Saturday, July 23, 2011

I finally got what I wanted... and I'm a little sad about it...

This morning I was out getting dirty with Punkin Head. I was transplanting a couple house plants while she pushed her wagon around the driveway and played in the dirt a bit. Punkin Head was 6 weeks old, this time last year.  It seemed like all I did was breastfeed around the clock! I couldn't wait until Punkin slept through the night so I could have some downtime and get some much needed sleep. Now here we are a year later: Mother and daughter enjoying the sunshine together, both happy, healthy and well rested!

Punkin just started sleeping somewhat consistently through the night (as in, 6-9 hours straight) in the last three weeks or so. Prior to this point, if she only woke up twice a night to nurse I considered it a good night. (We made one attempt to let her "cry it out" several months ago and it made my heart hurt so much that her daddy and I agreed to never do anything like that again.) Being able to sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time is what I've been waiting for and yet, I'm a little morose about it. Just when my husband and I seriously start talking about night weaning our girl, she pretty much goes and does it herself! I don't think I was ready! I mean, I was just in the "talking about it" phase. I really did not intend on taking serious action until we were closer to the 18 month mark. But like so many things when it comes to parenting, my baby didn't care if I was ready or not...Punkin Head was ready and that's all that matters.

In spite of my surprisingly lukewarm feelings about her night weaning, Punkin Head's daddy has embraced this new phase and not for the obvious reason of all of us getting more sleep. Now when Punkin Head wakes up in the middle of the night (which she still often does) he responds to her cries. Once he enters her nursery, I hear nothing; just the sound of contentment. Silence. Now he's the one who gets to see our girl standing in her crib, arms extended, ready for her late night hugs and cuddles. He is the one who rocks her and whispers lullabies, coaxing her back to sleep. And apparently, he is the one Punkin Head wants. The late night hugs and cuddles used to be my job, hence my melancholy. 

I'm not complaining. I have a husband who is more than willing to get up with our baby in the middle of the night, when he has to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and work outside our home 12+ hours a day. I also don't want to complain about the fact that after a full year, I am finally getting the sleep and rest I need which I know make me a better wife and mother.  I am a very luck woman! That being said, after 12 months of being the one Punkin Head screamed for at all hours of the day and night, it's bittersweet to see her grow up in this way and recognize her daddy as the wonderful source of comfort that he is. She knows that his hugs, kisses and cuddles are just as good as mommy's; maybe even better. She has realized that his soft, low voice and overall calmness is just what a baby girl needs when she wakes up scared or has trouble going back to sleep.  This is the quality time you can't schedule, and her daddy is reveling in it.

It may be my imagination, but since all this has transpired, it seems like Punkin Head's eyes light up a bit more and her smile is bigger now when her dad gets home after work. She literally squealed and ran to meet him when he walked through the door yesterday. Now Punkin Head gives me a wave and sends me on my way when I leave to run errands or get some time by myself. She has her daddy and all is well. Seeing all this happen makes me feel so much love for my husband, that it overshadows any bittersweet or melancholy feelings I may have about her night weaning.

The nights leading up to this point sometimes seemed long and never-ending, but this first year with Punkin Head has passed in a flash. My daughter and I have developed a deep and lasting bond over the past year of sleepless nights together. Our night weaning journey happened naturally without tears and anger; she reached this milestone in her own good time, which allows me to sleep soundly. So sadly, my night-shift is coming to an end and it's time for her daddy to have his turn. This mama is ready to begin the next chapter of motherhood with a more well-rested feeling than a year ago and maybe a few bittersweet tears. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where's the hands free setting for nap time?

Since our little Punkin Head was born I have had the mentality of "I don't mind doing ____ because before I know it she'll be grown up and I wont get to cuddle/rock/nurse/bedshare" etc. Lately, this mentality has been applied to nap time the most often. My daughter is 13 months old and I am still holding her for each and every one of her naps. There is no doubt she needs to take at least one nap, sometimes two, every day. We have a pretty nice routine she and I... 3 to 4 hours after she wakes up in the morning she begins to show signs of nap-readiness. In the past the major sign was some whining. Lately her subtle signals for nap time include ear piercing shrieking and crying most often accompanied by a death grip on my legs and the wailing of "MAAAAMMMMAAAA!" as I try to finish just one more household project or get the dishes done.

