Exhaustion has plagued me since the beginning of motherhood (I know I’m not alone in this, ladies). I’ve always had a child keeping me up or Tom away or papers to grade or the other common stresses of moving and money. I hoped that I would have a break from it about now. After all, R is two-and-a-half this weekend, it seems the sleep issues should be solved. Doesn’t it?
But it isn’t. That little girl will go from one issue to another…night waking, trouble falling asleep, not sleeping in her bed, tantrums, waking e-a-r-l-y, we’ve gone through them all. Lately we’ve had a horrible time with falling asleep. The night before last, I decided to try cry it out (yes, a cruel, though often necessary evil).
With E, we did cry-it-out once. At six months. She would then easily fall asleep on her own, even if she woke a bit at night still. I was going back to work in five days and I was desperate to get as much rest as possible. She did pretty well through a 15 month deployment and early morning commutes to the best childcare provider in the world. I survived as well, but was really looking forward to some rest when Tom came home (oh wait, I got pregnant right away and then moved immediately after my last day of teaching and…).
This is R’s fourth time with cry-it-out (at least, maybe more). We had to wait until she was nearly a year to succeed at it the first time around though, there was no chance she could fall asleep on her own before then. We took a major vacation when she was nine months and then moved from Georgia to New York, living in a travel trailer for a few weeks while we searched for a home. This was really rough on the whole family. R should have been finding her own sleep rhythm by then, but all the changes in our life made it impossible.
We then spent two frantic weeks preparing for Tom’s next deployment and off he went. I was desperate for rest and spent many days moving around beds until I found an arrangement that worked for poor R. She moved into a few glorious months of falling asleep on her own after a rough cry-it-out session. She learned to soothe herself to sleep and while she still woke at night, I would ignore her until she cried for a given length of time, hoping she would fall asleep.
But that is still waking for me. And I am not one to fall asleep easily. It can take an hour or more. I’m not going to go into details about those months, but suffice it to say that those 10 months Tom was gone were really hard on me, but I survived. I’ve been through deployments before, but these 10 months with two children, in a new, snowy region, with no job and a child who would not accept childcare, almost broke this mama!
Tom returned and she was soon crawling out of her crib. We couldn’t risk a fall, so we immediately put her in her toddler bed. This began the frustrating phase of floor sleeping. For four months, she would fall asleep at her door on the hardwood floor. For the first month I would read stories, walk her, rock her, sit by her, rub her back, lay on the floor and sob. No matter what I did, she would wake-up moments after I left the room and I found myself facing a long Northern New York winter with about 2-3 hours of fitful sleep a night. I was more rested when my children were newborns.
We saw our family doctor one morning after R got only 2 hours of sleep. I had zero sleep and risked an ice/snow storm to visit the doctor at 7:15 in the morning. Her diagnosis? Strong will. She told me R would not suffer any harm from sleeping on a hardwood floor and I should just close her door and leave. Finally I caved, I put her to bed, left the room and locked it. That was the only way I could keep her in her room. (Yes, I tried two different door know covers, she removed them both and got out of the room. I tried a baby gate. She climbed it. I tried stacked baby gates, she started to climb the second and I was afraid of that long fall. A little hook lock was the only option.)
She would start out of bed before I made it to the door, show up with her blanket, little pillow and beloved Hoppy and cry. At first it was for a long, long time, but eventually it was down to a few minutes, then no tears…just sleeping on the floor. I tried everything. A large rug, carpet tiles, a hand-me-down Dora flip out couch, her mattress on the floor…nothing worked for her. She would throw the tiles, throw the couch, push away the mattress and crumple/roll her carpet to expose the hardwood floor. Fine. She slept on the floor.
All this time she would still wake at night, I would ignore her unless she had the desperate cry that triggered the need for intervention. Finally, one magical day in February she figured it out. She slept in her bed. It took three stories, but she would go to sleep by herself and stay in her bed.
Then another change, five days in Pittsburgh with family, sparked a new difficulty. Night waking. She returned to this cycle and it lasted until Easter weekend. With the exception of the rare miracle night, I was waking with her 3-5 times a night. Tom would try to help by taking turns or taking a night on the weekend, but it didn’t matter. I still woke. She cried desperately and I could change her diaper and cuddle her for 20 minutes or I could suffer through an hour of tears and get up anyway. I chose to get up. (This time was also impacted with potty-training. She does not like a wet diaper!)
And recently another change. My in-laws came to visit for Easter weekend and Regan magically slept through the night and slept until seven or later in the morning. Amazing. I noticed she was struggling more and more to go to sleep, but she would eventually fall asleep and I ignored it. This lasted for nine glorious days until we decided to take a little trip this weekend.
Well, R missed a nap and went to bed almost three hours late. I have suffered for that decision. Now she struggles horribly to go to sleep (7 stories, rocking, door open, door cracked, over an hour of effort after a long day) and is back to waking at night. We tried crying it out two nights ago. Her reaction was a fierce tantrum complete with head banging. When Tom brought her out, I saw sobbing that left her little face swollen and nearly unrecognizable (it went back to normal within minutes). We both held her and I cried. She fell asleep within five minutes.
Yesterday I cleaned her room, took out all distractions and rearranged it into a little haven. Last night she fell asleep while Tom read to her, but she missed a nap and went to sleep over an hour after her usual bedtime (I’m really strict about bedtimes and bed routines…this has helped me get those weeks or months of sleep with little or no wakings). We hoped being extra tired would help.
She woke and woke and woke last night. Once, I spent two hours with my poor little girl before she fell asleep. I crawled back to bed for an hour before my husband’s alarm went off.
Today I have reached a new level of exhaustion. I’m afraid of what tonight will bring, but I’m more concerned about what will happen this summer. We will be visiting family, going from house to house and hotel to hotel. Then there is the big move to a new continent, with a huge time change and a new environment. At this point I have no idea how I will handle it.
If you’ve read through to the bottom of this post, I have to say thank you. Thank you for suffering through my exhausted rant. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. If I know you and I’ve ever seemed fiercely jealous of sleeping children or breaks you get thanks to a sitter or grandparents, please forgive me. I was too tired to control my green-eyed monster.