Real Talk: My Baby Doesn’t Sleep and I’m Not OK

I have written and rewritten this post half a dozen times. It’s so hard to know what and how much of my life to share online. If I share too much “bad” stuff, I feel like I’m being melodramatic and seeking attention. But if I only share the “good” stuff, it feels fake. I tend to use sarcasm to talk about stuff that upsets me because it’s light and easy and I can continue to pretend that everything is fine while letting off a little steam. As a new mom, I sometimes feel like I’m not allowed to be honest about how hard this is because I’m supposed to be drowning in gratitude for a healthy baby, and blissfully in love with my little girl. But I firmly believe that acknowledging my struggles in no way diminishes my gratitude or love. So here goes.

***I feel like it goes without saying, but just in case you’re worried: I love my daughter. My husband and family are incredibly involved and supportive and we’re working on it with our pediatrician. Please don’t interpret this as some kind of cry for help. I’m not depressed. I don’t need meds or therapy. I need sleep***

Vera just sucks at sleeping. Right before the three-month mark, it seemed like she was maybe on her way to sleeping through the night, but then we went into some kind of regression that never ended. Rather than getting better, it’s been getting worse. She used to regularly take 1-2 hour naps twice a day; now, we’re lucky if she naps for 25 minutes twice a day. Sometimes her naps are as short as ten minutes. Or she falls asleep nursing but wakes up ready to party the second I put her down. When once she slept for 3-4 hour chunks all night, she’s now up every 2 hours or less. Every. Night. Sometimes she wakes up and eats and then it takes over an hour to settle her down again. Or she falls asleep for thirty minutes and then wakes up crying. I haven’t slept more than four consecutive hours since before Vera was born five months ago.

While Ben was on paternity leave, I was getting regular naps to help offset the deficit, but now that he’s back at work, I’m just digging deeper and deeper into my hole. As someone who has more or less made a career of being overtired, I’m reaching the end of my reserves. My brain function is starting to go.

Mom Brain, right? People talk about “Mom Brain” with a wink and a smile, as if it’s some benign condition that causes you to do silly things like put your coffee in the kitchen cabinet instead of the microwave, or wash the same load of laundry twice. The other day, I put pizzas in the oven without cheese. I literally didn’t even realize my mistake until I was cleaning up and found the package of cheese still unopened on the counter. But calling it Mom Brain makes me absolutely furious. It belittles something that’s a much larger issue. Mom Brain is actually sleep deprivation, and there’s nothing funny about it.

There’s a reason sleep deprivation is classified as torture. After 24 hours without sleep, your judgement is impaired. Hand-eye coordination is impaired. You’re more likely to have a fatal accident like falling asleep at the wheel. Long-term sleep deprivation can cause cardiovascular issues and hormone imbalances. It is terrible for your health.

Being a new mom is already hard. Being chronically sleep-deprived makes everything harder. I’m “on” all day, with no breaks and no help. I get one or two 25 minute chunks each day while she’s napping to tear around the house trying to get shit done. It’s not even long enough to make myself a cup of tea and drink it in peace, let alone nap or exercise or journal. Even if I had time to exercise, I certainly don’t have the energy.

The days are hard, but the nights are harder. The sun goes down, and I know I’m in for another sleepless night; I become irritable and restless. I get into bed and lie there thinking about when she’s going to wake up next, instead of actually trying to get some sleep. I cried myself to sleep last night because dammit, I thought by five months in, sleep would be better. It’s supposed to be better by now. Isn’t it? Every time someone asks how she’s sleeping I fantasize about punching them in the throat.

We do all the things we’re “supposed” to do. We have a strict bedtime routine, down to reading the same exact books and singing the same exact song every night. We’ve tried nudging bedtime a bit earlier or a bit later. We give her a “top up” bottle of pumped breast milk in addition to nursing before bed to make sure she has a full belly. We use a white noise machine. None of it seems to help. We go back to the pediatrician next week and I pray that she has some help for us, but at the same time, I can’t let myself get my hopes up.

