Friday, November 16, 2012

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep. Trust me on this one...once you make the decision to have a baby, EVERYONE has something to say about sleep.


"Sleep now as you will never sleep again"

Pregnant and having trouble sleeping because you have 25-40 lbs of HUGE sticking off your front?

"Get used to it"
"Your body is just trying to prepare you for 18 years of crappy sleep"

In labour?

"Try to sleep between contractions" (ha - that one is awesome, isn't it?)

Just had a baby?

"Sleep when the baby sleeps"
"All newborns do is sleep"
"Getting much sleep?"
"Even when you are tired, it is just so special snuggling with the baby at 3 a.m., isn't it?"

Have a baby who is between the ages of oh, two months and 2 years?

"How is he/she sleeping?"
"Oh MY baby slept through the night since he/she was 3 weeks old"
"Getting any sleep?"
"Oh MY baby slept through the night since he/she was 5 weeks old"
"Sleeping through the night yet?"

I could go on. Sleep is something of a hot button issue for moms, both new and old and I have learned that no matter what advice you have received, you will never understand a) the importance of sleep to you and your baby, b) the crazy things you will do/feel when you are deprived of said sleep and c) how miserable you, your baby and your family will be when sleep issues have infiltrated your home until you have been there. 

It is different for everyone, that much I have learned. However, despite those differences, the quality of sleep that you and your newborn have can effect your experience as a new mom, the bonding between mom and baby, and of course your relationship with your spouse and other family members. And that much is to some degree, common between all mothers.

I did a lot of crazy things while I was exhausted. I became very clumsy. I felt sick to my stomach. I snapped on my husband and my family. I'd lose things while simultaneously holding the lost thing in my hand. 

I remember when Luca was about 4 weeks old, my mom and I were shopping at Old Navy. By shopping, I mean putting Luca in the stroller at 8 a.m. to keep him from screaming the house down and walking for hours on end to get him to sleep (so he would stop screaming, of course). 

Anyway - we were at Old Navy in the newborn section and we bumped into another mom. She had a 6 month old little girl who was snoozing in her stroller. The mom smiled at me. I smiled back. She made some standard "mom-to-mom" comment on how cute Luca was and I reciprocated. She asked how old he was.

"4 weeks" I said. 

"Oh, how sweet" she said. "Tired?"

She looked at me and I promptly started crying.

"It's okay" she said. "It is really hard. I cried this morning too".

I don't think I realized how tired I was. Please. I was so tired and overwhelmed that I CRIED. In OLD NAVY. WHEN A STRANGER ASKED A SIMPLE QUESTION.

But there it was. She knew. She knew exactly what I was going through. It was comforting and humiliating at the same time. As a first time mom, you don't know it will get better. Everyone tells you it will, but you can't believe them because you haven't seen it. Maybe you have the one baby that  never sleeps and NEVER stops screaming. 

For the next month or so, I scrambled. I read books. I read the interweb. I swaddled. I shushed. Luca screamed and screamed and screamed. I kept thinking he was hungry so I was constantly feeding him (which if you recall, SUCKED because it was so painful for me). He would scream. I would feed. I would panic he wasn't getting enough and breakdown and give him formula. Nothing helped. He would never fall into a milk-coma and sleep. The little guy was overtired.

What finally worked was this. I would give Luca a bath. Massage with lotion. Fresh diaper. Swaddle in the Miracle Blanket. Feed. If he didn't fall asleep feeding (which was about 98% of the time), I would put him in the swing while he was dozy and hope for the best. 50% of the time he would fall asleep. The other half of the time he would start screaming. I would then get him out of the swing, sit in the rocking chair, shove a soother in his mouth and hold it there whilst aggressively rocking the chair back and forth, shushing a very loud shush. Eventually he would stop screaming and start sucking the soother. Once he would fall asleep, I would gingerly put him in the swing and turn it on.

