably hard and painful to create), it’s just one more “food” he’s trying in addition to nursing. I do hope I will be able to keep enough supply that I don’t need to give him formula when I am around, though, principally because I am lazy and don’t like doing dishes. This may be a little tricky without pumping much, so we’ll see.
Speaking of pumping, the bad news is that the manual pump is not gentle enough not to have kicked the vasospasms into action again. On Thursday I pumped three times and only enough to keep from exploding. (Okay, a little extra on that last round because I had just heard from a friend with mastitis.) On Friday, spasms all day, plus white patches on the ol’ nips. Ugh. The spasms weren’t really painful — more pins and needles — but they left me feeling nauseated with fear. It’s just possible I have a little lasting trauma in that department. Maybe.
Meanwhile, in what I meant to be writing about when I started this post, we have come to the end of our ability to deal with the Bean’s preferred sleeping patterns. Those patterns being: couple of naps in the day, followed by a trillion wake-ups all night. When he was younger, this made a lot of sense: he was small and very hungry and clawing his way onto and up the growth charts. Of course he needed to eat, and I was pretty damn irritated at the people from our birth class who, after telling us that “babies don’t like” to be rocked in the way that he liked, informed us that at 8 weeks, he no longer needed to eat at night. Maybe your giant (dumb) baby doesn’t, I thought, but my little one does. He never wanted to do anything but eat at night (where night is defined as ending at 4:30am, lest you get too jealous); no interest in playing or otherwise being awake. If he did not get enough to eat, he would cry until he did, period. Since he was eating every five minutes all day, it wasn’t surprising to me that he couldn’t go more than two or three hours at night, and I did my best not to begrudge him, though I admit to a few ugly moments during the vasospasm hell period.
At around three months, he had gotten big and strong enough to nurse with me lying down. Or maybe it was an issue of coordination? Regardless, my life improved so much that I didn’t really care about the wake-ups for a while. I couldn’t sleep while he nursed, but at least I didn’t have to rearrange a million pillows every time and then hold my head upright for 45 minutes. Ah, the good life. He slowly started dropping a few feedings, such that he’d take a longish break when he was first put to bed and then often go three hours rather than two. I was getting pretty tired — I hadn’t slept for more than 2.5 consecutive hours since he was born — but I also kept hearing about babies his age who were sleeping through the night, and I was sure he’d get there soon.
And then…he just didn’t. And I started hearing about more babies sleeping through the night, babies who were younger than he was. For my own sanity, I told myself their parents were lying or, in the case of parents I liked, delusional. (You’re welcome!) When the Bean hit the four month sleep regression, the spring 2011 moms on the local listserv started complaining about their little cherubs’ waking up sometimes. After not one replied with a “me, too” to my post about the Bean’s relatively awful sleep, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and unsubscribed. Meanwhile, I got my period, my milk supply dropped, and the Bean started waking more than ever. You’ll recall I was thrilled. My mood was not improved by reading all over the internet that my period should stay away as long as I didn’t stop feeding overnight. Ha bloody ha. As it were.
I tried to content myself with the knowledge of the Bean’s superiority in every other way. (Cue photo break.)
He eats pickles.
He’s learning to swing.
He loves the cats.
He almost crawls: forward motion occurs, but not predictably yet.
He likes our favorite Mexican place.
He helps Sugar look for four-leaf clovers.
And he’s going to get that beer, any day now.
And then a miracle occurred. He had three nights of only one wake-up. Three nights! Not in a row, but still. It was amazing. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, it had taken two and a half months longer than the American Academy of Pediatrics had promised, but it was happening! It was! …the week we were going on a big trip to visit Sugar’s parents.
You all know how this part goes, right? Sleep in a strange house. It was an unqualified disaster. We came home, and it was still terrible. More wake-ups than ever. We gave it a week; it didn’t improve. We gave it two weeks; it got worse, as did my cough from the cold I couldn’t shake, thanks to never sleeping. I started to wonder when I had last slept through the night myself. Given the exigencies of late pregnancy, it certainly had been longer than 6 months, maybe 9. I read this paper (tip o’ the nib to The Blog That Ate Manhattan), and despaired of ever fitting into my clothes again.
[Yeah, weight loss not going well. Another rant for another day.]
So. It is time. This weekend, we started a little sleep training. Our present goal isn’t no wake-ups — Weissbluth thinks two feedings per night is normal in a baby of the Bean’s age, no matter what the moms at the swing set are shouting into their cell phones — but I’d like to get down to one or two, knowing he can do that without starving. At the advice of wiser parents, we have started by not feeding him before midnight.
The first night was horrible. After waking and going back down fairly quickly in the early evening, he woke up for real at 10:30. He screamed for an hour while Sugar sat with him. At that point, she was wailing, too, so I sent her to bed and did something that made me feel like a total asshole: I sat on the couch and did not go in to him. (This made possible by the amazing Starhillgirl, who should seriously run a sleep training skype hotline. This is not a joke, and I will be her agent.) I have always imagined rocking my baby and singing him to sleep, but it has been true since the beginning that he hates that. Any comfort measure you can think of only aggravates him and keeps him awake. Every nap time begins with crying, no matter what, so it is not ultimately surprising that the kinder forms of sleep training — the lady-shuffling, the rocking, the singing — don’t work. Makes me feel like mother of the year, I tell you. But after another half an hour, he fell asleep. Incredible! He had never fallen asleep at night without eating, ever. Took me a bit longer to drift off, what with my own soggy face and feeling like a horrible person: call this a mutual cry it out program.
Or, Dr. Sears and me: still not BFF.
In the morning, Sugar turned to me, eyes still red, and said, “I guess this is what people mean when they say this sucks.” We stumbled through the day. We turned our backs for a moment, and the increasingly mobile Bean dove off of our bed with a terrible thud. (He’s fine.) This is why we need to do this, because we just can’t be good parents without sleeping more, now-ish.
The second night, he woke up again, at the same times as before. This time, Sugar went to him, patted him and told him he was okay, and then left the room. And, within two minutes, he was silent. On the third night, he was silent as soon as she left. Mirabile dictu ain’t in it.
He’s still waking up two or three times in the second part of the night, and in general things in the early morning hours are a bit messy, but things are looking up.
Except not for me. I’ve gotten less sleep than ever. I’ve spent the past several nights lying awake until after midnight, later last night. Turns out I’m an oxytocin addict, and I a several-hour stretch without nursing leaves me restless and unable to relax. I had certainly noticed that nursing would help me get to sleep on anxious nights, but I had no idea it had come to this. After all the complaining I’ve done about breastfeeding and night-wakings, it turns out the Bean wasn’t the only one using nursing as a crutch for sleep. Dammit.