Friday, February 25, 2011

I don't want to watch other people have fun

Bill and I went out to see an amazing group, "The March Fourth Marching Band" in downtown Spokane last night and had a great time dancing together, something we didn't get to do while living in small town Oregon. The crowd was probably half of what it would have been had it not snowed 8 inches but that just gave us more room to dance.

We got there a little late so I was surprised that only a few people were dancing, it reminded me of the first school dance I ever went to where all the kids were standing around looking at each other. Just awful. I don't understand why people go out to see a great band and then sit on their butts watching other people have fun. Slowly the crowd started getting into it and of course by the last song, the dance floor was crowded.

And that is a cheesy life lesson for you: don't wait for the dance floor to get crowded before you start dancing. You are welcome for that one.

Earlier that day, Bill and I went to the Home and Yard show at the fair grounds so as you can see, we are Living the Life here in Spokane, WA. Sadly, I feel like a truck hit me today and my back almost went out when I was dancing last night but hey, I thought I was cute last night and that's what its about people.

This weekend we have ambitious plans to go outside in the 20 degree weather and rebuild our sledding run before all this snow melts. It will probably do my back in completely but it will be worth it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The baby blues didn't go away

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Sixteen months ago, I was like all new moms: I had the cutest baby on the planet and I couldn't stop crying. Most women OD on post baby hormones and they can't stop themselves from a little daily cry. This goes on for a few weeks and then slowly fades away as the sleep deprivation sets in.

The blues lingered for me, never escalating to the point that I would tell someone but also never really getting any better. I recognized depression, I've had it off and on over the years and treat it myself with regular exercise, a few drinks now and then, and just generally living a nice lifestyle where I pursue my interests and spend time outdoors. The problem was I wasn't enjoying the things I enjoy. I was forcing myself to get through life.

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We decided to leave the comfort and rain in Oregon to return to my hometown in Spokane, WA to be near my family. We made an offer on a house there and I was about to resign from my job when my husband got laid off. We decided to do the move anyway, I managed to get a telecommuting agreement so I could keep my job and I thought we were through the worst of the stress.

Settling in to a new place and new lifestyle was a good distraction from the miserable feelings but it didn't cure what was really wrong. I was starting to feel strung out on stress and I had to admit to myself that even though I had everything I wanted, I wasn't grinning from ear to ear happy. Why?

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I was having small anxiety attacks so I went to see a therapist who listened to me but then started talking about medications I could take for depression and anti-anxiety. I stopped going to the therapist because that was not what I was looking for, I needed advise on how to cope with life, not medications to blur reality. I was not doing well at this point.

I had been on a stress train for so long, I had tried to get pregnant for almost 3 years, suffered a miscarriage and then an uncomfortable pregnancy before delivering via emergency c-section after 30 hours of labor. Breast feeding wasn't working, I lost the ability to sleep properly, life just uh! It wasn't easy. In fact, the past 4 years have been an anxiety laden roller coaster of emotions. It was time to change things.

We went to Arizona for 4 weeks over the holidays to help Bill's parents get through a surgery. My stress levels peaked to their highest level at Christmas when I was trying to keep up with a tough deadline at work, handle a house full of in-laws and kids, and wrestling with a baby who couldn't handle the new environment so he wouldn't sleep well at night or nap at all during the day. To top it all off, Liam was in a mommy stage so he only wanted mommy and he wouldn't let anyone else hold him and he was about as miserable as I was. I wonder how many people literally lose their minds over the holidays?

By the end of the AZ trip, my nerves were so frayed I was actually worried about my long term mental health. So I came home and did something drastic: I slowed everything down. Bill made sure I got plenty of sleep and had time to exercise everyday. He tried to sidestep me and give me space so nothing would stress me out. I stopped making future plans, stopped obligations, and just lived an easy day to day life.

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So far its working. The fog is lifting and I haven't felt anxiety in weeks. Running gives me the best physical high so I try to run 5-6 times a week to keep the good feelings going. Oddly, I think that another thing that helped me is slowing down on caffeine.

I am so much better now and the answer for me was simple: live the way you are supposed to live and things will get better. If things get worse in the future, I will go to a Dr. for medication. But for now, we've got it handled and that is a huge confidence boost. I still cry easily and struggle at times when things get difficult around the house but who doesn't struggle a bit with daily life? I just tell myself living ain't easy honey, but when the cutest baby on the planet yells "Mama! Mama!" the moment he wakes up that keeps things in perspective. Perspective is everything, people climb mountains to get the best view and I get it now. I just needed to rest a bit to enjoy it.