This whole process took about 1.5-2 hours, not including the bath. This was repeated multiple times a day. I was losing my mind (and spending INSANE amounts of time in the nursery) and Luca was miserable. He was crying for the majority of the day. He was so tired that even after he'd sleep, he would wake up screaming bloody murder. In the middle of the night, he was eating and then crying for 1-2 hours before I could convince him to sleep again.

I was told it was colic. "It will get better". We gave him gas drops. The doctors even put him on medications "just in case" it was acid reflux. "He'll grow out of it" everyone said. 

Unfortunately, what he grew out of was a) the swaddle and b) his ability to sleep in the swing. He made the move into the crib but wouldn't sleep longer than an hour at a time. So I now had a baby who wouldn't sleep and a mom who didn't know how she could handle hearing him scream any longer.

Find out next week how we found out that sleep was the key to Luca's happiness.  I can finally say that after months of dealing with an unhappy little man, it DID get better.

So tell me - what was the craziest thing you did while you were a sleep deprived preggo/mom?



Designwali said...

oh man I remember crying hysterically in the middle of the night begging my husband to take this kid away from me...I just couldn't deal with it... I was even part of a sleep study with Women's College for first kid - bonus was they called me each week to check up on my sleep....

Kelly @ A Swell Place to Dwell said...

When my daughter out grew the swaddle I thought I was going to totally lose my mind. The only thing that kept her asleep was now gone. She just would not sleep without it. So, in an effort to maintain what little sanity I had left, I went out and bought a new sleeper, cut the arms off and sewed the arm holes closed. Ya, seriously. We would put it in her at night and she LOVED it. She had her legs free, but her arms were close to her body so that she couldn't slap herself awake. That thing lasted until she was almost 6 months old, and then once she finally had enough control of her arms she figured out how to sleep without it.
I think the craziest thing I ever did though was crawl right into the crib with her one night. I was so desperate. She wouldn't sleep with me, or on the couch, or in the swing, or anywhere, so I figured I'd just try and get in there with her. Aside from almost breaking my leg on the way in, I am pretty sure that I caused permanent damage to our Angel Care monitor sensor pad....not my finest moment.
Hang in there!

Lisa from Wicked & Weird said...

LOVE women's College. They saved me.

Lisa from Wicked & Weird said...

Oh Janice, I wish I could hug you! You know this is a subject near and dear to my heart since I ended up with sever post partum anxiety with my first caused mostly by lack of sleep. I had a C section and my pain was not properly monitored so it was constant and excruciating. It was so bad I threw up once, which caused such extreme pain I passed out. All this while still in the hospital! So I did not sleep for 5 nights or days. 120 hours (ish). I started having panic attacks before I was even checked out. (No one asked BTW - they were more concerned about whether the baby was latching or not...) Thank god for Women's college - they have a post partum programme where I got help, meds, and figured out how to cope with this wailing baby. The second time was SO different because I had him at Women's College and they 1) managed my pain 2) gave him formula at night so I could sleep (WHAT!?) 3) checked in regularly with ME and made sure I was getting SLEEP. What. A. Difference. Sleep Makes. xoxox I hope you are on the upswing Janice!

Keira O'Donnell said...

I love this post. Every young mom should read this! I too was so sick of the "MY kid slept through at 4 weeks" comments. I began to just say, "good for you!" I can't wait to hear what you did, because the routine you describe here is so familiar to me, and we too found that she was chronically overtired. Although we didn't really figure that out until she was about 3 years old! Strict routine after that. So glad it's working out for you now.

Shannon8footsix said...

Hey Lady!
You know the sleep demons in our house right now...and it is twice as bad, since my three year old still wakes up.

Crawling into the crib to sleep with my son was the only thing that worked for months...I have even fed him, in the car, while on the road (i was not driving, we were both buckled in...yah, you need to be bendy)

I would give anything if he would just take a decent nap today...ANYTHING!

Giulia Doyle said...

