Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Big Sleep

The sleep thing has been rough going from the very beginning. And the annoying thing is that it’s all people can talk about before you have a baby – the sleep deprivation, and I totally expected it to suck, but somehow, I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I didn’t expect it to suck in this way, at all. I can’t explain it, it makes no sense, but I feel like a total cliché and that makes me even more annoyed. Like we’re having the same boring sleep problems that everyone else is having, how typical, how lame. But here we are, nevertheless, sleepless.

So. The night after he was born, Eli cried all night long, and nothing we did made any difference. I breastfed him over and over and over again and he’d fall asleep in my arms and then every time I put him back in his basinet he’d wake right up again and start to cry. The nurses told us we had to feed him every single time he cried because if he lost weight we might have to leave the hospital without him and they also made me sign something saying that I wouldn’t let him sleep in the hospital bed with me and that was just ridiculous, when you think about it, and I should have either ignored it or had the balls to tell them where to put that piece of paper and that idea in general, but we were terrified about our very tiny new baby and we did what we were told. What’s even more annoying is that the one useful piece of information, that babies will cluster feed over and over and over again sometimes randomly and you just have to go with it and it’s normal, was the one piece of information they didn’t tell us, and so when we emerged from that first night of hell, bleary eyed and desperate for sleep, the nurse laughed and casually said “oh, yeah, we should have a sign up about the cluster feeding! Ha ha!” Ha ha indeed. Fuckers.

And then we came home and further not sleeping commenced. Progress came very very slowly, earned in tiny victories as we experimented and tested and read books and googled and walked the floor and called up our moms and slowly figured out the enormous mystery that was our tiny screaming baby. It turned out that we had the particular sort of baby who would cry unless he slept on me, curled up with his tiny head jammed right up into my neck. And so that’s what we did, and I was so tired at first that the thought that I’d never get a normal six hours of uninterrupted sleep again made me just want to cry, only I was too tired to cry. I wanted to throw up every night when it was time for bed, because I knew I would be getting up again in 2.5 hours to feed my child for the umpteenth million time.

But slowly we figured it out. We learned how to swaddle and we dragged our exhausted asses to Target and bought a co sleeper and some blessed soul gave us a white noise machine and then one day Eli could sort of maybe go to sleep in the middle of our bed instead of on me. And a light bulb went off at around month three and we figured out that he was supposed to take naps. Who knew. Not that he would take naps, per se, but at least we finally knew he was supposed to be taking them. I had just assumed he would fall asleep when he was tired, I guess. I really didn’t realize I had to physically take the child and put him down for naps. That’s when I started to think I needed to write a parenting book called “Guess What, They All Lie, Breastfeeding Does Hurt, and By the Way, Good Luck Getting This Child to Fall Asleep Four Times Every Day, it Doesn’t Just Happen on its Own, Sucker.” I see that book becoming a run away best seller, don’t you?

So we learned all these little things and time passed and getting Eli to fall asleep slowly got easier. He still wouldn’t take naps, and he wouldn’t go to sleep at night unless we also went to sleep with him, next to him, but he would actually fall asleep at night. So that was progress, of a sort. Then we had another breakthrough and one day Mr. E put him on the dryer in his little bouncer thingee and he fell asleep right there, and then he would take short naps, but only on the dryer. I’d have to run in and reset the dryer every 70 minutes because if it turned off he’d wake up instantly.

I actually started to feel sad about the 17 year old my son would be someday soon before I knew it and how that 17 year old would have dirty feet and fart and burp a lot and probably would be too tall to sleep curled up on his mom with his head wedged up into her neck and a couple of times I let Eli sleep on me a little longer than he maybe needed to and I just smelled his dirty milky neck and whispered in his soft little ears and felt his little baby breathing and so through out all this, as bad as I might make it sound, you must know that despite all this exhaustion and confusion and everything, please don’t doubt that it was all worth it, every single horrible minute of it, and know that I’d do it all over again in a second for my boy and his soft little milky neck folds. I just really thought it would be nice if he might decide to also take a nap once in a while.

Recently we took a trip to Boston and we really needed him to nap before we headed out to my cousin’s wedding and there he was in the big hotel room bed and not a dryer in sight and he would not sleep, just flat out plain would not sleep, and something just clicked in my head and I pulled those big thick plastic dark hotel room shades shut and instantly! He fell asleep. Instantly.

