Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days

Last Friday was a rough day. I got to sleep at about midnight, then Dorothy woke me up at 3 a.m. Then, well, let me tell a story in Facebook status updates:

5:22 a.m. Dorothy is asleep, now I'm just killing time until Jeremy stops hitting snooze. Nothing's more fun than trying to go to sleep with an alarm going off every 9 minutes.

6:51 a.m. This grumpy Mama brought to you in a collaborative effort by all the members of her household to keep her awake at non-concurrent intervals.

7:00 a.m. As it turns out, those 45 minutes of snooze button pushing were my last chance to get any sleep last night. Sigh.

8:40 a.m. Anyone want to come hang out? Feeling overwhelmed today.

1:13 p.m. Where do I tender my resignation?

It was a pretty awful day, but what do you expect on three hours sleep? Somewhere in there, I managed to produce a blog entry in an attempt to focus on the positive, but it was only somewhat successful. In the end, a long nap (one that took almost two hours to bring about), a helpful husband (who managed to catch an earlier train home from work after getting off the phone with a sobbing wife), and dinner guests (who were gracious enough to bring dinner and to come late so I had extra time to clean) pulled me out of the fog. And Friday night, I got to sleep from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. which is double the amount of sleep I had managed the night before. Three more hours of sleep is apparently the difference between hopeless desperation and confidence that I will fumble through somehow.

Caring for a newborn is hard. I knew that from before, and I fully expected it to be hard again. But I had survived it once, so I knew that the darkest nights would be temporary, and that the sun would eventually come up in the morning. What I had "forgotten" was how hard life with a two-year-old was. Because that had crept up on me slowly, over two years, rather than being sprung on me all at once. Before Dorothy was born, I prepared myself mentally for sleepless nights and marathon nursing sessions. But I didn't prepare myself for the things I had been doing every day - the unpredictable sleep patterns, the hour-plus of laying beside Valerie trying to get her to sleep, the constant vigilance lest she get into something she shouldn't, keeping her entertained and attempting to wear her out so she would sleep, not to mention the energy involved in responding to a steady stream of requests, demands, and "Look, Mama!"s.

I had thought a lot about how I would take care of a newborn with a two-year-old around, but I had neglected to consider how I would take care of a two-year-old with a newborn around.

It seems like I talk about, think about, and blog about Valerie more than Dorothy. That's because Dorothy slipped quietly into the cracks of my life that I didn't know were there. But when she came, she brought an enormous spotlight with her and aimed it directly at her sister.

Dorothy has forced us to look at our daily lack-of-routine and create order. A predictable wake-up time helps me to make sure I get enough sleep. If I want Valerie to nap early enough to go to bed on time, we have to eat lunch on time, which means we have to eat breakfast on time so we can fit in a park trip or a play date between meals. I also quickly realized that I can't spend an hour lying beside Valerie at nap time anymore, and we helped her learn how to put herself to sleep. Throw daylight savings time into the mix, and that adds up to an awful lot of life changes for a little girl. I'd be overwhelmed, too. I have to remind myself that, while I've been through this "new baby throws your whole life for a loop" thing before, she hasn't. And if she is even half as overwhelmed as I was the first time around, I'm surprised her head hasn't exploded.

All in all, most days, things are pretty good. Valerie can be clingy and she has been acting out more than usual, but she has adjusted quickly to our new schedule, she goes to sleep on her own without complaining (a feat I thought impossible a few weeks ago), and she absolutely adores her sister. It's still not easy, but we have more "pretty good" days than bad days. Some days, I even manage to wash some dishes or fold some laundry! This blog post has been in the works for about a week, though, so I'm definitely not rolling in free time. (And since I started writing it, about seven more potential blog posts have begun percolating in my head, few, if any, of which will actually get written.) But that's Dorothy's fault for actually letting me sleep at night - I blogged so much when Valerie was a baby because there was nothing else to do at 3 a.m. Speaking of which, Dorothy is asleep, now, so I better get to bed. I'm posting this without thorough proof-reading, since I just want it to be done, so I apologize if it's not completely coherent. Semi-coherent is probably a more accurate representation of the state of my post-baby brain, anyhow.


jd said...

Another survivor of 2 children is "born"! Just keep doing what you're doing....all will be well.

Sarah said...

I can relate to this. I am not by nature a scheduled person at all but out of sheer dire necessity I have learned to stick to a flexible routine just so I manage on most days to get done the essentials : ) And every time time change rolls around, I feel like an anvil has dropped from the sky on my head. My kids are just now sleeping till normal hours.

christianlady said...

You said it better than I ever could have. Yes, it's hard to take into account what life is like with a toddler and a newborn. I recall thinking that having a newborn was easy compared to having a toddler and a newborn. You are doing well if you are going to the park at all or are trying to schedule yourself sleep time...any at all. Hope you can find more sleep as it makes all the difference between mean green momma and sweet momma.

nosce said...

This is incredibly well said. So many amazing points. Thank you so much- this resonates a lot for me as I'm expecting two in February.

Jessie V. said...

You know this: it will end! And you'll be a better mommy for it.

I didn't know that that night was THAT hard! I'm glad we could at least provide dinner!

Amelinda said...

I also quickly realized that I can't spend an hour lying beside Valerie at nap time anymore, and we helped her learn how to put herself to sleep.

Man, I would love to hear how you accomplished this. Since my daughter stopped nursing the only way to get her to nap has been the hour+ snuggle, and even that doesn't always work. She'll nap at daycare...just not for us!

Jule Ann said...

We did a variation on Super Nanny's sleep training method. We started doing a regular bedtime routine (bath, stories, songs, prayers at bedtime, one story, one song at naptime). Then I put her in bed, said goodnight, and left, but waited just outside her door. As soon as she got out of bed, I went back in, scooped her up, and put her back in bed again. No anger, no discussion, just a matter-of-fact transfer back to bed. The first night was hard. It took about an hour, and probably 50 times putting her back in bed. And I'm not going to lie, there were quite a few tears. But it worked, and the next few nights, she only got out of bed once or twice, then not at all. It took a little longer for naps to catch on, but she consistently naps every day, now, without getting back up, except occasionally to ask for a drink.
It was hard for me to come to a place where I was willing to "sleep train" her, but eventually, something had to give. A part of me feels like I'm going to get kicked out of the attachment parenting "club" for sleep training, but ultimately, we are AP because it feels natural and right, and bedtimes weren't feeling natural or right anymore. So rather than adhering strictly to a philosophy, we found something that worked.
One thing I really liked about the method we used was that it left her with some power. She wasn't alone in the dark, crying hopelessly. She could choose to get out of bed. Okay, so it wasn't a great choice, but she was in control of that choice. So when she decided to stay in bed, it wasn't because she had given up on anyone responding to her, it was because she knew she wasn't going to get to stay up, so she might as well sleep. The first few nights, when she was still getting up once or twice, I'm pretty sure she was just getting up to get one last hug, and to make sure I was still there and the rules hadn't changed. Those nights, I gave her an extra squeeze before putting her back in bed, just to let her know I understood.
She still loves us, and everyone is happier with more consistent sleep. And bedtimes are actually enjoyable now, with favorite stories and songs, rather than dread. It's nice.