The reality is that there’s probably no magic bullet. We’re not doing anything wrong. I suspect that she’s just a shitty sleeper, and probably will be for the duration. Which is a really hard pill to swallow. How long can I do this? Yes, I have family and friends who can help me out with naps here and there, but this isn’t a situation that can be rectified with an occasional half hour snooze. I just don’t have any answers.

I could write more. Complain more. Entreat the gods for help. But I’ve gotta go; Vera just woke up crying for the second time tonight. It’s 8:06 pm. So yeah. That’s how I am these days.

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A Day in the Life of a Stay-At-Home-Mom

This post was inspired by Amy at Let’s Go Running.

I haven’t been writing much, for a lot of reasons, but this seemed like an easy way to check in with you all. I know that day-to-day life with an infant is probably not that thrilling for all of you, so feel free to skip this one and come back another day.

6:30 am 
Vera wakes me for the fourth and final time. She’s up pretty much every two hours or less all night, which makes for rough mornings. And afternoons. And evenings. Anyway, I digress.

I nurse her in bed while I contemplate whether to get up or attempt to sleep in. By the time Vera is finished eating, it’s clear she’s up for the day, so I lie in bed and cuddle her for a bit. Ben comes in to kiss us goodbye before leaving for the day, and I know it’s time to get up.

7:00 am
I change Vera and pop her on her activity mat to play while I get what I call my “infrastructure” going. I fill my 32 oz water bottle, pop some overnight oats in the microwave, and pour myself some coffee (Ben makes enough for both of us when he gets up). I eat breakfast and drink my coffee on the floor next to Vera’s activity mat so we can chat and play.

7:50 am
Vera is ready to eat again, so I set us up at the kitchen table. While I nurse her, I do some online Christmas shopping and make to-do lists. After her feed, she’s sleepy, so I attempt to put her down for a nap. True to form, she wakes the instant I set her down, but she’s calm, so I leave her in her crib for some quiet time.

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8:15 am 
While Vera hangs out in her room, I make tea and work on this blog post a bit. I also read other blogs (yep, still lurking out here, reading your blogs and not commenting!) and pick up a bit around the house.

8:35 am 
Vera starts to make sad noises, so I scoop her out of her crib, get her dressed for the day and plunk her in her exersaucer. While she babbles and plays, I get myself dressed and make the bed. These are two of my “How to Stay Sane as a Stay-At-Home-Mom” tips. Actually getting dressed every day and making the bed make me feel much more productive, even if I don’t do anything else all day.

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Vera is happy in her exersaucer, so I put some Christmas music on and wrap some Christmas presents. I do a gift exchange with some of my blog friends every year, and historically my gifts don’t arrive at their destinations until well into the new year. I’m a master procrastinator. But this year, my shopping is all done, I just need to get them in the mail. Go me!

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Gifts for my bestie’s son. And you best believe everyone is getting robot wrapping paper this year.

9:37 am 
Vera is no longer happy. It’s “nap time,” but getting her to nap is kind of hopeless most days. It takes me 25 minutes to feed her and settle her down. Once she’s out, I HUSTLE, because her naps last an average of 20 minutes, which is hardly enough time to accomplish anything. I use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and start to put away some laundry.

10:30 am
Right on cue, Vera wakes from her typical less-than-30-minute nap. I attempt to settle her back down, but it’s no use. I slap a fresh diaper on her and load her into the car seat to head out for yet more Christmas shopping. Shop local, ya’ll. I finish shopping for my sisters-in-law and grab a couple of necessities for around the house as well.

11:30 am 
Vera has fallen asleep on the car ride home, so I take advantage of the bonus nap to make myself some lunch. I have started keeping pre-chopped salad ingredients in the fridge to make it easier to make healthy choices when I’m scrambling to eat during my very brief breaks, so I assemble a salad and some other leftovers. I work on this blog post a bit while I eat.