My first slept fine, so I was lucky. Still overwhelmed and tired, but nothing like you describe. My second was colicky -- every night from 10 pm to 1am - I know that's a short period, but he screamed and screamed! My husband would take him down to the basement every night at that time, swaddled, lay him on his lap and he would play Call of Duty for 2 hours straight while the little guy screamed! We knew we couldn't stop the screaming and all we wanted was not to wake the 18month old. And then it got better ;)
He never slept in his crib though, only the swing. And now they are 5 and 3 and they sleep ;)
Oh, and after having babies I totally know why they use sleep deprivation as a torture method...

Shannon8footsix said...

he's asleep!

Vivian Yuen said...

You're going to make us wait until next week for the answer?!?!?

I am a mom of three... third one is 2.5 months old... and while I thought it would be relatively easy as it was with my other two, this one is totally different. Would love to hear your solution and am very happy for you that you found one.

kerri said...

Love the reality of this post. Sleeping and eating are the key to mom and baby happiness. I can't report on my craziest thing while sleep deprived, because I still am... Crying in public is still a very common occurrence - apologies to my dentist who had to break the news I had 2 cavities. Glad you found a solution!

Amy Chamberlain said...

I know what you are going through for sure. My son didn't sleep through the night until I stopped breastfeeding at 2 years old. I still say cherish every moment. Time flies. I feel like I went from crying about no sleep those first years, to crying about him leaving for college. Treasure these early moments, the good and the bad.

Amy Chamberlain said...

I know what you are going through for sure. My son didn't sleep through the night until I stopped breastfeeding at 2 years old. I still say cherish every moment. Time flies. I feel like I went from crying about no sleep those first years, to crying about him leaving for college. Treasure these early moments, the good and the bad.

Sara @ Russet Street Reno said...

Yes, when you don't have sleep nothing else matters. It's sad but true. Sleep is a small part of your life until you aren't getting it, then it's everything. I've never had it as bad as you, but I have had plenty of hours of screaming where I just wished with all my might that I could go back to my childless days. It's funny how sometimes kids outgrow the sleep problems, and sometimes they don't. We're on a better path right now, most nights are great and Ash is consistently sleeping 7:30 - 6ish. But he didn't start doing that until we did many sessions of crying it out and were patient - he started getting the hang of it the day after he turned 5 months, it was crazy. I'm so happy that Luca is sleeping well and that everyone is doing so much better!

Laura said...

GREAT POST! My first son (now a month away from being 2 -- sobsob!) had the same issues! Around 5 weeks it was like he forgot how to sleep! On the worst day he was up for 12 hours straight! We tried everything but the only thing that worked was staying home and putting him to sleep every 2 hours in a dark room with white noise and swaddled. It was hard to miss the mom and baby activities that my friends participated in but you gotta do what you gotta do :-)

Sandra said...

I was a first time mom of triplets, who are now 2 years old, and the sleep deprivation was absolutely brutal. We had to feed them every 3 hours 24/7, and that took an hour and half to accomplish. If they napped, they didn't sleep overnight and vice versa. We had two with reflux, and one of those two also had colic and required holding 12+ hours a day/night. People used to tell me to "enjoy it, they grow up so fast", and my blood would just boil. I could NOT WAIT for the day they outgrew the colic, the reflux, their obvious aversion to sleep. Time passed at glacial speed. Every day seemed like an eon of exhaustion, tears (theirs and mine) and frustration. At around 6 months it did get slightly better, and once I understood that there would be good sleep days and bad sleep days (even now), once I accepted that basic truth, for some reason I got much better at handling the ups and downs. But I deeply, deeply empathize with you.

I would get so sleep deprived that I would hallucinate. One time, I was sitting in the nursery feeding a baby with my husband and sister-in-law, and I hallucinated that I was in a mall, waiting for someone named Pierre (?!). I remember glancing at my non-existent watch and blurting out, "well, is he coming or not?", much to the amusement of those around me. I also could not drive, as I felt incredibly dangerous on the road. Yep. Sleep deprivation is no joke. So happy to hear that you and Luca have found your groove.