Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Room Service. Need Sleepy.

If you asked me to pinpoint the single topic that has caused me the most stress as a mom over the past couple of years, I would have to go ahead and point an accusing finger at sleep.

It all started when I was in labor with Soren....for three days. I didn't sleep for two straight nights, and let me tell you, that does something to a person. Especially a wound up, slightly neurotic person like myself, whose brain responded to the sleep deprivation, not by sleeping, but rather by kicking into overdrive, counting frantically by 7s, 11s, or 18s, and refusing stubbornly to calm down enough to get some decent rest. Soren, being a newborn, was waking up at least every three hours at night to nurse, so my nights (and days) went something like this: get baby to sleep, lie awake in bed for 1 1/2 hours, sleep for 1 hour, wake up to feed baby for 45 minutes, lie awake in bed for 1 1/2 hours, sleep for 30 minutes, wake up to feed baby for 45 minutes, etc, etc, etc. It nearly drove me to the brink of madness, and I must say that I am DEEPLY grateful that we were living with my parents at the time, because they were there to shine light into my muddied, confused consciousness by taking the baby and making me sleep during the day. Otherwise I might have (completely) lost my mind.

But this is a digression. I meant to write about my children, who are horrible sleepers, and whose horrible sleeping causes me much angst. From the very beginning of their lives they have been awful sleepers: up at least every three hours for the first six months of their lives, refusing to sleep through the night until they were....until they were...okay, let's not lie: neither of them sleep through the night. Soren generally does okay, but he has nightmares a couple times a week that require mommy's comforting presence-- and Liam still thinks he's a newborn, waking up two or three times a night for a bottle.

This causes me some discomfort, for sure. But even worse, I worry about what it's doing to them. You see, in my desperation to find some rest for the whole family, I've done a lot of reading on sleep: Sears, Pantley, Weissbluth, Ferber, Babywise-- and while none of these books have succeeded in assisting my children in sleeping through the night (I'm telling you people, some children will scream all night long for weeks rather than giving up and falling asleep) some of them have scared the pants off me. Ol' Dr. Weissbluth, in particular, gassed on and on in his book about how sleep deprivation is the root of all childhood problems: behavioral issues, ADHD, academic problems, emotional issues, developmental delays. The man has done a lot of research on pediatric sleep and now has me thoroughly convinced that sleep plays an essential role in all aspects of a child's development.

So when I put Soren in his room for his nap and he spends two hours throwing things out the window and putting on every article of clothing that he owns, I worry. Especially when he emerges from his room with dark circles under his eyes and a penchant for throwing hurricane tantrums, I worry.

And when Liam, at age 16 months, is still waking up twice a night for a bottle and napping for only an hour or two during the day, I worry. Especially when he fusses all the day long for no reason and is barely army-crawling, I worry.

I know other parents who don't worry about sleep at all! Whose kids stay up with them until ten or eleven, who sleep in 'til nine, who don't always take naps, and who do just fine. Whose kids will sometimes just randomly fall asleep....sitting in the high chair, driving in the car, playing with toys.

My kids, on the other hand--if they don't fall asleep at eight, sleep through to seven, and get a decent nap during the day--are little wrecks. Liam gets all whiny and twitchy and tic-y; Soren behaves like the ill-begotten bastard child of Animal and the Tasmanian Devil. And heaven forbid either of them should just drift off on occasion because they were tired...oh no. They have to be carefully primed and prepped in order for sleep to occur. Because when my kids are tired, they don't slow down...they just get crazier and crazier. If we put them to bed too late, they have a tendency to stay up all night counting by 18s. (And by "counting by 18s," I mean screaming and/or grinding one's own feces into the carpet.)

So I worry constantly about sleep...if my kids are tired, if they're ready for a nap, if their behaviors and issues are rooted in chronic sleep deprivation. It's honestly an issue that makes me want to stop at two children. The very thought of dealing with this yet again makes me want to lie down and weep hot, bitter tears.


Nick Wheeler said...

Worrying is a funny thing. Something I wish I were capable of stopping within myself. Sigh...

In other news, I love the new picture of you guys. Soren, especially.

heidi said...

So, maybe the Beatles were wrong, then? Or incomplete: All You Need is Love-and-Consistent-Sleep!

