Why my third baby turned me crazy

I made the assumption going in to my third pregnancy, that this third child would be easy, as if I had earned some advanced degree in babies, and this little one would just follow suit. I’m a pro at this, I thought. I’ve been through it all, I thought. Of course this baby will sleep through the night, I thought. But somehow over the last 7 months, I have lost my damn mind and forgotten everything I learned with my boys.

You see, we used to be on a schedule. There was a morning nap and and afternoon nap, and nothing, I mean nothing, would get in the way of those. And it worked. My little guys were well rested and generally happy babies. And I thought getting uninterrupted “me time” while the babies napped was the norm.

I used to have babies that slept through the night. Oh yes. From sometime in the 4th or 5th month, my little guys would sleep a solid 8, 9 or 10 hour stretch. And so I also slept long glorious stretches. And it was awesome.

I used to have babies that fell asleep on their own when you laid them down. It was easy – It was like magic. Lay baby down. Walk away. Poof!! Baby goes to sleep.

I used to have babies that slept in their crib… in their room. As soon as I went back to work both times we made the transition. They could have cared less. They went with the flow. I mean, that’s what a nursery with a crib is for right?

I used to have babies who would allow others to hold them. It was great. It’d go something like this: “Awe, can I hold the baby?” “Sure!” [I hand over baby, baby remains happy, happiness continues whether I stay in the room or walk away].

But now… Now I don’t even recognize that mom I used to be – the one who had this whole baby thing figured out. I almost wonder if I dreamt up my past baby experiences, because this time around it is not that easy.

You see, now there is no schedule. Ideally she’d take a nap, or two. But that doesn’t happen every day. If she does sleep, it’s in her bouncy seat, or in the car, or some other place where the poor kid’s exhaustion is greater than the level of craziness and noise that is constant with a three and five year old. And bedtime – that’s just as soon as we corral the boys to go to sleep… and I’ve finished the dishes… and picked up… and washed my face and put my PJ’s on. Oh wait! Her bedtime is my bedtime!

And sleeping through the night – ha ha ha. Wait a second, she’s done it… once. Which may even be crueler than me living in a world where I thought she was incapable of the feat. Ignorance would have been bliss. But nope, her MO is a wake up call for me every two to three hours. But it’s cool. 8 hours is super over-rated. Humans don’t need that much sleep – and plus I hear that waking up that much makes it easier to get up at 5:30 am to go to work.

And this one sort of falls asleep on her own. All she has to do is be in my arms… and nursing… and boom! She’s out. Until I move her… then we start over. Repeat two or three (or four) times. No big deal – I mean it’s almost the same, right?

Yes, Berkley has her own room. Yes, in that room there is a crib. No, she has never slept in either. That’s right, I have a 7-month-old with a beautiful nursery who has never caught one wink of sleep in it. Good thing me and a lot of my family members busted our tails to make sure it was ready before she was born! Good thing. Nope, this girl sleeps in our room. But she sleeps in her swing. Initially. Until she wakes up (which is anywhere between 5 minutes and 2 hours from when I place her in the swing – which no longer swings, for the record). Then she sleeps in our bed. I mean, a king sized bed was meant for three people right? I think deep down if we really cared to not share our bed, we’d have gone with the queen. Yep. And when she’s sleeping in our bed, all she wants is to be touching all night – tummy to tummy or cheek to cheek, that’s all. She wants to be able to run her (clammy) hands through my hair or caress (pinch) my face. It’s sweet actually. No, really it is.

And no, she doesn’t want anyone but me to hold her. And if I’m lucky enough to pass her off occasionally, I better run. She better not see me. Because as soon as I come into view, she remembers that I’m not holding her, and commence the water works and the pitiful “someone-must-be-pinching-me screams”. But then all I have to do is drop whatever I was trying to do without a baby in my arms, hold her and voila! She’s better.

You know, as I think more about it, she’s really an easy baby. All I’ve got to do is hold her or be within arms reach all day and night. That’s it. She’s happy. Never mind that I’m a wife, or mother to two others, or work a full time job outside the house, or have hobbies like laundry or dishes.

