Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sleep Training End of Week Two

It's been a really, really good week, which accounts for the lack of posts.  As I've said before, good times inspire me more to appreciate what's happening in the moment.  Bad times inspire me to over analyze, dwell, and in an effort to get the negativity out of my head, to write it down.  In general, fewer posts = better times overall.  Plus, there's been so much written about the magic of parenthood, it's impossible not to write cliches.  I mean, how many different ways are there to describe how small their hands are without sounding like you write for Hallmark?

As far as the sleep, there's progress yet to be made, but I'm calling it a success.  She's consistently asleep by 6:30 pm and will usually sleep through until 1:00am.  Even when she does wake up, she puts herself back to sleep pretty quickly and pretty quietly.  The mid-night feeding is fast.  30 minutes from pillow to pillow for me, even if I have to change a diaper.

Naps are less consistent, but SO MUCH BETTER.  She's still on a three-a-day schedule, going down at 8:00am, 11:00am, and 3:00pm, give or take an hour.  Each time, she'll sleep for around an hour and a half, sometimes more.  The big thing is, unless we totally misread her, we put her in her sleep suit, pop her nuk in, sing Twinkle Twinkle, set her down, walk out the door, and she's asleep within 10 minutes.  Not always, but most of the time.

What all this means for me is I'm in a good mental place and I'm having fun with her.  She rolled from front to back a few weeks ago and is really close to rolling from back to front now.  She's developed the instinct and dexterity to put everything in her mouth, which is oddly enchanting for me.  "Oooh, what's this?...  IN MY MOUTH."  I notice so many little developments.  We put her in a bouncer when we're in the kitchen, and it features a plastic bee with crinkly wings, and it's on a cord, so she can pull it out of the bouncer far enough to get it to her mouth.  A week ago, she had the dexterity to grab it and pull it to her mouth, but her fists would get in the way.  She wanted the bee in her mouth, but she got her fist, which was apparently incredibly frustrating.  A few days ago, I watched this same scenario unfold, but instead of getting frustrated, she moved one hand down to the cord below her other hand, and BAM, bee in mouth.

And I just realized that this is what I was most excited about when I daydreamed about being a parent - watching this tin blob develop into a human being.  I was a preschool teacher in college and I was eternally fascinated with how kids interacted with the world, especially how much more open and honest they are.  I couldn't wait to watch my own child learn and develop and teach me about innocence and openness and honesty.  It's happening.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sleep Training End Of Week One

My neighbors are good people and we're on our way to being good friends.  I was out back to shovel and saw him over the fence and said hi.  As usual, he asked how things were, and I mentioned that sleep training seems to have been successful.  He's kind of a smartass, so he asked, "Do you really think it was something you did, or do you think she was just ready to sleep better?"  It's a good, big question.

To cut to the chase, I think it's both, but I did confide in him one of my insecurities about sleep training.  What if The Baby is not actually sleeping any better?  What if all we're doing is choosing to ignore her distress so we can sleep better and have more hands-off time during the day?  I suspect if you've gone through CIO sleep training or are considering it, you've dealt with this feeling or something like it.

As part of my therapy (finally had my first appointment after almost three month's wait!), I'm working on identifying the thoughts that bring me down and make me feel angry, identifying how they make me feel, and working to get to the bottom of whether or not those thoughts and feelings are rooted in the real world or not, and ways of redirecting them.  It's called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and what I've just written is about as much as I know about it, so if you want to know more, you know...  Google it up.

Anyway, as part of trying to figure out if thoughts and feelings are rooted in reality, you look for objective evidence, i.e. information that another person could look at and that would lead that person to the same conclusion that you did.  So when I ponder that question of whether or not I look to our trusty spreadsheet:

Couple things: C = crying, A = awake but content, A/C = intermittent crying.  On the 9th, The Baby had her 4-month vaccinations, which accounts for the hug sleep numbers over the next 24 hours.

First thing to note is those HUGE, uninterrupted blocks of time down at the bottom.  That's right - all week we've been putting her down at 6:00 give or take, and she's staying down until after midnight.  HELL YEAH!  We had friends over for dinner the other night.  They got to see The Baby for half an hour, then we put her down, and we enjoyed adult time for the rest of the night.  Magical.

Second thing to note are the sleep totals at the bottom.  Pre-training, we were working really hard to get 14 hours a day.  Totals have gone up, and we're not working at it like we were before.

Third thing: Not much crying toward the end of the week.  This isn't to say she never squawks, but she is more content between sleep cycles and moves more quickly and smoothly from wake back to sleep.  We've had minor regressions that still make me feel like a bad parent and horrible human being, but the spreadsheet helps me see that we're on an upward trajectory.

