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Toddler Sleeping (Or Non-Sleeping)

Ember has now slept through the night 3 times, in her 18 month life – not 3 nights in a row, but rather once every few months we get a joyous surprise when we wake up, look at the clock, see it is 3 AM, 4AM, 5AM, 6AM and she is still asleep! But her more typical night involves random wakings, where she needs one of us to soothe her in some way back to sleep.

I know that sleep experts says, stop soothing her! She needs to learn to fall asleep on her own! Well, I challenge those sleep experts to come to my house for a week and give it a try. She will defy them. I am sure. I have (too) many sleep books all worn out from being fretted over, pages marked, read and reread. None of their methods worked.

It’s getting easier. She wakes up less often and needs less when she does wake, but don’t get me wrong - it’s still hard. For my little family, the most effective solution we have found so far is to do whatever it takes for each one of us to get the most sleep possible, and that's a moving target.

My younger self would never have guessed that sleep would be tied to my mothering identity, but somehow, it is. My self-confidence wavers. At a low, usually after a particularly sleep deprived point, I am very sensitive to judgment. I prickle when I sense people assume that if we only did this thing or that thing she would be sleeping by now. At a self-confident high, I know that we know our daughter best and know what does and doesn’t work for her and we are all doing our best, including Ember.

A gift to my daughter

NBNP081012I want to give my toddler, Ember, this beautiful gift: to accept her for exactly who she is. It’s a gift I want to give myself too.

I realized that too often I waste precious thought-time comparing myself to other moms and then comparing Ember to other babies.

It isn’t fair to either of us. The temptation is hard to resist, especially after Ember has a hard night with many wakings or when she wants me to hold her most of the day and I think of all the things I want to do but can’t manage to complete.

When I compare Ember to herself, I see how much she has grown, and it helps me to see her more for the beautiful child she is - I see that she sleeps much better than she used to! She is happier more often! She plays on her own sometimes now! Also, I accomplish more than I did when she was a newborn. I can write this newsletter! I read a novel last month!  Ember and I spend a lot of quality time together cuddling and playing!

She shines and sparkles just the way she is. I love her more than I ever imagined I could love. I always have, but I am now committed to loving her for exactly who she is – restless nights and all! And on that note, to loving myself for who I am too!

Do you compare yourself or your baby to others? If so, what are your thoughts on it? If not, how do you keep yourself from doing it???

Toddler as Travel Companion

NBNP081012My toddler, Ember, has flown between Montana and New York every 3 months of her life, and we’re about to embark on another adventure. Each time, I grow anxious wondering how she will do – Will she squirm and cry for the whole flight? Will she sleep at our new destination? Will she adjust to the time difference? And on and on.

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Teething

It’s 4 PM and I still have my jammies on. The dishes are piled high, the trash needs to be taken out, toys are strewn across the living room floor. The compost bucket hasn’t been emptied and has attracted the entire fruit fly population of New York . . .

What is going on?

Teething!!! To think at one time we all cut teeth! It just looks like it hurts so very badly!

I hadn’t been feeling in top shape myself, so when teething struck, we were down for the count. Baby Ember began refusing all solid food and solely getting her nourishment from me. At night she would have been happiest if she could sleep with my nipple in her mouth, but as that arrangement was not satisfactory for me, we ended up having all-night-wake, cry, nurse, wake, cry, nurse-time. Not ideal, but at least I had a way I could soothe her pain.

I began to feel less like a person and more like a receptacle for milk delivery, as well as a tool to divert her attention from the pain – meaning besides spending most of my day nursing and eating, I engaged in ridiculous antics with teddy bears and dolls, read board books in loud silly voices, sang and danced around the living room, tempted her with juicy bits of frozen peaches and blueberries, and yes, loaded up some ol’ Sesame Street when I felt too exhausted to do more.

At times like these, I am able to be more caring towards Ember when I also treat myself with extra care. I know I need extra nourishment to keep up with all the nursing, extra night waking and intensive caretaking, so I put my effort into caring for the baby and feeding myself. It can get discouraging when I look around at my messy environment, but I try to let it go and focus on what I’m doing well – caring for this little being who depends on me for her health and comfort.  

To those of you who have more than one, I wonder how you manage when there is a spell like this? It makes me worried about how I would handle two children! Do you hire a babysitter? Figure out clever methods of diversion to occupy the healthy child? Call on relatives or friends? Trudge through like a soldier?

Alone Time

I remember walking into New Baby New Paltz after first moving here about 4 months ago. I saw a little sign that said, “It’s okay to want a break” or something along those lines. A little part of me inside breathed a sigh of relief. It was comforting to hear. After all the transitions that come with moving 2000 miles, my daughter clung to me ferociously, and I had lost the support system that I would turn to for a little break.

So this alone time, I craved it. Just a little break. That’s all. Just a little me time. And it felt good to hear I shouldn’t feel guilty for that. I started to think of little ways I could have time for me. When you are in dire need of a little “you” time what do you do?

 

Luckily for me, I have a kind, understanding husband who will give me a break.

 

Most of the time I still end up doing something practical but isn’t it amazing how a trip to the grocery store ALONE feels like a vacation? Last time I shopped alone, I practically skipped through the store. I lingered longer than necessary, luxuriated over making leisurely choices – do I want the 2% fat Mango Greek Yogurt, or the 0% fat Blueberry? – as compared to snatching whatever was nearest with one hand while feeding yogurt melts to my squirming daughter with the other.

When my husband gets home from work, I definitely go to the bathroom alone. That’s a treat I never realized I would appreciate pre-child! Baths are my favorite winter way to relax alone, and in the summer I try to grab a shower by myself once in awhile. At home, alone with the baby, I get a little time alone while she naps. People say, “Sleep when the baby does,” but I find that difficult, and those of you with more than one probably have a hard time with that too. So instead, sometimes I force myself to ignore the chores and I do what I want to do – like lay on the couch and read a book. Lastly, when our budget allows, I hire someone to give me a break for a few hours a week.

 

Whenever I do take a break, I find that I am better able to appreciate my sweet baby girl.

 

As moms we give so much and often put our needs last or neglect them altogether. A little alone time, a little break, can make a big difference. For any of you like me, who feel a twinge of guilt about taking care of yourself, banish that guilt. Put that mental energy that you use to feel guilty towards thinking of creative ways to take a break. And, if you have favorite ways to sneak in some alone time, let the rest of us moms know how you do it on the New Baby New Paltz facebook page.