Cry It Out?

 

IMG_9407-1I remember the first time I cared for an infant.

As a “new mom” to our first foster child, a baby, I was reporting in detail every little quirk in his sleeping habits to our social worker.  What sticks out in my mind is her kind eyes looking at me with a hint of amusement as she said gently, “You know you may eventually just need to let him cry it out!”

Fast forward four years and I’m dragging myself out of bed to go comfort my five month old for the fourth time in one night.

Not hungry.

No fever or signs of pain.

No diaper change needed.

Just wanting to be snuggled and preferably offered a breast for extra comfort!

As much as I absolutely adore
my baby, and have learned sometimes it’s not worth the battle, sleep is something I know I need and this particular night I knew I needed to put on my big girl pants and get him back to sleep without my help.  This was becoming a pattern.

So…

After attempts to rock him, cuddle him and sing him back to sleep I tucked him back in his crib, turned on the singing seahorse and stood beside his crib watching him cry in the warm glow of the night light.  I thought of leaving, but couldn’t bear to leave the room and instead propped my head on the rail inches from him and tried to calm him with my whispered words of comfort.

His poor little eyes filled with big tears and he cried his little heart out.  He’d never experienced anything like this before!  Being such a content little guy, at the slightest whimper he is used to being scooped up.  I thought to myself that this was probably one of the first big moments of stress in his life!

He cried and cried, big shuddering sobs.

Just when I’d think he was almost calm again, he’d start all over again.

At these moments it is really unfortunate to be an adoptive parent who has spent the last three years focusing on attachment, brain development and healing kids from trauma.  As I stroked his cheeks and listened to his mournful cries my heart broke and I felt my chest tighten with anxiety.

All the stories I’d read of babies left screaming for hours on end and the resulting brain trauma flew through my mind.  I was sure he was going to think I was abandoning him and all I could picture was the diagram of the brain in attachment classes with the prefontal cortex all lit up in bright red!

What kind of mother just stands there and lets her child cry?!

At the same time the logical side of me knew this was an age old, tried-and-true method that most mothers use at some point with most babies.  I also knew that tomorrow would not be forgiving of me after a night of fitful, interrupted sleep.  Thirty minutes, an hour, forty-five minutes, or two hours at a time is not a way to feel rested and energetic the next morning!  I would still have to get up and take care of my baby.  I would still need to home school my daughter.  I would still need to get to the grocery store with my two children and do the shopping.  I would still need to get to the appointments and make dinner for my family.  I would still need to do the laundry so my girls had clean clothes for the weekend.  Life would still be there, and I would be a much better mother with a little more sleep.

Sigh.

This pattern needed to stop.

I realize there are all kinds of ideas surrounding babies and sleep.

Sleep schedules.

Sleep training.

Sleep cycles.

But every baby is different, and every mother is different.

At the end of the day you have to find whatever works for you.

After almost 45 minutes of on and off, broken-hearted crying my baby gripped the finger I offered and drifted off to sleep, still sniffling as his tears dried on his pink cheeks.

The funny thing is, as I felt his body relax and go off to blissful dreamland,

instead of heading back to my bed,

I stayed.

I stayed and stroked his soft head.

I whispered to him all my dreams for him,

My prayers for him,

And my apologies for being only mortal when I wish to be so much more.

My arms ached to hold him,

now still and quiet in sleep.

I desperately wanted to cuddle him close and let him feel my skin against his.

I wanted him to know just how very much he is adored.

But of course I couldn’t.

I told my husband later that the worst part was not watching him cry and have his eyes beg mine pleadingly, though that was torturous.

No.

The worst part was that eventually he was okay.

Without me.

Eventually he gave up.

And that broke me.

I don’t know if I’ll do it again.

I probably should, and probably will.

It really does work most times from what I hear.

But I hate it.

I’m designed to be his everything, and that is what I thrive on.

Interrupted nights,

frustrated minutes pacing the floor,

those are really just par for the course.

I’m a mother, after all.

 

AF

 

5 Rules to Enjoying the First 6 Weeks With Baby

So, now that Karter is 6 weeks old, I have a few little tips for new moms to make the first 6 weeks with baby as smooth as possible.  Some of these were given to me by other people, some I learned the hard way and some on retrospect would have been a good idea 🙂  For those loving a little one with colic, sleep issues or feeding issues these will be doubly important!

1. Say no to extras.

This is not the time to commit to another committee at church, throw a Christmas party for your coworkers or invite friends over for a five course dinner.  For 6 weeks, say no.  Just do it.  NO.  You and your baby will be happier, healthier and more rested.

2. Stay home.

Right alongside rule #1 is stay at home.  Send someone else to get the groceries, pick up the kids or run errands.  Clear your calendar of any ‘going away’ activities.  Unless you really feel like you need a breath of fresh air, just stay at home in your p.j.’s and enjoy it!  You’ll be surprised how exhausting it will be for you mentally and physically just to go to the store for a few minutes.  So don’t.  Just stay home.  Though I would say, if you’re feeling up to it a walk outside is a wonderful way to get some air and feel like a human again!  But no pressure 🙂

3. Accept help.

There will be people at every turn offering to bring you meals, run some errands, babysit your other children or clean your house for you.  Say yes!  Even though you know you haven’t done well in the past offering help to others, or you feel like that person deserves help more than you do…say yes!  People don’t offer unless they genuinely want to help, so just accept it.  Before you know it the tables will be turned and you will get a chance to return the favor.  This is part of the beauty of being a part of a community.  It takes a village to raise a child…starting in the first 6 weeks!

4. Hold your baby.

Whenever you get the chance, every time you want to…hold your baby.  Just sit and stare down at that little face, the perfect little fingers and toes and the tiny turned up nose.  Stroke that soft head and kiss those sweet cheeks.  Before you know it your baby will be kicking and giggling, but right now all she wants in the world is to be close to you.  The world feels big and strange to her and your arms are her safe place.  So don’t be afraid to just sit and hold your baby.  It’s satisfying, peaceful and bonding.

5. Take naps.

Schedules will come later.  Right now both you and baby are just figuring out the new world you live in so don’t expect to have a predictable sleep schedule yet.  Throw the clock out the window and just follow your baby’s lead.  If 3 am is his awake time, then unfortunately there is very little you can do to change that!  So sleep when he sleeps and be ready to chat when he’s awake.  If it’s almost dinner time but baby is falling asleep and you’re exhausted…grab a quick bite and then head for your bed or the couch.  Soon enough baby will get onto some type of schedule but for now just sleep whenever you can 🙂

So that’s what I learned…any thing to add all you moms out there?

I’d love to hear what things helped you get through those first 6 weeks or what things you wish you would’ve done!

AF