I’m slowly letting go of the fantasy of having an “easy” child.
That’s not so say that baby girl is difficult. Most of the time, she’s a delight. She smiles, she laughs, she plays. She’s shy and curious and a thinker. But she is also sensitive, strong-willed, and squirmy, all of which interfere with that other, all-important S-word: sleep.
Putting her to sleep has been a chore since she was tiny. Rather than a quiet, snuggly time with my daughter, it’s a writhing, screaming, bucking battle we both have to endure, and while she eventually sleeps, I walk away exhausted. I dread bedtime. I find myself becoming annoyed and frustrated when she won’t go to sleep or stay asleep, and that’s not how I want to feel about a routine that occurs at least five times a day. (I don’t feel that way all the time. Sometimes I feel nothing but compassion. My child is miserable and, try as I might, I can do nothing to ease her suffering. And there’s the guilt, of course. What right do I have to be anything but grateful for these moments, even the hard ones, when we went through so much to get baby girl here in the first place?)
Every time I think we’ve turned a corner, it ends up being a U-turn, and we’re back where we started.
Take this week, for example. Tuesday, baby girl took three gloriously long naps–one for two hours and two for 90 minutes each. It was kind of heavenly, considering her normal nap is 45 minutes, and lately, she hasn’t even been sleeping that long. And Wednesday, after a promising morning nap of 2.5 hours, by that evening, she was back to a quick, 30-minute snooze. So what was different about Tuesday? Oh, yeah, she decided that 2:30 that morning was a great time to be W I D E AWAKE, and it took over two hours to get her back to sleep. And then, she slept for maybe 45 minutes until about 6, when she was up for the day. So those naps were desperately needed. Poor baby was exhausted.
And that seems to be the real problem. My poor girl is always borderline sleep deprived. She can’t stay awake more than about an hour without becoming Queen Crabbypants, but it often takes up to an hour to get her to sleep–for a 45-minute nap.
I’ve tried everything. A few things work some of the time–rocking and patting, swaying and patting, bouncing and patting, babywearing with a combination of walking, rocking, swaying, and patting, all in combination with using a pacifier–but nothing works every time. And she seems to figure out my tactics. She’ll start crying as soon as I sit down with her in the glider, knowing that it’s time to go to sleep. So I have to mix it up.
Here’s how the typical nighttime sleep routine goes: I get her into a clean diaper and pj’s; we read a book in the glider (it’s not just for going to sleep); we tell Aba goodnight, and I take her to our room. There I swaddle her (because at 4½ months, she still needs to be swaddled or 1) she will startle herself awake when I put her down and 2) the constant movement of her arms and legs will wake her up) and begin the cycle of movement that will eventually put her to sleep. I sway back and forth until my hips ache–or until her screaming makes it clear this is not the strategy that’s going to work tonight; then I sit on the edge of the bed and bounce until my quads burn; if that doesn’t work, it’s a combination of both, bouncing and swaying on the bed until my back feels like it’s going to break. Meanwhile, she screams on and off until I position the pacifier or find the right combination of movement to calm her again. The whole ordeal is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.
For a while, I thought it was reflux. I thought she might be in pain, which would explain the screaming and arching her back. I eliminated dairy from my diet, which seemed to help after her reflux peaked at around the 4 month mark, but it didn’t make bedtime any easier. Plus, I’ve always second-guessed that as the culprit when her “symptoms” magically disappear as soon as I stop trying to put her to sleep.
Hubby gloms onto every new thing that works, thinking that it’s THE thing. I’m more cynical, knowing that just because a trick works once, doesn’t mean it’ll work a second time. Just because it works nine times in a row, doesn’t mean it’ll work the tenth. He’s also quick to claim that she “always” does this or “never” does that at bedtime. Which is just not true. Perhaps that’s the most frustrating thing–there’s no consistency, despite my best efforts. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, we can’t establish a routine, let alone a schedule for sleep.
I keep hoping it’ll get better, that this latest bump–waking every two hours last night–is a phase or gas or part of the 4-month sleep regression or a growth spurt. I keep hoping that in a few months, it’ll get better. But I’ve been thinking that since she was three weeks old. There was a period of about 10 days, before the sleep regression hit, when it was better. It didn’t take as long to get her to sleep, and she was sleeping 6-8 hour stretches at night. I would love to get back to that, even if it means her naps stay at a measly 45 minutes and we have to try to squeeze four of them into a day.
I’m just so tired of being tired all the time, and I’m sure my baby girl is, too.