So how did I wind up here? I’ve thought about this a lot. Maybe she is just predispositioned to be a stage 5 clinger. Maybe. Maybe it’s because I know she’s my last and I feed into all her baby-ness and want her close all the time. Maybe I am so damn sleep deprived and exhausted that I am unwilling to do anything that in the short term may cause an inkling of further sleep deprivation or exhaustion (regardless of the potential future benefit), and so I live in the moment of make her stop crying now, please.

So what does the future hold? Are the mistakes I’m making today dooming me for tomorrow? Surely she won’t be like this forever (and if you know any two or three year olds still exhibiting these behaviors, please, please for the love of God, do not tell me – I’m living off hope right now). One thing I do know is that she won’t be a baby forever. One day, sooner than I would like, she won’t have those baby rolls or that baby smell. She won’t want to me hold her all the time or snuggle in bed. One thing my older boys have taught me is that kids grow up way too fast. Before I know it she’ll be grown, and I would give anything to have the sweetness of this stage again.

So as crazy as it may sound, I’m good with life right now. And while it may come as a shock to most (including my former self) that I am still a breast-feeding, co-sleeping, attachment-parenting kind of mom – I’m good. Sure a full nights’ sleep every now and then would probably do me good. However, I know one day I will sleep again. But another thing I’m certain of is that she will never, ever be this little again.

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Making Great Sleepers

My boys are not model children.  They don’t always listen, Brogan talks back, they throw fits, they scream, they hit… but, they sleep.  Hallelujah, they sleep!  We have gone through fits and starts with the sleeping, but overall, they have been very good sleepers.  They were both sleeping through the night around three or four months.  Brogan took two long naps a day until he was 2 ½.  And the biggest thing for me is that they go to sleep on their own.  As with most things, Brogan was better with this than Beckett – probably because we had the time to follow all of our own rules.

I think there are a couple of contributing factors that have made them good sleepers.  For Brogan, the first thing (that we can’t take any credit for) is that he is so active he wears himself slap out.  He plays hard, he sleeps hard.  But aside from that lucky draw, we have made a concerted effort to make them good sleepers.  Here is what we’ve done:

Routine – I have always been big on a routine – sometimes to a fault.  The boys have got to have their naps, and they have to get to bed at a reasonable time.  I try not to let them get over-tired.  When it’s nap time, they go down – whether they seem tired or not.  Sometimes it takes a while for them to go to sleep, but they usually do (let’s call it a 95% success rate).  I can’t speak for others, but my kids can be miserable when they skip a nap – so we stick to a routine as well as we can.

Cry It Out – I know, I know, this is hard.  I know some people don’t believe in it, and I respect that, but I truly believe this was critical to creating good sleepers.  We first let Brogan cry it out at 9 months.  It was the day when we realized he was manipulating us.  Until then, we’d put him down, he’d cry.  We’d go get him, give him more bottle, try to rock him and put him back to bed.  We’d repeat until he wore himself out and went to sleep. Then one night, he was screaming harder than normal and when we walked into his room he looked at us, smiled and started laughing.  We realized we had fallen for his trick.  He was perfectly fine, he had just realized that if he cried, we’d come running, and so he did it over and over and over.  Brogan – 1, mom and dad – 0.  So we decided we’d let him cry it out.  It sucked.  I’d sit outside his room listening to him cry, looking at the clock wondering how long I should let him go for before I “rescued” him.  That first night, Blake caved first and after 15 minutes, he went in.  The next night, after a pep-talk, we decided we were going for it, no matter how long the crying went on.  And so he made us really work for it – 45 minutes.  It was awful.  I cried.  I felt like I was letting my little guy down and I worried if he’d ever forgive me.  But he did. The next morning was all smiles and laughs, as if the trauma of the night before had never happened.  We were all-in for that night too – and he only screamed for 15 minutes.  And then a funny thing happened, he never cried himself to sleep again.  That was it.  He was trained.  With Beckett, it was not as hard to let him cry himself to sleep (I think with the second kid you’re desensitized to a lot).  He didn’t quit the screaming as instantly as Brogan, but we still don’t give in (anymore – more on that below).  Some nights he cries for 10 minutes, and some night it’s only a moment.

