Does this post look familiar? I planned to schedule it for a later date but instead, somehow picked November 28th which was weeks in the PAST, instead of the future. I noticed my error and quickly changed it but, apparently, not before it sent out to all of my email list recipients. All 108 of you. To those who have already read it, skip this week. To those tired mamas who have already reached out, grateful for my words and the opportunity to lament with one another about our un-sleeping children, here the words are again, you might need the encouragement…again. And I’m sure I need yours as well so reach out, let’s lament together!
After my pastor’s wife had given me all the tips and tricks she’d tried to get her older boys to sleep when they were young (and I’d told her we’d tried them all!) she had nothing left to offer but encouragement and a funny story. She recounted the season of life in their own family, when they got to the end of their rope with their third son’s lack of sleep and her husband had a solution:
“If only I could put a blanket over the crib, like when you put a dark cover over a parrot’s cage.”
She laughed at the absurdity of his comment and through heavy, lack of sleep eyes, I looked at her, chuckled and said, “want to see where James sleeps?”
We’ve tried everything, every book we’ve read, every suggestion that’s been given, every piece of advice to be had. We’ve tried it all, to help this amazing son of mine learn to sleep.
With James sleep has been, well, let’s use the phrase “a battle” because it’s the only one I know that fits.
The definition of battle is “a lengthy or difficult conflict or struggle”. Sleep with James hasn’t been a battle between us and him, but rather a battle between the four of us (because it’s affected Tabby so much, too!!) against the forces that allow (or don’t allow) this child to sleep.
One afternoon, while trying out a new method of sleep training, as a way to self-soothe and cope through the process, I captured my thoughts in writing.
Stirring at 31 mins. I’m waiting…
He started crying a bit at 33 mins but is more grunting and trying, come on little man you can do it!!!
Debated on putting in paci again but holding off for now. He’s really trying to go back to sleep!!! Come on little man, you got this!!
At 37 mins I considered putting paci in, will wait 1 more minute and then do so. I don’t want to let him wake too much because He’s gurgling and kicking around and really trying.
Put paci back in and put him back on his pillow because he fell off. He started fussing a little bit more and I’m waiting. Considering picking him back up and rocking him because he’s so close but fighting!!
Holding off on picking him up but put paci back in again. He’s scratching at bassinet.
Crying harder now but still the gurgle sleep cry, not wailing yet. Put my hand in to put paci back but was already there, left my hand for a minute.
10:40, we have 20 more mins.
Now he cried harder but still gurgling (sounds like he does in the mornings when he wants to be asleep but isn’t)
Now there’s a solid cry but it was quick and he settled back down.
I noticed it was warmer in here, turned the heat off from my phone.
He’s still scratching at his bassinet but now not crying
(This is helpful to take notes, good for me to focus on his tiny behaviors and capture them instead of trying to do something else, which just stresses me out trying to multi-task)
10:43, still no crying!! Oh wait, there’s one. It’s a sleepy cry. COME ON JAMES!!!!
I’m now just laying face down on the bed while he’s grunting and kicking. Little yelps here or there but nothing too bad, okay, that one was more intense. Might go in for a paci/hand on the chest in a minute.
10:44 HOW HAS ONLY A MINUTE PASSED.
10:45 grunting but no crying, spoke too soon, going in for the comfort…wait, no noise, yep, there it is again. Going in!
WAIT. He stopped again.
Okay. Now it’s louder, definitely going in. Might even pick up and hold. Went to do so and he stopped. Offfff course.
Crying again…going in!
NOPE. Stopped again.
Back to crying. Going to hold him.
10:46 at least that killed 2 minutes. Now the crying is more frequent. Picking him up now.
Nursed him and he fell back asleep so I laid him back down but is crying within 15 minutes, small cries, he might comfort himself! But doesn’t seem like it.
We’ve hit our 90 minute mark so will bail after 2 more minutes if it doesn’t hold. I’ve gotta pee!! Still gurgling crying and fidgeting.
This is so hard. Fighting feeling so defeated. AWE. FEEL AWE.
I don’t know how to do this with a toddler. Tabby has needs me, too. Hey I can’t just sit here all day in a dark room teaching this freaking kid how to nap. I know, I know we are only supposed to try one a day but even that feels daunting and exhausting. What’s the rest of my day supposed to look like? He woke up at 10:30 so technically is supposed to start this whole shit all over again at 12. It’s 11:12 now. When do I get to pee, eat, take care of my other kid? I know other moms have done this a bajillion times over but I just feel so ill equipped, so…uncomfortable. I just don’t know what to do. Deep breath. We’re okay. You’re okay. He’s okay. We’re going to be okay. Maybe this “nap chronicles” will help someone else someday????
