Friday, 31 July 2015

Mommy Musing: The 6 Stages of the First Bad Night

I am very, very lucky that my daughter has been more or less sleeping through the night since she was 6.5 months old. We didn't have to do anything special, like cry it out or set up some iron clad bedtime routine, she just started falling asleep at roughly 9:30 pm and waking up at roughly 7:15 am. As a bonus, this correlated with when we officially weaned from breastfeeding, so I rarely had to prepare a bottle in the night. It was a wonderful two months...too wonderful. 

This past week, in some cruel turn of events, has been terrible and I really wasn't prepared for the first bad night after a long chain of good ones. When you're pregnant you slowly transition into bad sleep - a few aches here, a couple of night pees there - until you find yourself in the final month and sleep is but a distant memory. So, you're prepared (work with me here) for the first few months of sleeplessness. It's your new normal. Until - and this is a glorious until - your baby makes it through an entire night without waking. You don't sleep those full 6 or 7 hours because you're certain she's stopped breathing or has fallen into an 8 year coma, so you wake every 30 minutes to listen intently to the monitor, or check in on his rising and falling chest. Eventually, though, you get used to multiple hours of consecutive sleep. You learn to love night time again! You wake refreshed! Until - and this is a really crappy until - BAM! 

A sleep regression.

It could be a cold, or teething, or something else entirely. The only thing you know for certain is that it sucks. It feels harder somehow. You feel tricked. So, for all you sleep deprived mamas out there, I'm going to go over the 6 stages of that first bad night.

Stage 1 - Denial

As little cries and whimpers begin to emanate from the monitor, you roll over and tell yourself its nothing. She'll settle herself back down. We're beyond this. Even as a loud cry or two erupt, you think to yourself: "This is just a test. Sleep screaming is totally a thing."

Stage 2 - Depression

As the crying amps up, you accept that this is happening and it really sucks. You enter your baby's room with a very heavy heart because you know that if he's crying in the night he's scared or in pain and you are ready to do whatever you can to make it better. (Hopefully, in as little time as possible.) You make sure to give your warm, comfy bed one last mournful look over your shoulder, though. It may be a while before you are reunited.

Stage 3 - Bargaining with your baby

When rocking, patting, shushing, cuddling, diaper changing and all those caring gestures don't work, you start to get creative. I try not to offer a bottle in the night for fear of starting a new habit. If she has gone 2 months without eating in the night, she should be able to go forever  - but I will make a 4 oz snack if she'll promise me to go back to sleep. In a delirious state, you start to make promises about the next day, knowing full well that baby neither understands nor cares about what you're saying. It's probably for the best that she doesn't calm down at that point because there's no way you could get to the water park, the library, the mall, and the toy store in one day like you've offered. 

Stage 4 - Bargaining with a higher being

Babies are not great negotiators, so you need to take it to someone with more power. Oh, great spirits of the wee hours! Grant us the peace we so desperately seek! You continue to write cheques you cannot cash for the next hour.

Stage 5 - Rationalizing

This is when things get dire. Your baby is awake. Wide awake. You must get through this by any means necessary. So, you bring out toys - at 3 am - just to get a break. You turn on the TV to keep yourself awake. You drive around the block 18 times, putting the neighbourhood watch on high alert.  It's just one night! Whatever it takes, you do it, because desperate times call for desperate measures. Don't worry mama - you're doing a good job.

Stage 6 - Relief

This is a very tentative feeling of relief. Baby has fallen back asleep, but you still need to get him back into his crib without disturbing him. If you succeed - really, truly succeed - you slowly slip back under the covers and hope against hope that you'll get another hour or two of sleep before it all starts again.

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