So then the title of my book became “Guess What, They All Lie, Breastfeeding Does Hurt, and By the Way, Good Luck Getting This Child to Fall Asleep Four Times Every Day, It Doesn’t Just Happen on its Own, Sucker, and By the Way It Needs to Be Dark For Him to Fall Asleep, Duh, and What a Terrible Parent You Are!” I just can’t believe it never occurred to me before that he needed it to be dark. I mean, for christ’s sake, I can’t sleep unless it’s pitch black, why the hell would he be able to? God. I can’t believe I never thought of that or read that or asked someone about that. Best. Parent. Ever., I am.

We bought magic room darkening shades at Walmart and even though they gave me this weird throat tickle and I suspect I have a vinyl allergy and Mr. E cursed the designer of the room darkening shades to hell many many times, they totally made the room really really dark and they worked! They worked! Eli was taking naps for hours and hours and hours. And it was magical. I had time on my hands. I plucked my eyebrows. I read a book. I ironed, people. I actually considered waking him up because I got bored a couple of times. Seriously. It was wondrous. And he would go to sleep at night at 8 pm when we put him down and he would stay asleep for 12 hours, more or less. It was nothing short of The Miracle of the Vinyl Shades.

And now it has gone totally completely and 100% totally to hell. Eli will not nap, will not sleep for love or money or room darkening vinyl shades. Is he teething? I don’t know. I don’t really feel teeth, but then again, I am the person who never realized it needed to be dark in order for my child to sleep. Maybe there’s a tooth there? I can’t tell. Last night he woke up at 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 2, 4, and was awake from 4-6. Because he has to nurse to fall asleep and because I’m the one with boobs, I was also awake at 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 2, and from 4-6. Because Eli was screaming at the top of his lungs and vibrating his entire little body and possibly the whole state of California with his screaming, Mr. E was also awake at 8,9,10,11,12,2 and from 4-6. Fun times were had by all.

At one point last night Eli projectile vomited all over me from a prone position. I didn’t even know that was possible. At some horrible hour of the morning I held him out from me with straight arms and just blustered “YOU MUST FALL ASLEEP” at him and then Mr. E took him away and into the other room to change him and I literally saw, crumbling before my eyes, my image of myself as the nurturing mother who would take my child and sit with him in a soft glowy light in the rocker in the other room and soothe him and shush him and just love him through whatever he needed loving through and I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m just so tired.

We have decided that this weekend will be Sleepgate 2007 and since we have no other ideas we’re going to try to get Eli to sleep in his crib in his own room. He has completely outgrown the pack and play basinet that he sleeps in next to our bed and I think we are waking him up when we come into our room at night and I just don’t think I can co sleep anymore. I have the darkening shades for his room and a noise machine all set up and I was thinking I would put a mattress on the floor in there and nurse him to sleep and then lift him into his crib, so we’ll see if that works. If it doesn’t, I have no idea what we’ll do. Everyone says “Well, no one goes off to college and co sleeps” but they never tell you how they got that 18 year old to sleep in his own damn crib 17 years ago, do they?


Chris H said...

*LAUGHING MY HEAD OFF*... shit you are funny! I could tell you a few things for sure, lots of stories...I am mum of 8 afterall !!!! It took us 2 and a half years to realise that Griffin needed the light on in his room ALL NIGHT to sleep, so we did not get any sleep for 2 and a half years!!!! NOT FUN. I think you will survive your wee man.... live and learn and enjoy this time.. cos it won't last .... even if you think you are going nuts right now.... ooooo just you wait till he's crawling/walking/talking and driving you bloody nuts with "Why" "What's that" "What's that" "What's that" ?????? and on and on and on !!!! Grrrrrrrrrr !

Kate said...

Hi Elizabeth - I've never commented before, although I LOVE to read your stuff and boy can I relate oh yes I thought. Could Eli have an ear infection? My son was the King of the Ear Infection and the first sign? Can't lie down, can't sleep. Screamed and screamed and screamed some more. Just a possibility - otherwise, in the immortal words you DON'T WANT TO HEAR RIGHT NOW, this too shall pass.

Rah said...

I cannot laugh in spite of how funny your post is to read. Because I remember one night when my son was about 7 months old, putting him into his bassinette and wondering why on earth I signed up for this. Sure, it will pass, but it's AWFUL right now!

That said, I would suggest that if projectile vomiting is new, and the not-sleeping is counter to his pattern of sleeping through the night, it's worth at least a call to the pediatrician. Like Kate, I also discovered that such behaviors may be an indication of an ear infection.

Hang in. And keep that sense of humor intact. You write beautifully, by the way.