There was this seminar I was required to attend, and many of my coworkers and friends were present. One of the activities was to mount a horse and nurse it. My boss went before me to show me how it's done (she was the one who originally informed me about the benefits of breastfeeding, and is an inspiration on how to be a nursing mother with a full time job). When it was my turn to go, I jumped on a Clydesdale bare back and looked at the people watching me from below with pride and determination. All of a sudden, I was afraid of heights and couldn't complete the task at hand.
Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE horses, and I have only been afraid of heights one other time in my life. When Jeff and I went on a hot air balloon ride a couple years ago, I had a slight panic attack during takeoff. It felt like we were rising into the air inside a balloon - which is exactly what was happening - and it was scary as s***.
Anyway, back to my dream. I climbed down to a platform below the horse's belly to find security. When I was there, I found all the constellations in the universe and nursed them instead. I looked down when I was finished and my nipple had been split open, showing the contents within. It did not hurt. It did not concern me. It just was. The people disappeared and it was just me and the cosmos.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN???
It's no wonder I am having dreams about nursing (the constellations). New mothers can spend up to 8 hours a day nursing/figuring out nursing, and skin-to-skin contact fills another couple hours each day. This schedule can drive any woman insane, especially one who has never had a child before.
In the beginning, it's an easy pattern to discover. Baby will shut it if you latch him/her. Want a nap? Latch your baby. Want to visit with friends sans crying fit? Latch your baby. Need to eat a meal? Latch your baby. Baby will almost always fall asleep in your arms.
Is there anything more predictable? Well...yes. I was fine with this schedule until Everett got back up to a healthy weight. Although I was excited that he finally found comfort being around my bosom, I soon found myself unable to leave his side because he could only be put to sleep if he was first latched. Then, when I set him down after he fell asleep, he would immediately wake up and scream. From there, I had to figure out how to simulate him still being in my arms. We warmed up the crib with a heating pad, swaddled him twice, and rolled two blankets to prop him on either side to make him feel like he was being held. I was pleased to find this worked, but I still wanted him to go down without the effort of me soothing him to sleep.
Last summer I purchased a used copy of the book Babywise from Powell's Bookstore in Portland. This book preaches the notorious sleep program that suggests parents let their babies cry themselves to sleep, and to let the parent (rather than the baby) decide when it is time to eat. The book also boasts an 80% success rate of babies sleeping through the night at 9 weeks. Well...why not try it.
I put E down for a nap, and he started crying of course. Since Babywise says every baby needs to cry for a short time before they fall asleep, I thought I would wait it out. After all, baby Betty in the book cries for 20 minutes every time she is put down, then she takes a nice long nap. A few times I thought he was settling down, but it turned out he was just choking on his saliva for a bit, causing him to cry even harder. Almost an hour after he started crying hysterically, it was time to feed him again. I picked him up, and in looking at his sweet, innocent face I found terror and deep sadness reflected in his eyes that seemed to say, "Why did you abandon me for so long?" He burrowed his face in the crook of my neck and hiccuped a few times before his breathing became normal. I attempted to feed him, but he was just too upset to eat and only wanted to be cuddled.
The next time he went down for a nap, we sat in the rocking chair for 5 minutes and sang lullabies. He cooed up at me as his eyes became heavy. I set him in the crib and he slept for 2 hours. He would have slept longer, but we had to be somewhere and I decided to wake him up to eat.
So the crying it out doesn't work for this mommy right now, but there is some great advice to be found in Babywise. The author suggests putting babies on a schedule of eat-wake-sleep. This means you do not nurse your child to put him/her down for a nap. I did find benefit in this. After all, how is one to put a toddler to bed who has been weaned off breast milk, but can only be comforted by being latched? Seeing Everett's current patterns made me realize we were definitely in danger of having a difficult sleeper unless we made some changes fast.
So encouraged by my hot doctor to keep up with Babywise (because everything he says is fact...because he is so attractive...right?), we have decided to be less flexible with the eat-wake-sleep pattern. Where before I would feed him whenever he woke up crying, I have discovered that he can often be coaxed back to sleep with a little song and a quick hug instead of a lazy feeding session followed by a fussy awake time. We have developed quite the good little pattern. Although the Babywise author would scold me for hugging my baby and singing him a lullaby before he goes to sleep, I truly do not think this will be a bad way to put a child down for naps/bedtime in three years. The idea is to establish patterns you can handle early in the game, and Lord knows I'm okay with singing a little ditty.
Two weeks after Babywise made its appearance in Everett's life, I can put him down for a nap with eyes wide open, and I am semi-confident that he'll fall asleep on his own (with a bit of chatter beforehand). We still have the blanket rolls and utilize a sound machine, and I still love seeing him smile up at me when I sing a lullaby. However, rocking (and nursing) him to sleep is no longer necessary unless he is upset for reasons other than being tired. AND guess what, I'm not even going to tell you how long he's sleeping at night because I don't want to jinx it! But praise the heavens above!
However, as always I will keep you posted. We know that once you say there is a pattern it is bound to change soon. And if I'm singing a ditty every half hour, I might just let the goober cry himself back to sleep. At this point in time he does occasionally wake up and talk to himself in the middle of the night. When Jeff checked on him the other night, one of his arms was flailing every which way, and the other had a fist jammed into his mouth. We let him be and he eventually went back to sleep.
So I guess my philosophy is this for now: If before eating time he is wailing and sobbing, give him a hug (and maybe a diaper change); if he is being a silly boy and chattering to himself, let him be.
So now that we are all scheduled and whatnot, and since I have a husband who is willing to help, I have found time to take care of myself. I did a workout video, went on a run with a friend, and...wait for it...took a bubble bath!!! What the...a bath?! I even cleaned out the tub beforehand...What's that you say?!?!
In an episode of Sex and the City, Carrie and her friends talk about "strange single behavior," or SSB. When alone, women exhibit some rather quirky behaviors. Some find comfort in sitting on the kitchen counter while eating crackers with grape jelly, some put Vaseline and gloves on their hands while watching reruns on television, and some stare at their pores in a mirror for hours. As I was bubble bathing it up, I found myself resuming one of my SSBs. For some bizarre reason, I find gratification pulling ingrown hairs out of my legs. I look for them with squinted eyes, squeeze them, pull them out, and continue my search for more. Don't judge.
Sitting in the tub, musing over the resumption of my SSB, made me really appreciate how far we have come since Everett was born. It is nice to know I can have some time to myself to work, blog, bathe, clean, or read a fantasy book. Then, as I watched an ingrown hair float by me in the water, Everett woke up from his nap, started crying, and my nipples started leaking milk into the tub. And here we go again...