Thursday, September 29, 2011

Of Children and Sleep

Yes, I realize this title exclusive?  If you're a parent, you know what I mean - unless of course, you're one of those with a "he slept ever since the day he was born - he was even born at a normal waking hour!" parents.  In that case, praise God from whom all blessings flow and maybe our kids should talk.  But anyway...

Before my first was born, I thought crying it out was basically the most horrifying thing I could think of.  I would actually tear up picturing the poor children with "cry it out" parents.  Only heartless people would ever listen to their child without running to their aid.  Of course, I agonized over different sleep methods and devoured books:  "Ferberize" (please come up with a better name, someone) or "No-Cry" (doesn't that sound nice? Ha!) or the "Attachment Parenting Method" (which was my standard of perfection).  But then came the end of all my idealized notions...I had a child. 

Now really, Charissa wasn't a bad sleeper.  At least, I don't think she was - I can't seem to remember all that clearly...  She was up about every 3 hours to eat, like any other healthy child, and would conk right back to sleep afterward.  Nap time was a dream - I would lie her down and wouldn't hear from her again for a good 2 hours. 

But once she hit about 3 months, she started what we would call "The Screaming Time".  I don't think she was overstimulated considering we hardly left the house except for our perfectly scheduled walk at 10am.  I know she wasn't sick, or hungry, or feeling unloved.  I changed my diet all to shreds and nothing seemed to work.  I don't know what was going on; I guess it's called "colic".  All I know is, she would start screaming at 5pm and it would go on until 10pm when she would finally fall asleep in an exhausted pile.  We would take turns walking with her.  The one not walking would follow the other with a plate of food and spoon dinner into the others mouth. 

I wanted to be with her in her time of need, but after a few days of this (it lasted about 2 weeks - which is forever, by the way) I was feeling it.  Like, a LOT.  Eventually, after the first two hours or so, we would kiss her, pray for her and lay her in bed where she would scream for multiple hours.  I guess you could say I "Ferberized" (please, change the name) since I would check on her intermittently.  This was, of course, the "heartless" method of my past but it was better than my throwing her out the window - which is what would have happened.  Putting her in her bed to scream for hours was the most loving decision I could come up with.  I could have tried to grit my teeth and bear it, but the resentment and anger were more tear inducing and scarring for me than to simply place her in bed with all my love and goodwill. So, I struck out of the "Attachment Parenting" category.  And we were happy...eventually.

After "The Screaming Time" miraculously vanished, my baby girl was the most perfect sleeper you could imagine.  I mean, she didn't sleep through the night until after she was one, but as soon as I would lie her down in bed, she would go right to sleep, no fuss about it.  She still does.

Take 2: The Brandtinator

Mr. Brandt is a whole new animal.  I don't think I could have gotten two more different personalities.  Brandt never would lie right down and go to sleep like his big sis.  Ever since birth, he has had to "sing" himself to sleep.  It's hardly crying, more of a wailing, sing-song with an almost preoccupied note - like his heart isn't really in it.  But cry he must.  If I were to hold him, he would never fall asleep.  He would far rather have a conversation until he died of sleep exhaustion.  Believe me, I tried.  Sometimes I would rock him and he'd drift off but the minute he'd hit the pillow, it would be the end of all things.  There was no defined "Scream Time" this go around because "Scream Time" was every. single. night.  And again, I failed the attachment, "no-cry" parenting camp.  Sorry, ladies.  I gave it my all, but it just wasn't meant to be.  He would go through phases of sleeping 10 hours at a time and then after a road trip or a move, we would start at square one again waking every 3 hours.  At 16 months, he's finally sleeping through the night most of the time. 

Sorry I can't give you my sure-fire method to getting your baby to sleep.  Obviously, I haven't figured it out yet but when I DO, I will let you know.  If anyone saw Charissa at 6 months, they would have been in awe.  I thought about writing a book then - no joke.