(**Digression: I LOVE the "On Love" post, by the way! I've been unable to find words that are adequate to its wonderfulness and completeness to respond with; but still searching....**)

But, about worry and sleepy... For some reason, I'm reminded of something I saw on that awful-but-sometimes-fascinating circus/show that Dr.Phil runs. He said something about how, in a marriage where sex is a problem, sex is THE issue, and how well that's going determines 96% of how satisfied the couple is with their marriage. In relationships where the sex is good/fine/no problem, the "issue" of sex is rated at more like 4% of importance.

I'm not sure if that story makes sense or is perhaps too risque for this family-friendly blog, but, you probably see where I'm going with that--that in the life of a person or family getting enough sleep, sleep is unimportant/invisible. It takes up 4% of one's awareness. But, for a sad sack or sad family sack that's not sleeping (or not sleeping enough)--sleep is EVERYTHING.

I don't know. I do know that I sure FEEL FOR YOU. My sympathy worry's gotten me thinking maybe I should stop at no children/several pets rather than face the seemingly endless worry of parenting. Parenting and perfectionism and a tendency to worry seem like a... worrying combination. :)

Anyway, I also brought up the Dr.Phil story partly because it seemed slightly naughty to me--it's about SEX--and naughty things make me giggle. Sometimes laugh. And laughter, even cheaply gotten, seems to momentarily incapacitate my worry-mind. If my worry-mind gets sidetracked enough times it'll often derail entirely and I can think.

Or sleep. Which I do 8 or 9 hours every night and STILL find I get a lot from napping several days a week. I adore sleep and can barely function without LOTS of it. And yet I often feel guilty for wasting my life sleeping, when I could be... worrying!

Or having sex!

Did I make you laugh?

I hope so.

I know you're not asking for advice, but it's making me feel better trying to offer some. Which I think I'm allowed, seeing as how it's my BIRTHDAY (for a few more minutes!) and all. So my last offering will be--well, what my honey Paul would say. He's the UNWORRINGEST person I've ever met. It's baffling. Nothing worries him. (Well, money, sometimes, but he's got such an affable, agreeable mind that he just thinks about thinking about something else, like mtn. biking or hiking, and his affable, agreeable mind amiably obliges by doing so.) But, anyway, one of Paul's natural anti-worrying properties is rooted, I think, in his tendency to joke. About EVERYTHING. About nuclear war. Or incest. Or... anything. The more horrible, the more hilarious.

So, I've somehow absorbed the same morbidly comic frame of mind, and, when things feel really, really bad, I make a horrible black joke. He's gotten me making funnies about GENOCIDE. Or, if it's closer to home, he or I might say something comforting, like, "Well, if Liam's brain never develops... then at least we'll never have to feel all sad and bereft when he leaves home, 'cuz he never will!"

Don't you feel better already?

Also, I've learned from the ever wise (ass) Paul, that the words "butt" or "poop" make any situation more festive and enjoyable.

How will we ever get them to sleep?

I dunno. Maybe look in my butt?

I know that you are a big laugher. BUTT still... This is hilarity taken to a ludicrous extent. Which you might find easy to do in a sleep-deprived state. Sometimes it's either laugh, or cry. Or poop.

I'm proud that in my 34 years, I've learned such wisdom and can offer it to you. From my butt.

Natalya said...

That was just about the greatest comment on the planet. Is there a Great Comment Award?
I feel for you too, Rach(e). I always feel for anyone struggling with something. I also think Heidi's award-winning comment about 4%/96% rings true in this situation. I have such issues. Like, why do my kids always need to EAT? It seems like they get hungry every hour on the hour. And I never have anything to feed them, so I have to deal with their little bodies trying to deal with hunger while I am scrounging for something healthy and filling. I need to just break down and buy individually-wrapped fruit snacks in bulk. But even if it is my fault that I have this problem, it still is causing me grief and I deserve sympathy, right? Or if the pain is all in someone's head, it still is pain anyway, right? So it hurts, right? Anyway, I hope what happens is that your uptight sleep-worry gland unwinds and you become laid back and uncaring and suddenly get all kinds of it flowing to you without compulsory means forever and ever Amen.
Much love, NAtalya

heidi said...

I say "AMEN!" to that comment!

About the easy unwinding of all difficulties and the effortless descent of laid-back, uncaring long swathes of deep unconsciousness for all you Skousens. (Hmm. I'm not wishing you death, if that's what it sounds like. Just sleep. And apathy, you know--but blissful apathy.)

Also "amen" to the Great Commenting and the need for awards.

Maybe I should be posting this under an alias...


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