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Unconventional thoughts on sleep training

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Life sucks when you don't get enough sleep and when sleep deprivation goes on for weeks and then months, it is a level of pain you cannot understand unless you have been through it yourself.  Here are some of the unconventional things we did that worked and also how stupid we were for waiting so long to cry it out. It should go without saying but every child is different and health needs trump everything. Given that, here is what I learned:

Good decision #1: Put a bed in the baby's room for the early months and allow one person to get sleep on the other room.
We mostly had Liam sleeping in his crib while one of us slept in his room with him for those early months. This allowed the other parent to get a decent night sleep and if we wanted to have baby in bed, we could do it in his room without waking up the other parent. We chose not to co-sleep in our bed because we wanted to keep our bed to ourselves and not start baby down the road where he was dependent on us to sleep. I think by 3-4 months we were back to sleeping in our bed together while baby slept in his room by himself so this worked for us.

Good decision #2: Daddy does it!
Once Liam was more established, Daddy split the night with me so we would each get some uninterrupted sleep. Or, he would take the baby early in the AM and let me sleep in. This was good for 2 reasons: I was a wreck and needed sleep but also, Daddy understood sleep patterns and how to take care of baby. This is key because what I am about to say will make some Daddy's skin crawl: I think Daddy should handle the brunt of sleep training. Babies react to Mommy differently and Daddy's are more capable of weening a child. Mommy is so full of hormones and maternal instinct that she will hold on too long and rational thought goes out the window when a crying baby is around. Seriously, when I am in a store and I hear a baby cry, I have to stop myself from grabbing the child to comfort it. I AM CRAZY!

One friend told me about how her husband sat on top of her to stop her from rushing to her child every time he cried in the night. A better method night be to have Mommy take a Tylenol PM, put in earplugs, and then let Daddy take over for a few weeks to get through the worst of the sleep training. Yes I am serious. Otherwise Mommy will drag the process out for months on end and Daddy will have to live with it. If Daddy wants to whine about it, remind him about Single Working Moms who handle everything by themselves. End of discussion.

Bad decision #1: Waiting too long to cry it out.
At 6 months, our pediatrician recommended this cry it out method: 5 minutes of crying then check baby, then 10 minutes of crying then check baby, and finally 15 minutes of crying then check baby. I let this happen about twice before I started making excuses and intervening. 6 months of off and on sleeping went by and Liam was waking up 2-4 times a night to be fed and he was not napping well. I let Daddy take over and within a week the kid was sleeping 12 hours with 1-2 wake up that last maybe 5 minutes. He naps well and we're all doing SO MUCH BETTER. Yeah Daddy! Yeah Baby! And Yeah Mommy for giving up control and trusting Daddy to make decisions. It only took a few days of crying it out to get to this point and I drug it out 6 months longer than needed. DUMB!

Bad decision #2: Taking advice from books.
I read some ridiculous books about sleep training, like the one that advised to pick your baby up every time they cry even if it takes a hundred times a night! Observing other parents was the most informative for us but ultimately I think you have to make a plan and then stick to it. Books can give you ideas but I wouldn't follow any book to the letter because every kid is different.

Other things I would try:

  • White noise or music and a night light
  • Bed time ritual every night
  • Pacifier to satisfy sucking desire (we avoided it initially but I think it really helps)
  • Journal sleeping habits so you know the real damage
  • Swaddle wee ones
At 16 months, Liam sleeps 7:30pm - 7am with 1-2 short wake-ups where he fusses for about 5 minutes, sometimes longer. If its a longer cry, we will get him a small bottle but this doesn't happen often. Typically he naps 9:30 am-11:30 am and sometimes 3pm - 4pm. He sleeps in his crib with a pacifier and we are having trouble breaking him of that habit but I'm not worried about that at this point.

Some people are blessed with a good sleeper and we hate those people and their annoying bragging. May you have an awful teenager! Kidding! It is hard to hear those good sleeper stories though when other parents go months or even years without quality sleep. You can't function or enjoy life when you are sleep deprived so the best advice I could give anyone is take all the advice you can get and then have daddy do it! :-)