Don't get me wrong, household projects and dishes are not more important than my daughter's nap... not by a long shot. I will always choose quality time with Punkin Head over household chores. However, once she gives me the signal I have to stop what I'm doing and prep for her nap time... filling up my bottle of water, making a snack, gathering my gadgets (cell phone, Ipad, Nook & TV remote) and using the bathroom. That last item is a biggie because once we get her blanket and sit down in our rocking recliner, I know I'm going to be sitting there for the next couple hours. This has been our routine, one or more times a day, 7 days a week for the 13 months. I really had myself convinced that holding her while she slept was no big deal... all I had to do was ration my water intake in the hours leading up to and during her nap and everything would be fine. I mean, some day she won't want me to rock her to sleep, right?

And everything was fine, until 2 days ago. Due to good kharma I was rewarded with 2 mochas and only had to pay for one! I thought it was my lucky day! I said told myself I would drink one while at the park with Punkin Head and save the other for the next day. What ended up happening is that I drank both before she and I even sat down for her nap. Add in the fact that they were not decaf, as usual, and I drank a huge amount of water at the park because it's been so hot meant I was in a sad state of affairs an hour into nap time.

I tried shifting positions and focusing on the 16 and Pregnant episode I was watching, but nothing was helping. Besides watching other pregnant women only makes you think about what it was like when you were pregnant, and one thing I remember is that I had to pee All.The.Time. Not the wisest show choice when I'm already struggling to control my bladder. I managed to delay the inevitable for 30 more minutes before I had to make a decision: attempt to lay Punkin Head down somewhere else and hope she stays asleep or attempt to hold her while I use the bathroom, which I was pretty sure would wake her up anyway. I opted for trying to lay her on the couch.

I managed to smoothly get up out of the chair and gingerly walk across our living room to the couch...she didn't move. I oh-so-slowly bent over to lay her down on the couch and... Punkin Head's eyes open and look up at me and if she had never been asleep. Wide awake. She often wakes up this way. One minute she is sleeping peacefully, with limp limbs and all, and the next second you look down at her and she is staring up at you like she has been awake the whole time; bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

I made a decision that day: changes would need to be made to Punkin's and my nap time routine. After 13 months, there were actually things I would like to do other than sit on my butt for 2+ hours every day and I definitely did not want to come that close to peeing my pants again. The next day, I would not be holding her while she slept.

I decided that I would keep some of our routine as it was: I would still follow her lead for the most part of when she is ready for her nap. We'd get her blankey and I'd gather all my gadgets, but then we'd go to our room where I would nurse her and lay her down in the same spot she usually ends up sleeping at night. I would sit next to her while she slept so she wouldn't roll off the bed and so I'd be able to pat her back to help her get back to sleep if she woke up sooner than usual. It was the perfect plan. Punkin Head would get the much needed sleep that she needs and I wouldn't be shackled to the recliner for hours. BRILLIANT!

Everything went as I had imagined it would...Punkin Head had her blankey, she nursed and fell right to sleep. I placed her down next to me on the bed and she didn't move. I thought to myself, "Why didn't I do this sooner!" I picked up my ipad and began to check-up on Facebook and my email when in less than 20 minutes there was some rustling...much to my horror, Punkin Head was rubbing her eyes! I frantically, but without making a lot of commotion scooched down on the bed so I could rub her back and try to get her back to sleep before she could become fully awake. Sadly, what this lead to is almost 20 minutes of Punkin Head staring at the ceiling (unwilling to shut her eyes, as usual) and then almost 2 hours of her screaming and crying as I tried to comfort her back to sleep. When she first woke up I had told myself that I was not going to leave the bed until Punkin Head took a nap; especially after she started crying and screaming. I was NOT going to let her win.

Yeah... so, she totally won. She can be so stubborn and at a certain point I think a parent has to evaluate if what they are doing is actually working. Punkin Head has always been the type of baby that, after the first couple months, doesn't cry very much, but once she gets started she just gets more and more angry and upset. Her 20 minute power nap had given her just enough rest to feel ready to get up...the fact that I tried to get her to lay down and go back to sleep put her over the edge. I gave up, called my mom to vent, then we had lunch and headed to the park, the whole nasty nap time fight behind us.

By the time we returned home, Punkin was exhausted. She desperately needed to get some quality sleep, so we grabbed blankey and headed to her room where she nursed and we cuddled and she drifted off to sleep peacefully. I then placed her into her crib. Not a peep was heard from Punkin for over an hour! I was able to take a shower (a long lesiurely one, even) and have a kid-free conversation with my hubby. Her daddy finally had to go wake her up so we could go to dinner!

Today is Day 2 of Napping in Crib and we are approaching an hour of sleep for Punkin. I'm prepared for this to be a process and it may be a while before our girl sleeps for 2+ hours at a time like she did when her daddy and I would hold her, but the fact that I have both hands free to type this blog (even if only for a few minutes at a time) is a huge step in the right direction. Timing is everything, and I think Punkin Head and I were both ready for this change.