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Trying to eat up those Thanksgiving leftovers

Noon
Vera is up and at ’em, so I feed her a snack and then put her down for some tummy time while I pump. I pump once a day to a) help keep my supply up and b) build a freezer stash for days/events when I’m out of the house. Next up is reading! I’m trying to make sure I read to Vera more than just at bed time, so we busted out a bunch of our new books that Gramma and Grampa gifted at our visit over Thanksgiving.

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Kitties are apparently more entertaining than books

1:30 pm 
Vera is ready for a diaper and a change of pace. She’s fussy and fidgety, so I nurse her briefly, then change her and put her back in the exersaucer. I have a few Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and try to work on this blog post a bit more. This lasts maybe five minutes before Vera demands my undivided attention. She’s fussy and obviously tired but won’t go down without a fight. We play a few rounds of peekaboo and some games from baby yoga, then she settles in for a marathon nursing session. This is unsurprising as she has been “snacking” all day.

2:30 pm
Post-meal, she falls asleep in my arms. Rather than trying to put her down and risking waking her, I continue to work on this blog post one-handed. It’s tedious, but what else am I gonna do while holding a napping baby?

I wish I were being productive, but I know baby girl needs the sleep, and quite frankly, I need the break, so I surrender to the siren song of Netflix and turn on Love Actually. This is a good choice because Vera ends up napping for almost two hours (!!!!), which is seriously unheard of right now.

4:10 pm 
Ben is home! Yay! Once he has a snack and gets changed out of his work clothes, I hand off Vera so I can get supper going. I’m making pizza, so I need to make the dough and get it rising ASAP, otherwise we’ll be eating at 9 pm.

5:00 pm 
Vera is fussy, so I attempt to feed her, but it doesn’t last long. She’s super distractable these days, and eats in short, frequent bursts, particularly when Ben is around. While the dough rises, we take turns playing with Vera, making faces, singing, flying her in the air, and basically just trying to make it until bedtime. She also snacks a couple more times. You’ll also notice that I ceased taking pictures at this point, because keeping V happy in the hour or so before bedtime is pretty tough.

6:00 pm
Bath time! This is the beginning of our bedtime ritual. We got her all cleaned up and in a fresh diaper (we use cloth diapers during the day and disposables at night) and PJs, and Ben gave her a bottle. In an attempt to load Vera up on calories and hopefully get her to sleep more, we give her a bottle of pumped breast milk before bed in addition to nursing. So far, it hasn’t really seemed to help, but at least it helps to offset all of her mini feeds during that day.

Once she finishes eating, it’s reading, a bedtime song, and lights out. Of course, she never falls asleep easily, but we try to stick to our routine as much as possible. General wisdom indicates that eventually, the routine signals to baby that it’s time to go to sleep, but we’re still waiting for that to take effect… I get the pizzas in the oven between attempts to calm her.

7:00 pm
She’s finally out! Hallelujah! Ben and I resume watching a video game walk-through on YouTube for Red Dead Redemption 2. Yep, we’re the people who watch those videos. I mean, we can’t afford a PS4, which means we’ll never get the game, so why not watch someone else play it? We also stuff our faces with pizza and salad.

7:30 pm
Vera wakes up and fusses, but I’m miraculously able to calm her back to sleep fairly easily. More pizza and watching Archer while I knit Christmas gifts. Vera makes a few more halfhearted fusses, but we don’t have to intervene.

9:00 pm
Ben heads into the kitchen to clean up supper dishes while I head into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

9:30 pm
I attempt to dream feed Vera, but she doesn’t eat very much, then wakes up completely when I put her back down, so I feed her some more, and she finally goes back to sleep.

11:50 pm
Vera wakes me for the first of many times. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So there you have it. A super glamorous, very interesting day in the life. (Sarcasm. So much sarcasm)

Parent friends, talk to me about sleep training. Vera is almost old enough and I am DESPERATE to start getting more sleep. I’m not interested in crying it out, but open to all other suggestions.

 

My First Week As a Stay At Home Mom

I knew that being a stay at home mom would be challenging. Everything I’d read in magazines and online, every friend or acquaintance I’d talked to, indicated that being a full time mom was no walk in the park. As with so many things, however, knowing a thing and understanding a thing are very different.