I thought he was settling and then he made a bit of noise but he might be.
When do I bail? Do I stay? I’m already over the 90 minute goal time but he seems to be so close and I don’t want to give up!!!!
Looking back I wish I’d gotten him up immediately at the 30 minute mark and nursed him to try to get him back down. I might even try the picking him up at 28 minutes and soothing him through that sleep cycle. I read that somewhere but not sure where it was. I’ve read SO MANY THINGS.
I still have hope and faith this will get better…sort of…what if it doesn’t? “Do I still believe God is good?” Absolutely! “Do I still believe God will give me what I need?” Absolutely!! Maybe he doesn’t ever nap. Okay, our life would look different then what I’d want but…
OMG. Is he asleep?!?!! He literally might be asleep. 11:15. I’m waiting 5 more minutes before leaving.
Still. Need. To. Pee.
5 more minutes and I’m leaving this room alone or with him but either way, 5 more minutes. I’m also hungry. Need to bring snacks next time!! He still hasn’t made noise.
He STILL HASNT MADE NOISE OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!
HE STILL HASN’T MADE NOISE. 11:17.
Omg. I think he’s ACTUALLY ASLEEP AGAIN
What an emotional rollercoaster. Up down up down up down. Makes me think of life when I was drunk so many nights. The high of booze, the low of no booze. The battle with emotions. The chain smoking. The half ass friendships built on booze and loving each other the best we could in our broken ways.
I’d take this rollercoaster ANY DAY.
There’s my awe.
I’m in awe that I have this life. This messy, exhausting, FULL hearted life. I wouldn’t trade it. 11 mother f****** 19, he’s ASLEEP.
One more minute and then I’m going to pee. He might have actually done it. WE MIGHT HAVE ACTUALLY DONE IT.
He’s moving around in there and I hear him sucking on his paci but I legit think he’s asleep.
Come on 11:20!!!!
THERE IT IS!!!!!
We did it!!! We did it!!!!! We did it!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m sneaking out of the room by myself. How long will this last?!?!?
Oh shit. He’s moving. Freeze. Don’t move. Hold that pee in, mama!!
Okay, I’m getting up. He just took a deep sighing breath. That was so cute. Mama is taking one too. DEEEEEP BREATH. Let’s see if I can sneak out of here!
11:21 crying. I’m staying. Maybe he’ll go back. That sounded like a dream cry. Nah. That’s a real one. He’s not going to make it. Poor thing.
Come on little buddy you did so good!! Deep breath from him again, oh he’s trying so hard.
I don’t know if I should get him up or not. I’ve been in here like 2 hours.
We should just bail. I guess….omg I just want someone to tell me what to do.
“TRUST YOURSELF”. I am worthy of trust. What do YOU want to do? I want to pee. And get some food. Why don’t I leave him here for a few more minutes and go do those things? 10 minutes. Let’s try that. I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes and come back. If he’s still crying I’ll get him out.
Needless to say, we got to a point where we had to hire someone to tell us what to do. We got to the end of our abilities, and our friends’ and family abilities, and needed to call in an expert for their wisdom. After researching an exhaustive amount of sleep resources we could pay for, reaching out to several that didn’t fit for the needs of our family, we settled on one who was a true angel from heaven. Denise is a genius. An empathetic, kind, encouraging, genius. She took the needs of our whole family into consideration and delivered tangible goals with actionable steps that fit us.
The plan we got from her didn’t work perfectly but it gave us a life raft in a stormy sea, new tools in our toolkit, that helped us make it to a big milestone. James is officially SIX MONTHS OLD!!!! Look at this little man. We did it, dude, we made it to six months. We are out of the deep newborn trenches and are experiencing some kind of consistency. Mama and Nigh Nigh are getting decent sleep, hallelujah!
The notes I took during the sleep battle season was one example of the rawness of motherhood. One night in the middle of that battle, I sat on the couch of my pastor’s home and stared into the face of my pastor’s wife as she poured words of life and love and encouragement into my parched heart. She told me motherhood is always hard but it’s not always “this raw”. The rawness of newborn life, of the undoing of mind, body and spirit, as God opened the world and my family to another life, it doesn’t last forever. It didn’t last forever. My nerves have healed a bit where the tips were frayed, my sanity has returned, sort of, and each day seems a little easier, as we continue to settle into what life looks like as a family of four.
With these words, with this post, I put a stake in the ground celebrating I’ve made it through yet another struggle. Another challenging season, where in the messy middle, it felt like I’d never get out on the other side. A song deep from my faith foundation arises in my heart. I picture me, an elementary school girl, my dad up on stage rocking it as worship leader, the projector posting these lyrics on the white cinder block walls of the fellowship hall…
“…Though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes with the morning.”