All my hopes and dreams have been dashed about writing a no-fail sleep method book.  However, this is what I want to do: I want to encourage anyone in motherhood or expecting motherhood to learn flexibility in "methodology".  Don't read one book and be completely sold on it preaching from the rooftops.  Each baby is different, each one will do well with a different method and perhaps a pick and choose of methods.  I've seen babies absolutely thrive on the Babywise method, I've seen them hospitalized.  I've seen babies thrive on Attachment Parenting, I've seen them become a horribly spoiled full-time job with a "martyr mom".  All of these children had loving parents with nothing less than their child's well-being in mind.  But we have to keep this in mind: a baby is an individual with different needs, different tendencies, and different ways of saying things.  They have gifts, they have purpose, they have a sin nature.  Parents are the same way.  What "worked" for sister might not "work" for brother.  What "worked" for your neighbor might not "work" for you.  It's kind of a guessing game.  It keeps us humble.

I can't find a sleep method in the Bible, even though I've heard various "Biblical" arguments to support one or the other.  But I do know this: seeking to show your children Christ, and our need for Christ in all things, must be the goal of parenting.  That doesn't always mean life will be easy, and it definitely won't be "no-fail" on our part.  In fact, I think that's the whole point - we will fail. 

And the failure that will hopefully spur us on to seek Him more.


Angie said...

Absolutely loved this one. It was something I was needing to be reminded of again. I'm still absolutely amazed by how different they truly all are. With three "under my belt" I can honestly say we've had three different sleep methods for each. I've always kinda felt that my children's sleep methods were really just a way for God to teach and give me the blessings I needed at that time in my life!!

Tiffany said...

I was extremely encouraged by your post! I was the exact opposite. I subscribed to the Babywise idea of scheduling until I met Em. Now that she's here, I've realized that her personality (usually) guarantees that she only cries with good reason so far. So...I find myself rushing (ok...sometimes I mosey...) to her side. She has recently stopped sleeping all through the night; and I find myself questioning whether or not I should go back to Babywise. Then I remember: I don't eat on schedule. I never have. Even in school, I had an extra sandwich in my backpack to get me through till lunch. So I've decided, if I eat a bunch during the day whenever I'm hungry, maybe I should let her eat when she's hungry; too. I know how she feels.

All of that to say, glad I'm not alone in changing my certain approach and haven flies awwienn

Tiffany said...

Apparently trying to post during a 4:40am feeding on a tiny iPod screen results in mangled final words!

It was supposed to say something about changing the approach after meeting the baby (or something). My tiny screen wouldn't let me go back and proofread my thumbs' work. *sigh!

Rochelle said...

Oh my we could talk. Bottom line. I played martyer with Caroline for about 14 months. She slept fine from about 3-6 months, then was teething and sick and got up every couple hours for the next 8 months. Boo hiss.

Bru was an angel from birth...nursing every 3 hours...but I was impatient. I was doing BW this time around and I wanted 12 hours. Ha. Well I got that, but not until he was about 12 months. Oh well....

Someday I hope to have an early sleep-through-the-night baby, but until then, I'll just love the sweet happy kids I have (who both sleep great at 19 mon and 3.5!) :)

Susan said...

My kids are grown but I definitely enjoyed this post. By the time I had my third I knew that I didn't know a thing about getting kids to sleep. I pretty much used the rock-them-walk-them-hold-them-in-my-arms-around-the-clock-method but I don't recommend it to others.

Jamie Laslo said...

Very wise, friend. I hate how methodology can position loving mothers against one another on a battlefield. We all need humility and grace. We are all always learning.

I can distinctly remember the few times my child fell asleep in my arms. It was that rare. Little Miss Social always needed total isolation to doze off. She will fight sleep hard if she thinks she might be missing out on anything.

I keep hoping one day I will have one like Scott. His mom said he always dozed off in the car, even on the shortest of errands. He's still that way today (unless he's driving...but even then I worry!). I can't even get Vivian to sleep on a plane ride to Africa.

We just have to love the unique child we have been given!

Renia said...

I look forward to the sequel or part 3 to this. Reminded me of mine all we tried the the many nights hubby would grab my arm as I started to get up yet again to try to tend fussy baby. We never got to "spoon feeding while pacing the floor" but it made me smile as I remembered the many long nights. Ours was "all is well, let us sleep now--then baby wakes and won't sleep for several hours." praying for ease with #3. They (whoever they are) say the 3rd time is a charm.....I have a feeling THEY never had a baby...