Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Terrible Sleeper

My youngest child, Josie, is a terrible sleeper.  How terrible, you ask?  So terrible that if Josie had been my first child, she would also have been my last.

Josie started out like any normal infant;  she woke every other hour or so for food and then drifted easily back to sleep.  Her brother, Henry, slept through the night when he was three months old, so when we hit that milestone, I confess that I was slightly disappointed that Josie was still getting up three times for drink and cuddles.  Josie's older sister, Georgia, had taken longer to sleep through the night (five months), so we weren't too worried.  We figured that Josie would follow her siblings' lead sooner or later.  After all, newborns are not known for their sleeping ability.

But then the five-month mark flashed by and Josie hadn't cut out so much as one night-time feed.  the bags under my eyes were becoming frighteningly noticeable and the mothers of Georgia's playschool friends were beginning to talk.  Of course, I barely noticed their gossip since I was EXHAUSTED and was hardly functioning.  But even in my sleep-deprived fog, I knew that we needed a plan of action.

Gordy and I tried sleep-training first.  We read Ferber's book on letting your baby "cry it out" and we highlighted the parts that ended with the phrase "... and then the baby learned to put herself back to sleep and her parents finally got a well-earned rest."  Or something like that, I can't remember the exact words.  Let's just say that Ferber made some empty promises and we fell for them, hook, line and sinker.  We tried Ferberizing for over a week with absolutely no success.  Josie didn't seem to mind crying it out at all.  She didnt' care how long she cried, just so long as that Nice Lady with the Food came in eventually.

What had worked for so many American children failed miserably with our dear Josie.  She was showing either a terrifically disturbing stubborn streak or else a refreshingly healthy ability to go against the norm.  I couldn't tell which.  My opinion of Josie's sleep problem depended entirely on whether or not I had found time to nap in the afternoons.

The craziest part was that during the day, Josie was the most amazingly pleasant - dare I say angelic - baby the world has ever known.  She was content to run errands or to take her nap In the car seat while picking up her siblings from school.  She loved sitting in her bouncy chair and "talking" to me while I made dinner or read the newspaper.  She smiled constantly, laughed often and charmed the pants off everyone who met her.  From 7am until 7pm, she was the best baby who ever lived.  And from 7:01pm until 6:59am, she was an evil baby sent from a sleepless hell.

We needed help.  I questioned every parent I came across and many  had ideas to share.  We tried Baby Wise, we tried white noise machines, we tried finding a lovey.  None of these methods worked.  Baby Wise informed us that if we hadn't started their training methods before Josie was born, than it was too late and we were doomed to 18 years of sleepless nights.  We weren't encouraged, to say the least.  The noise machine made no difference and Josie already had a lovey she was hopelessly attached to:  me!

Even past the point when she didn't need a nighttime snack, Josie still wanted me to come into her room every few hours so she could check that I was still there.  She insisted on being picked up and cuddled for a while - not a long time, perhaps just 30 seconds or so, but she was adamant that visitations were going to happen.  Reassuring pats, a kind word spoken in a soft voice from outside the door, a visit from Gordy .... these things were NOT going to happen.  Josie didn't want a pat, a quick glance, the sound of her mother's voice or The Man.  She wanted Mommy.  End of Discussion.

I'll never forget one mother I spoke to during this time.  As I told her about our seemingly endless nights, a befuddled look came across her face.  "She still doesn't sleep through the night?"  the woman asked with confusion.  "All THREE of my children slept through the night after the first week!  Have you tried anything?"  I would have strangled her, if I had had the energy required to do so.

Tried anything?!?  I'd tried EVERYTHING!

The frustrating thing was that our other two babies slept through the night with very little problems.  Sure, Georgia had taken longer to get to the all-night point, but she was also two pounds lighter than Henry was when he was born.  That's the thing with babies, each one is a puzzle that you have to figure out and what worked for one hardly ever works with the other.

And so I sought medical advice.  After listening to the entire sleepless history, our no-nonsense pediatrician cleared her throat and said, "Josie is A Terrible Sleeper."

And there it was.  Josie is a terrible sleeper.  It wasn't our problem:  it was hers.

The diagnosis was a terrific relief.  Josie was a terrible sleeper! and frankly, it didn't take long to figure out who she got that trait from.  Gordy, too, is a terrible sleeper and so, apparently, is his mother.  Gordy can fall asleep just looking at a bed, but if he wakes up for any reason in the middle of the night, there is no way he's ever going to fall back asleep.  Really, when you think about it, it's a miracle that Josie is our ONLY Terrible Sleeper.  I ought to be commended on my two Good Sleeping Children.

We haven't been completely inactive all these years.  We've tried putting Josie to bed early and putting her to bed late.  We've tried giving her lots of exercise and making sure she's getting enough fresh air and fresh foods.  It's just that even with all the research, we haven't found the perfect solution.

Josie is almost seven now and I'd say that she sleeps through the night 6 days out of 10.  On the days that she wakes up, she does so more than once and feels the need to come and discuss the situation with me each time.  The reasons for her lack of slumber include being too hot, being too cold, having a bad dream, having a good dream that needs to be shared....  sometimes she needs to use the bathroom, sometimes she requires a glass of water.  It's all very random but each reason falls into the category of Things Mommy Needs To Know.

If you ever find yourself up around 3am, think of me.  Not only do I feel your pain, but I'm probably sharing it at that exact moment.  And if you ever find yourself needing sleep advice for your child, don't turn to me.  I have absolutely no idea how to help you.  I'm very sorry.  You have no idea how sorry I am.


Anonymous said...

Oh blond Josie! Love the pictures.

Martha said...

I know! It's funny to see her as a blondie. And I had forgotten how blond she really was when she was little. Her hair is so thoroughly brunette now and that just seems right!

Thanks for stopping by!

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