Monday, April 28, 2014

Let sleepling dogs lie

One of the things I most feared going into a second pregnancy, the thing that prevented me from even considering having a second child for almost 2 years after Taran was born, was the dreaded problem of getting a baby to fall asleep at reasonable times, for reasonable stretches (insert: longer than 25 minute naps). Even more than the fear that my 2nd child would sleep as badly as the first, was the fear that I would be the same wild-eyed, neurotic, sleep-deprived Mama I was the first time around - reading every sleep book on the shelf (all of which contradict each other at every step), and tearing my hair out about whether I was doing "the right thing" if I caved and let him take a nap on me in the Beco carrier. I knew I was perhaps turning into a truly insane person when I found myself waking my son up as he fell asleep in my arms so that I could put him down "drowsy but awake" as the books recommended, only to have him scream bloody murder and either completely skip a nap or take another 45 minutes to relax at which point he'd take his 25 minute nap, wake up exhausted and within an hour be ready to start the whole damn thing over again.

"Close my eyes? Never! I might miss something good."

On one particularly bad, nap-less, windy October day, in desperation I took him for a stroll in the park, determined that he get one decent nap, no matter where. As his eyelids began to droop, I parked the stroller to give him the motionless nap that according to one Dr. Weisbluth is absolutely essential for quality sleep. I threw a blanket over the stroller to protect him from the practically gale force wind that had now started, and sat there, hunkered on the ground, trying to keep the blanket from blowing away. Suddenly, two black dogs, off their leash, came bounding across the open field where I sat, barking madly and making a direct bee line towards Taran's stroller, their barks getting maddeningly louder as they hurtled towards us. I saw the impending doom and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. The owners strolled blissfully along, hand in hand, completely oblivious or uncaring to my plight created by their stupid dogs. Oh the anger I felt, when my child woke up hysterically crying two seconds later. For perhaps the first time in my life I truly understood the meaning of blind rage - fueled by fear, exhaustion, frustration, and a fierce motherly need to protect my own. I shot the four of them my best "Wither and die!" look and stormed home where, upon spying my husband raking leaves outside, I burst into uncontrollable, heaving sobs. Taran stared up at me bright eyed from his stroller and gave his first real laugh at the incredibly strange bellows emitting from his Mama's gaping mouth. This made me burst into hysterical laughter which made him laugh, which made me laugh some more (a somewhat stark-raving mad kind of a laugh, but laughter none-the-less).

Sorry. I digress. My point being, this was not the baby bliss I had signed up for and having gone through it once, I was reluctant to repeat the experience again. But I was reminded by many that every child comes into the world with their own personality and I might get a sleeper the second time around. And they were right. When I first started seriously trying to get the girl to sleep in her crib, I read her a short story, sung her a little song, gave her a big smooch on the top of her lovely, fuzzy head and laid her down in her crib, wide-eyed and wriggling. For a few minutes after I closed the door, I hear a few "I object" meh's, the tell-tale sign of a thumb suck, and then, blissfully, radio silence.

It's mind-blowing to me that at 16 weeks, we could put her down to sleep at 6:30 pm and she would sleep until 8 the next morning with one nursing at around 5 am. At one year old, she pretty much sleeps through the night, 12-13 hours straight. Granted, she's not super human. She has an occasional bad phase that might last a few days or a week if she's sick or teething or working out some big developmental leap. Overall though, golden.

But before you hate me too much for having a dream sleeper, let me just qualify something.... Taran is almost four years old and his sleep is consistently bad punctuated by periods of absolute wretchedness.  During a "good phase" he's prone to waking up at 3:45 am in tears because he needs chapstick and a muffin. And a good night sleep means we are able to keep him in bed until 5:30 am. When I mentioned this to a friend last week and wondered whether Taran would EVER be a good sleeper, she paused then said, "I'm afraid to tell you this, but my 10 year old still doesn't sleep through the night". So despite having one absolutely brilliant sleeper, we are still the walking dead around here.

Especially lately. His sleep is absolutely horrific. He'll run into our room every 1.5-2 hours all night long and very often have a two hour period where he's in our room every 10 minutes until I'm ready to either throw him across the room or crumple on the floor in hysterical sobbing fits. In these super bad phases, our start time is closer to 4:45 am. What this does mean though is that occasionally he's so tired, a nap slips back in during the day and this is our saving grace. Not every day. Not even every other day, but just often enough to pull us back from the brink of insanity.

To find a small spark of beauty in all this (because at this point dear reader, you know that is my tendency), I have seen more sunrises in the past three years than I did in the previous decade before his birth. Because, you know, if I don't find the beauty in the small things, I WILL lose my mind.

And another beautiful thing, his mind, his imagination, his intense love. The child is on fire. You can almost see the sparks shooting off of him. No wonder he can't let his body rest. Today, I came to pick him up from pre-school and at a quick glance, he was nowhere in sight. Suddenly I hear this wave of sound, like all of his joy at my arrival was shot like a cannon across the room. I turned around just in time to catch him as he took a flying leap into my arms, laughing maniacally. I could feel the other parents around me looking on in perplexed amusement, but I just held him close and laughed along with him as we rubbed our noses together in eskimo kisses. He makes me feel like a conquering hero returning after months of absence.

This post is very much about Taran, because right now, the sleep deprivation is seeping into every aspect of our lives. But in two days, our Cally girl turns 1. This weekend we had a small gathering of family and friends to celebrate the amazing person she is becoming and I can't wait to share pictures and stories and catch you all up on how she is growing and what our family has become since she has come to join us on this crazy ride called life.

Here is a teaser:


  1. If everyone wrote like you, I'd read more often. You're like the Frank Capra of journalists. To my daughter Rebecca...."The luckiest girl in town!"

  2. Oh, happy birthday to Calli! And yes, they tell me someday the boys might sleep through the night... :) Hang in there!

  3. Blessings to all the sparks of beauty that touch your life. You are as magical as the stories you write.