Don’t Say Night-Night – Blake and I had a strict rule that you don’t talk about going to sleep until it’s actually time to go. This meant you can’t say night-night until you really mean it.  I know this sounds strange, but here is the logic.  We could tell that if you gave Brogan an inch, he would take a mile, so we decided that going to sleep was important and there would be no negotiation about it.  So by eliminating any discussion on the topic, it eliminated the opportunity to fight it.  We’d go through our bedtime routine and then we’d say, “It’s time to go night-night” and scoop him up and take him straight to bed – immediately.  He learned that once he heard those words, that was it, it was bedtime.  We’d lay him in bed, give him hugs and kisses and close the door.  This worked until we started potty training, and then “I have to potty” was an excuse that got him out of bed more than I’d like.  Sometimes now, he doesn’t go straight to sleep, but he stays in his room.  Sometimes he sneaks out of his bed and grabs a book – sometimes he finds gloves and other random pieces of clothing and puts those on – but he stays in his room, which means come around 8 o’clock, I get a break.

No Sleeping in Our Bed – So before I even get into this one, I have to admit that we broke this rule with Beckett, and it reinforced the importance of this rule!  We were his prisoners for about 3 months.  It started with traveling for the holidays and he didn’t like the pack-in-play.  Then he got sick and was really congested.  And then he was teething.  We used all these excuses to justify why he was sleeping in bed with us.  It was awful– even though he was sleeping, we weren’t.  What it boiled down to was that once he got used to sleeping with us, he would scream bloody murder when we put him in his crib.  He would get so upset that he would throw up.  So the bottom line is just don’t do it.  If you never start, you’ll never have to stop.

I think sleep is critical to keep happy mommies and daddies – and happy husbands and wives.  It keeps the kids happy too.  So even though I wake up at 5am on the weekdays, and 6:30am on the weekends, I get a couple of hours of me-time in the evenings, and I get to sleep the whole night through.  It’s was not easy to get here, but the prize was sure worth the fight!

Brogan sleeping

The things I used to take for granted

I write this post from the plane, on our way back from a much-needed vacay to Vegas for my husband’s 30th birthday. This was a kid-free trip, and while I knew we needed to recharge, I was reminded of the simple things that we used to take for granted – before we were parents.

Sleep. Uninterrupted sleep that begins and ends when you say so. There is a tiredness associated with parenthood that is incomparable to any other cause of fatigue. Yes, you can be tired from a late night of partying, an all-nighter studying or an overnight shift at work. But the parent version of tired is different because it is unending – there is no reprieve in sight. Pre-kids, I never fully appreciated the luxury of sleep. I do now, and so every sans kid vacation for the foreseeable future will allow me some time to sleep more than I can at home.

Free time. Having nothing to do and no one to take care of was awesome. At home, even when there is “free time” it’s not really free. If you manage to steal away an hour while the kids are sleeping, even if you’re doing nothing, the weight of responsibility for all the things that you could or should be doing is always present. The cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, household projects, yard work, work related work, and the list continues. This too I took for granted before babies. I used to think I was so busy! Ha!

Eating. Eating where you are only concerned about feeding yourself. Not fixing plates, cutting up food, teaching manners, cleaning up messes, wiping mouths, refilling drinks, encouraging good eating, and getting to take a bite only in between feeding the little one who will squeal (and by squeal I mean high-pitch scream) when he wants more food (more on this fun behavior trait in a later post). No, before kids I never thought that eating a nice dinner with only adults would be such an indulgence. But it is, and we enjoyed it!

Food in vegas

Time with the hubs. Let’s face it, kids are stressful. They can create stress in even the best marriages. Sometimes you need to just be spouses again and not have to play the role of parents. A lot of our conversations were still centered on the kids, but we didn’t have to deal with the in-your-face responsibility of the kids. There were no “not it” conversations around the dirty diapers, no figuring out who will give baths. When we were a family of two, I did not fully appreciate this time. But I welcomed it on this trip. It was just us, being the “us” that we were the five years together before we had kids. It was great.

We always knew we wanted to be parents. We wanted to have kids right away and were pregnant before our one-year anniversary. It turned out for us that the grass was greener – being parents is awesome! We wouldn’t trade our side of the pasture for anything. But it is nice now and again to hop back over the proverbial fence and enjoy some of those green patches too.

Jess and Blake in Vegas

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