My first seven weeks as a mom were a walk in the park compared to what many women go through. I had a husband who was able to be home with me, and we could divide and conquer. If I was fed up or having a tough day, it was no trouble to just hand Vera off to Ben and escape for an hour or an afternoon. If I really needed to use the bathroom or make a snack, there was another pair of hands to help out.

Now, though, it’s all me. From the time Ben leaves at 6:45 am until he arrives home around 4 pm, I’m on Vera duty. And it’s HARD. Don’t get me wrong; I love my daughter with my entire being. And I CHOSE this. I chose it before I knew what I was up against and I continue to choose every day now that I know what it really means. And I’m SO lucky and SO grateful that this is a possibility for our family. But that doesn’t change the fact that catering to the needs of a tiny person is challenging.

I won’t lie, I had a couple of tough days last week. It was super hot Tuesday and Wednesday, so I was reluctant to take Vera out in the stroller; folks, I didn’t leave the house at all for two days. Cabin fever is REAL. I’m an extroverted introvert, meaning I require equal parts quiet down time and socialization, but being home all day with an infant is the worst of both worlds; I’m neither alone nor getting adult socialization.

So then why not get out of the house and go places? Well, we love country living, but that presents its own set of challenges. Living an hour away from the closest city means that getting us out the door takes TONS of work. I have to time feeding just right so that she’ll sleep in the car. I have to make sure that I have the diaper bag stocked, my water bottle, snacks for me, the Boppy, and all the other attendant crap. And no matter how well-behaved your infant is, being outside of your house for long periods of time is taxing. Finding a comfortable place to breastfeed is hard. Being in a store with a crying baby is hard. Lugging the stroller in and out of the trunk at every stop is hard.

In order to stave off the cabin fever and keep myself sane, I’m planning to seek out at least one thing per day that Vera and I can do together outside the house. I’ve signed us up for an Infant Yoga and Massage class, plus I have my weekly postnatal yoga class. There’s story time at the library once a week, and I’m sure I can come up with a few other things. I’ve learned that I NEED to get out of the house every day, even if it’s just a stroll around the yard.

Aside from extreme cabin fever, I’m still delighted with my decision not to return to work. Vera is AWESOME. I don’t know how we got so lucky. Other than occasional gassy-ness she’s the happiest, calmest baby. Even at her most upset, she’s not even that loud. Sure, I wish I were getting more sleep, but her smiles and coos make everything worth it. I just remind myself that these challenging newborn days are temporary, and will give way to challenging baby days, which will give way to challenging toddler days, and so on until I have an adult on my hands (woah!). I’m determined to enjoy each phase as much as possible.

Stay at home parent friends, what are your favorite “stay sane” activities?

Friday Free-For-All – 08/24/18

Friday Free-For-All

Vera and I survived our first day home just the two of us. Ben went back to work yesterday, so it was just us girls. For the most part, it was good, but Ben and I were both exhausted by the end of the day because Vera was up and fussy a large chunk of the Wednesday night. Unfortunately, last night was a bit rough too, so I’m struggling a bit today.

We needed to order a replacement wheel for our secondhand jogging stroller. I had really hoped to use it this week, but the inner tube on the front wheel was busted. The replacement tube should be here today or tomorrow, and I can’t wait to get going with the jogger. It will be much easier to get up and down to the rail trail on my own.

I placed my first Senita Athletics order and I can’t wait for it to get here. I’ve always been curious about their stuff, but wasn’t willing to take a chance. But since basically all I’ve been wearing since Vera was born is leggings, I figured I could splash out on a pair of high-waisted leggings to help support my postpartum tummy. Also, they have pockets. Woot!

Senita High Waist

POCKETS!

I’ve already gone to posnatal yoga twice this week! I was hoping to make it to class this afternoon too, but I’m quite tired today, and also a bit sore, so I don’t want to push it too hard. I’m still in postpartum recovery mode. I definitely plan to go for a walk, though. The weather is just gorgeous today!

Have you ever tried Senita Athletics products? Thoughts?