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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Awake you have a kid

Ah Sleep. Remember when you and I would have long blissful uninterrupted intimacy for like, 10 hours in a row?  Me too.

In fact, before having a child, I was a bit of a sleep worshiper. Often, shortly after my day had begun I would think longingly of curling up with my down comforter and snoozing till my heart's content later that evening. You can call me an old lady but I don't care. I like sleeping. I have a comfortable bed. 

I've also dealt with a bit of anxiety in my time, which often robs one of sleep. There's been many a night I have lain awake, heart pounding over who-knows-what, counting the minutes as they slipped through my fingers. Which made me a little possessive and regimented with my sleepy times. (didn't know you would get an inside look into my crazy control freak tendencies with this blog post did you? Bonus points for you.) 

Then I got pregnant. 

I feel like one of the biggest topics among the Already-Have-Kids people and the About-To-Have-Kids people is the baby-induced insomnia you will have to endure, and the 400,000 different systems and 5 step plans and books that will help you escape that insomnia as soon as possible.This all really freaked me out. Not only because I didn't know how well I would function on this new level of sleep deprivation, but also because I knew I would have to lay down my golden calf of repose and learn to let the Lord be my rest. And I was afraid because I'm a rule follower. Rules make me feel safe. If I follow systems and rules I feel like I'm winning. But in reality, God is in control not me and his approval of me is not based on how well I follow rules but rather based on the merit of Christ who bestows epic amounts of mercy and grace upon me. Really, an all around better deal than me freaking out about following rules. Keeping this in mind, I knew if I read a book on how to get my baby to sleep through the night it would become law in my heart and I would be frustrated and embittered toward my child for not following these sleep-laws to a T. This was obviously, the opposite of what I desired to feel toward my child. 

So I decided not to read books. We were gunna wing it. We also hadn't decided what our sleeping arrangements would be. This is another hot topic in the parenting world. I knew I wanted to nurse, so I figured my kid would be in a bassinet or co-sleeper or sock drawer for the first couple months and then we'd see what we felt like doing then. One step at a time. I can handle that. I heard that newborns like to nurse every 5 seconds so I sort of prepared myself that my body and rest would not be my own for 2-3 months. I would be sharing them with my child. And I prayed that the Lord would replace my anxiety and selfishness with joy. I didn't want to look back on those first months and only remember frustration even if it was the hardest thing I ever did.

And then my daughter arrived!'t as bad as I thought. She nursed well, but not too often, and nursed quickly. She never had her days and nights mixed up. She had "The Witching Hour" cry time, but no all night scream fests. And she was sleeping for 5, 6, sometimes 7 hour stretches pretty soon. I couldn't believe it. I also wanted her to be with me every second. She slept in my arms, or on my chest every night for the first two weeks. Not because she wouldn't sleep anywhere else, but because I didn't want her to. My physical touch love language was overflowing. I'm pretty sure a unicorn burst out of my heart at some point. And so two months past and both my husband and I couldn't imagine her sleeping in another room. She slept great in her bassinet next to our bed and we slept great and everything was great. And once you're out of the newborn stage you're out of the woods right? Well...maybe for people in books.

All of a sudden at 5 months she started waking up more. I was bewildered but not completely undone. Teething had begun. Teething is bad business, and there's just no other way around it. So we cut a tooth and then went back to sleeping good. But there was this place in the back of my mind that was sort of tickling me with shame. She's FIVE months old. Shouldn't she sleep in her own room now? What will people think they knew she still sleeps with you in bed sometimes? Am I ruining her for life? No one was telling me these things out loud but you just hear them whispered in the wind of the mommy dogma we make for ourselves. In a facebook status, or a blog post, or a commercial, or even a conversation with a stranger at the grocery store. "How's she sleeping?" Don't you dare answer "not great" because then you will probably get unsolicited advice or possibly feel like a failure even if you don't. So because of the voices of shame in my head I decided to put my daughter in her crib for the first time around 5 months. She did fine. I did not. I sobbed. I hated the monitor. I was so used to her little noises right next to me they sounded bizarre and exaggerated on that awful machine. I tried for 3 nights. I was getting less sleep than when she was next to me because I was wide awake and sad. So I had a melt down at my husband

