Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Blog #3: "So Tonight That I Might Sleep"

Well, it’s 9PM and as Mazzy Star's “Fade Into You” winds down and ends I can hear by the beautiful silence behind it that my little one finally must have “crossed over” into the realm of sleep. 
I’ll sit here and write this blog while listening to the Mazzy Star lullaby mix I have playing that I made during the newborn heyday so as not to disrupt the current sound/flow of the house; I have only been working on getting C down to bed for an hour now.  I think mama deserves this glass of wine tonight as she writes…or two.  ;)

My daughter has always been what I would call somewhat “stubborn” to get to sleep.  She’s overall a wonderful baby, and controls her tantrums pretty well considering the situations we find ourselves in when she is overly stimulated and tired.  I’m very proud of her behavior and general composure, but she has NEVER liked to sleep/nap from the beginning.  Starting around her second week of life she decided she simply did not like this sleep thing taking hold of her.  And so the war began!

Now, all moms know that patience is a virtue well earned if you can grasp its slippery hand during your daily battle of wills and wants, but my frustration will at times leave me feeling like a sub par mother, when on rough days in my head all I can think of is the title of the parody children’s bedtime book “Go the F*ck to Sleep!”  Sometimes I just want to read the book to her, a feeling I’m sure I share with a lot of parents.  I know I am at the very least not alone in this, and am sure I’ll feel this even more as the journey of motherhood unfolds!  (But how exactly does one prepare for the fiery pits of hell, anyway?  I jest.  Every day of motherhood is a blessing.)

Rocking your child to sleep in your arms is one of the most amazing feelings and experiences you will ever have.  That being said, though, I can’t help but think that rocking my daughter out on really bad nights might not be all that dissimilar to drowning a cat in a tub.  You have to, at times, physically restrain her until she starts to “cross over” successfully into sleep and you feel her body release and lose tension.  I have to firmly yet gently hold her against me to discourage her thrashing/squirming and pat her bum or back while either bouncing her simultaneously and/or humming into her ear with her little “Buddy” sea horse neo glow worm that plays music held up against her ear/head.  I used to explain her as a newborn: “I have to suspend her from the ceiling, twirl her, and keep plates spinning the whole time!”  Today, if she is tired enough she shakes her head and will tug at her ear, actually ripping at her hair if she isn’t processed to sleep in time.  I am glad the battle usually ends there, because I am fairly certain that stage is followed by head spinning and vomit.

Needless to say, the first months with a newborn are hard enough, but with a stubborn baby, you’re schooled fast and hard on patience and tolerance.  Even after a beginning like that, it’s not any easier to maintain your patience.  It’s still a shame she can’t just settle herself and is so tense about sleep at times.  I just don’t understand why the girl fights sleep so much, or why babies in general do for that matter?  It’s like, REALLY?  You’re FIGHTING it?? I EMBRACE it…with a big old French kiss and a postcoital cigarette!  Bring it on!  I wish I could have someone rock me off to dreamland every day.  I wish I was encouraged to nap and sleep for long periods of time! 

I have to admit, though, I think my daughter got her difficulties from me honestly.  I have never been one to be out “when my head hits the pillow” as the saying goes.  I generally will lay there and toss and turn for an average of 30 minutes to an hour most nights before my mind will give in to sleep, sometimes longer when my schedule is way off.  Even though it takes me awhile to get on my way, once I arrive, I don’t’ want to check out!  So, my daughter is possibly going to be the same way.   The poor girl.  It is an annoyance.  It does jip me out of a lot of could-be valuable sleep time.  I wonder how many of your children’s sleep habits are inherited from you if they are at all and how many are socially learned.  My mother said I tossed and turned a lot in my sleep when I was a child.  Celie tosses and turns so much in her sleep and is such a light sleeper also; she just always has been since she was a baby.

The required steps in the “Dream Dance” can be at times overwhelming and at others exhausting!  Some nights are better than others, obviously, as with all of parenthood, it just depends on how long it takes you that night.  I think rocking babies out would be an interesting and really challenging Olympic sport!  I mentioned all of the bouncing, shushing, humming, swaying, patting, spinning, balancing.  After most or all of these steps are employed, you can start to test the grounds.  There is always the telling “Arm Drop Test” for getting babies to bed.  I do this…but there are really two or more stages.  The first ADT is administered after her breathing has changed for the first time, to see if she will in fact LET her arm be dropped down, because to pass the FIRST round of the ADT, she just needs to let the arm go.  At this point, some children will be out, but not my little Celie.  She will open her eyes and stir even if her arm seems to be dropping on its own.  At this point her body has just begun to accept sleep, but her mind still won’t have it. 

The second round of the ADT can be administered after her breathing has changed for a second time and she has seemed to have changed the sucking pattern on her bink.  When her eyes and face are no longer disturbed by the dropping arm---PASS!  Alright!  Tonight she passed both ADT’s and after waiting the appropriate amount of “settling” time I had risen with her in my arms, preparing for the transfer to crib.  A song on my play list happened to be ending at that moment and, although she was “a sleep” she was not “asleep”.  She brought one hand up to my chest and patted it against me in a half clap and let out a weak and tired “yaaa”, as it is her custom to applaud at the end of a song.  What a heart tug.  That's my girl.  I had to smile and laugh and sink back into the rocker.  Rock and pat again.  This kid astounds me!  Her stamina is amazing.  She is basically half unconscious REALLY at this point but I want her to accept her crib willingly when I put her in it.  Although I will at times let her cry, I have never been one to let her “cry it out”, so this was perhaps the second time I had put her into her room and got her back out again.

She generally falls to sleep in my arms still probably 60% of the time.  The other part of the time I rock her and put her in a lulled, sleepy state into her crib where her eyes may even open as you lay her down, but she is able to escort herself to the Land of Nod. Given, I have to let her run herself ragged before she is even capable of settling for bed, but after they get so tired, it's for their own good (and safety) that you aggressively try to put them to sleep.  Toddlers are such horrible "drunks" when they are faced with exhaustion, aren't they?  No matter how many times they fall, they simply will not stop until they are good and ready. 

Although I still am hearing her stir from time to time, the Dream Dance seems to have worked its magic for now.  I know I have a long road ahead of me on the sleep department with this child, but at least we can agree on the Mazzy Star for now.  Fade Into You has come back around.  The kid has good taste, at least. “Yaa” indeed, little one.  Good night, baby girl. 

- Musing Mama

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