Aug 6, 2008

What shall we do with the boo-hoo baby?

This question is also the title of a cute children's book in our home library. The farm animals in the story try everything they can think of to soothe a crying baby. They feed him, play with him, give him a bath, and finally -- mercifully -- they put him to bed.

I love the book's fun plot and simple illustrations. It's a great read-aloud story...a story that has become all too familiar lately. These animals try their best to make the baby happy, but the only result is a loud "BOO-HOO-HOO!" from the baby.

The last page is my favorite. Once the baby is asleep, the animals collapse in an exhausted heap on the floor...and the baby wakes up grinning.

Can anyone guess what's on my mind?

In case you can't, I'll tell you. Gavin MUST learn how to sleep.

I'm always surprised when I arrive at this stage with a baby, and yet somehow I always do. Again, I ask myself: How did this happen? Where did I go wrong? How have I tolerated the sleep deficit for so many months? It must be my fault, after all, that my sweet little one only catnaps during the day and likes to eat, drink, and be merry {read:cranky} in the wee hours of the morning. I really did try to prevent this...but I guess our family life has been less than settled the last eight months.

What it boils down to is this: I have not slept through the night more than a handful of times in 16 months. I hit the third round of motherhood running on empty, not only because I didn't sleep at all the night Gavin was born, but for the eight months prior to that I had a ridiculous case of insomnia. These days I could sleep 24/7 but circumstances don't exactly allow for that.

Lest you think I'm just a selfish mommy who needs her beauty rest, there's also the matter of Gavin having dark circles under his eyes because he is so tired. He's cranky and clingy a lot of the time, most certainly because he only sleeps about 12 hours out of every 24, and only two of those hours are during the day time, and those two hours are generally had in 30- to 45-minute chunks. On no planet is this enough sleep for an eight-month-old.

I have known that the day of The Last Straw would come eventually, and that I would buckle down and teach Gavin a thing or two about sleeping habits. But as jaded and calloused and matter-of-fact as the previous paragraphs sound, I'm actually a big pushover who doesn't like to hear her baby cry. However, the day of The Last Straw came today, courtesy of big brothers who kept interrupting naps, and I snapped.

Fortunately, the fatigue blurring my vision didn't erase the virtues of past experience. Sleep training with previous children was a bit of a chore, but I learned a few things about routine and comfort objects. The bottom line was still ugly: Gavin had to cry it out.

The first round, which happened before the morning nap, lasted 30 minutes. I visited him three times. When I told my mom about this, her sharp intake of breath told me that's probably a long time. But it's 1/6 the time it took Zachary to take a hint, so I was pretty pumped. Gavin still only slept half an hour, but he got to sleep on his own. Progress.

The afternoon nap was better. Gavin cried for 15 minutes, but not nearly as hard, and then slept for 45. The phone woke him up (curses!). Then, when it was time for bed at 7:30, we finished our story/song routine, I put him in his crib, tucked his blanky around him, and said good-night. Gavin whined a bit, but he didn't make a peep after I turned off the light and shut the door. Here I am, two hours later, enjoying the silence.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Gavin's sleeping troubles have been solved in one day. But I am encouraged. I feel a little more human just knowing that the possibility of a solid night's rest -- for both Gavin and myself -- is in my future. We both deserve to wake up grinning.
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