So are things really getting better, or did we just do it to make our lives easier?  Honestly, it's probably a little bit of both, but way more of the former than the latter, and here's the thing about the latter - it counts.  If I'm better rested, my mood is brighter, I'm more patient, and I'm better equipped to give The Baby the care she needs.  Maybe I'm justifying here, but I'm learning to think of health holistically.  It's not JUST about what's right for The Baby, or for me, or my wife, or the dog.  Each has to be considered as part of the overall health of The Family.  Our #1 priority is The Baby, but not if it means the dog is neglected and starts to piss and shit all over the dining room (which happened).  We'll make sure The Baby is getting the care she needs, but maybe pull back before it sends Papa to the looney bin, eh?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nap Training The Baby

We knew the 25 minute cat naps and marathon rocking session were not sustainable.  The cat naps would never be sufficient, and the marathon rocking session was isolating, depressing, and consumed so much time.  I know, I know.  You do what your baby needs.  We get that, but we also get that there comes a time when it's no longer about the health and happiness of just the child alone, but the health and happiness of the family.  Fact: if I'm exhausted and depressed, I will not be giving my daughter the care she needs, and she will suffer for it.  We couldn't let her continue in her chronic, sleep-deprived state, and we needed to start addressing the impact it was having on the health of the family, especially me.  So we decided to do sleep training.

I'm calling it nap training though, because nighttime sleep hasn't been quite as big a problem as naps.  We decided on full-extinction cry it out (CIO).  This is not without controversy.  You can read horror stories for days, and there are those who maintain it's more or less child abuse.  If that's your view, it's OK, but no study has show any detrimental affects to the development of the child, and unless you can show me one, let it suffice that it's what we decided would work for our family, and you're entitled to your (hopefully well-informed) opinion.  There are loads of resources on sleep and nap training, so I'm not going to go too deeply into the "how" of CIO.  We've been reading "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth.  It was recommended to us by numerous friends who have kids who sleep well and is based on loads of medical data.

We started last Sunday night (it's Wednesday as I write this), and I am overjoyed to share with you that as I check our sleep log and the baby monitor, The Baby is going on two and a half hours of uninterrupted daytime sleep!  That's right baby, SHE WENT THE FUCK BACK TO SLEEP!!!

I wanted to write a post on Monday, because Monday really fucking sucked.  She did OK Sunday night, went down smoothly for her first nap of the day Monday (one hour after waking, as usual) and was awake 30 minutes later, again as usual, but this time, she was on her own to sort it out.  She was awake but pretty happy for 30 minutes, and then cried for another 30 before we got her up.  Lather, rinse, and repeat for the rest of the day.  Listening to your child cry when you know it's in your power to make it stop makes you not only feel like a bad parent but a horrible human being.  The Wife and I did a pretty good job of keeping each other strong though (Jesus did I win the lottery every day when I landed her).  Sleep training is all about long-term benefit.  The Baby needed more sleep, and that wasn't gonna happen unless she acquired the skills to do it.  So Monday sucked.

Monday night was pretty typical.  The Baby got tired around 7:00 and went down for a cat nap as usual.  She was up again 30 minutes later for a final feeding, diaper change, and then right back down.  The rest of the night was pretty typical, except when she woke as usual at 5:30, we didn't get up.  We know from experience that's not her "awake for the day" time, and as we hoped, she squawked for about 15 minutes and then went back to sleep until 6:30 when we got up.

Naps on Tuesday were better.  She was already noticeably better at putting herself to sleep for her first sleep cycle.  There were a couple times after setting her down that I was sure she wasn't going to do it, but she did, every time.  Sleep for 30, wake, squawk for a little while, and then she finally managed to get herself back to sleep for another sleep cycle, unassisted, for the first time that we could remember.  Parenting is all about little victories, and that was a big little victory.

Today is better yet, with even more improvement in getting herself to sleep.  I also need to call out a product here - Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit.  We've only used it once, so take this with a big grain of salt, but we just got The Baby up after a solid two hour nap.  After a while, I thought she'd either stopped breathing or the feed on the baby monitor had cut out, because I'd never seen her stay motionless for that long during the day.  I'm not ready to call the suit a magic bullet, but if this last nap is repeated, I won't hesitate to say it.

That's it for now.  We're so proud of The Baby!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sigh... I'm OK. Really.

I shared this with friends yesterday, and the outpouring of support was amazing.  You never realize how difficult parenting is for everybody until you share something that's hard for you and literally every friend who has a kid tells you their own version of it.