"I just want to go get her and bring her in heeeeeeerrrreeee" (snots all over husband's shoulder)
"well then go get her and bring her in here."
"but I caaaaaaaan't"
"um, why?"
"becaaaaaaauuuussseeee" (very sound logic, right?)
"...babe, if you wanna go get her, go get her. I'm happy for her to sleep in here with us."
"really? ok."
So she moved back into our room in her bassinet. And sometimes just for fun she would get in bed and snuggle with us. However this is still not the end of this tale. My baby was still not sleeping through the night consistently. Sometimes she would, sometimes she wouldn't. And of course there's about 457 transitions you travel through that first year... teeth, gas, growth spurts, unswadling, teeth... so I kept reminding myself not to lose hope and not to feel like a failure. Around 8 months my daughter started sleeping in her crib, in her room. We were all ready. And it was not a difficult transition at that time. But still, we would go through these periods of good sleep and bad sleep. But she wasn't a year old yet so I wasn't worried about it. Then she was a year old. And she was still waking up a few times a night. And after a particularly bad string of nights I went through the teeth-tummy-fever check list in my brain and upon realizing none of those applied I kinda unraveled. I don't know why I was holding onto that First Birthday as a beacon of hope but I realized I was. This was suppose to get easier, not harder right? And all those voices crept back in. Your baby is a year old and doesn't sleep through the night? You're still NURSING her at night?! Oh sister, your baby will never learn to sleep on their own. Here, let me give you this book...

So, after talking to my husband (who sleeps through everything including hurricanes, rap music blaring from cars right outside our window, and screaming daughters) we decided to try letting her cry at night. I am not planning to wean in the near future, but I had heard night weaning was a thing, so I thought we'd try. I told myself to give it a week. You can survive anything for a week. The first night she screamed off and on for hours. And as I lay awake listening to her scream I realized that if I was committed to sleep training her I would need to give up co-sleeping altogether for a season and possibly forever. No more morning snuggles. No more naps together. I felt very sad. So I prayed that the Lord would search my heart and give me wisdom. And I realized that I felt compelled to let my daughter scream because of shame. I did not feel so sleep deprived that I could not function. I did not feel resentful toward my child. It is not easy to get up 2-4 times every night to nurse and rock a baby for over a year but it is something that I have decided to do because its what is best for our family. So if you wanna label us, you can call us part time co-sleepers. We're cool with that. We're also cool if that's not what you do. Cause everyone's family and babies are different. Maybe you're a momma who's 9 month old wants to nurse 5 times a night but you don't realize other people's babies do that too. Or maybe you're babies sleep like its their super hero power and you think I'm a weirdo. That's fine. Just don't recommend a book to me. I share this particular journey with these particular details because there can be a hideous value system that mothers build around each other's parenting decisions. And for mothers with babies, SLEEP is a big one. There are many shoulds and should nots out there that can be very discouraging. But our righteousness is not built upon our ability to get our babies to sleep. Or where they sleep or how long they sleep. It is ok if your baby does not go to bed instantaneously and independently at exactly 8:03 each evening. And it is ok if you did not cross stitch your baby to your bare bosom so they can nurse continuously until they are 17.  

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us..." Galatians 3:13

I am not bound by living up to other's expectations of me and my child. Even greater still, I am not bound by living up to my own expectation of me or my child. Neither are you. If you had asked me when I was pregnant if I was planning on co-sleeping I would have said "I have no idea, but probably not." But this is where our journey took us. And I'm glad of it. I'm still taking one step at a time. Maybe we will night wean, maybe we'll co-sleep still she's two. We'll see. One day my daughter will be in high school and I'll be dealing with boys and alcohol. This is the hardest thing I've ever done. But dear goodness have I been gifted with undeserved joy over it. For these few, fleeting, sweet and difficult moments of my daughter's life, I will drag my ass out of bed at 2:37am (and, midnight, and 4:17) and stare at her perfect sleeping face. And listen to her tiny breaths. And feel her hands absentmindedly smack me in the face. And lean in to the Lord to sustain my sore and tired body through one more day.

With a cup of coffee.