But a lot of people were taken aback by my depression.  I don't know what to say to that.  Depression really fucking sucks, but I'm OK.  Not often great right now, though the exceptions are notable.  Pretty often I'm good.  It's just that when I'm not, I'm not, and if I want to be honest about my experience as a parent, I have to talk about the dark feelings, because they're usually there whether they're affecting whatever I'm doing at the moment or not.  The day I wrote the post Love My Daughter, Hate My Life was a bad one.  I don't really hate my life, but there are a lot of moments I hate, and as I said, I'm unfortunately more inspired to get the bad feelings out of my head and into print than the good ones.

Today has been a really good day.  We got out of the house to go to the library, which meant I had to shower and comb my hair (winning!), and I got to see and interact with human beings who can talk and who don't routinely shit in their pants.  One of the hardest things to handle as a parent who yearns for control is living moment to moment.  Yesterday afternoon was really bad.  Last night wasn't great.  But today so far has been really, really good.  And that's plenty for now.  I'll worry about the rest of the day as it happens.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


As I may have mentioned, when we put The Baby down to sleep, night or nap, we swaddle her and use a nuk.  These have always worked fine, and because they're used almost universally by parents, we've never worried about it.

I'm starting to worry.

In the past, she didn't necessarily like to be swaddled, but she quickly made her peace with it and calmed down, usually without any kind of struggle.  She struggles mightily and often vocally now.  She even knows when it's coming.  As soon as I lay her down on top of it, she scrunches her face up and starts to protest.  And she's stronger now.  I can't swaddle her tightly enough to keep her from working a hand or two up out the top, where it then proceeds to knock her nuk out.  And therein lies the rub.  When the time comes to unswaddle her for sleep, WHAT WILL SHE DO WITH HER HANDS?  Right now they don't comfort her.  She just knocks her nuk out and then tries to get both fists fully into her mouth.  When she fails at that, it really pisses her off, so she tries even harder.  If I put the nuk back in, she knocks it back out, so strong is the desire to get both hands into her mouth at once.  If I time her sleep PERFECTLY, she falls asleep quickly enough that the nuk stays in and the hands stay swaddled, but the window of time during which she is perfectly tired is about three seconds (fuck you Dr. Weissbluth and your goddamn smug advice about timing) and I rarely hit it right.  So the only solution now is to sit with my hand on her chest, holding her hands down, until she's asleep.  Already I know this is not sustainable, and we're still swaddling her!  What the fuck happens when we stop swaddling her?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Love My Daughter, Hate My Life

I feel, and I think most of my friends would confirm this, I'm a pretty laidback guy.  Happy go lucky.  The kind of guy who both recognizes how lucky he is but feels he controls his own fate.  Before we got pregnant, when considering our future child, I never considered that my child wouldn't be laidback and easy.  I mean, most parents hope for an easy child, so it's really hard not to picture your future with such a child.  Days filled with coos and giggles and painless nap times during which you'll catch up on the dishes and your award-winning dad blog.  Or something.

When The Baby came, I held on to this dream despite some evidence to the contrary.  Don't get me wrong; as I've stated before, she's not a difficult baby.  She's a pretty ordinary baby, which is to say, not that easy.  But I've only recently, like in the last two weeks, come to terms with the truth: The Baby is Not Easy.  She's now just over four months old.  She sleeps OK at night, waking two or three times, but typically giving us stretches of three or four hours.  But she naps for shit.  We try to follow all the "rules" of good sleep hygiene.  We're consistent with how we put her down.  We use minimal sleep crutches, just a nuk, swaddle, and a fan for white noise.  We put her down drowsy but awake.  And despite this, she will still only nap for 25-30 minutes, unless we're rocking her.  At every timeline milestone, six weeks, three months, four months, I've waited for her to sort her naps out.  After 25 minutes, I'll watch the monitor, and cross my fingers that this day, finally, after so much hard work, she'll roll over and go the fuck back to sleep.  But she never does.  So for the last month plus, she takes between two and five of these half-hour cat naps and we rock her for two to four hours in the afternoon so she actually gets at least one effective nap in.  The result is she's still chronically over-tired and fussy.  She is Not Easy.

At this point, I've sat for hours upon hours in almost-absolute darkness with my hand on her tiny little chest, because she's become very observant, and if there's any light at all, she'd rather sing and coo than go to sleep.  So I can't even look at my phone, and I sit, and I have nothing to do but think, and I  think, and I hate myself for hating my life.