I am so grateful for all of the texts, emails and phone calls I've received over the past few weeks, asking how our appointment with the sleep doctor went. It was so wonderful to be reminded that we have a lot of people praying for us and cheering us on. This sleep thing is a little problem, but it's good to know that if we ever have a big one, you guys and gals have our backs. Sorry it has taken me so long to write this update. Part of it was just the busyness of life, but I was also sort of nervous about reporting any good news about her sleep for fear I would jinx it. I don’t really believe in that sort of thing, but I still didn’t want to take any chances.
In case you're new, you can read about Harriet's sleep in this post. If you don't have time for that, the quick version is that our girl doesn't sleep. Well, didn't sleep, but I'm getting to that. Her sleep patterns were so bad that we ended up taking her to a sleep doctor at a children's hospital on February 1st. The whole experience was wonderful from check-in to discharge. Everything went seamlessly. Wait times were short. Everyone was kind. They moved us through their system quickly without ever making us feel like a number. We were already fans of the place, but when Dr. G entered the room, we were smitten. He has the ideal temperament for pediatric sleep doctor. He is gentle, kind, affirming, patient, understanding, and most importantly, knowledgeable. He listened to our whole story and got to know us before diagnosing her...well, diagnosing us...
with being wrapped around her little finger.
He didn't really say that. But he did say that her frequent wakings and difficulty falling asleep is learned behavior. He also mentioned that kids with this issue are always very cute and very persistent.
Check and check.
Once we had the diagnosis, we were ready for the treatment plan...He wanted us to let Harriet cry it out.
I have been against the cry it out method from the beginning. Like, adamantly against it. I read stuff by Dr. Sears, Elizabeth Pantley and the La Leche League ladies, all of whom only cemented my anti-CIO status even further. I have really focused on parenting Harriet in a way that fosters attachment - nursing on demand, wearing her in a sling, responding to her cries in a timely manner, budgeting in way that allows me to be home with her most of the time. We even tried cosleeping for a while, but that didn’t seem to be the best arrangement for our family. We have been passionate about showing Harriet that she can trust us to meet her needs until she is able to meet them for herself. We have never viewed her as manipulative or demanding. I was so against letting her cry it out that I even got into mini debates with people over this (including Andrew's grandma who took care of 80+ foster babies...oops).
But then I started noticing that our friends who let their babies cry it out seemed really attached. The parents seemed tuned into their babies' needs, and the babies appeared to get that. I was shocked. I guess that all of my research convinced me that if you sleep train your child, they won't attach to you very well. I was wrong.
A blogging friend of mine named Josey shared this website with me:
As much as I hate the name of the website, I LOVE the content. It has changed my mind (and my life too). Alexis, who runs the site, insists that letting your child cry it out isn't the antithesis of attachment parenting. She even said something like - if you're exhausted all the time, what is there for your kid to attach to anyways? Another really good point she made was this - crying it out can take just a few nights. You have all of the days and nights before and after those CIO nights to work on attachment. These two points converted me.
I found the Troublesome Tots website before meeting Dr. G, so I was pretty prepared to let her cry it out if that’s what he suggested. He also gave us some other recommendations to make the CIO process more successful. He suggested we mildly sleep deprive Harriet leading up to the first cry it out night. He recommended a solid, predicable bedtime routine (which we had been doing already). The Troublesome Tots website also offered helpful tips like telling your child, “You’re going to sleep in your crib tonight, and we’re not going to come back into your room til morning. We’ll be right downstairs. We love you very much.” She says that even very young children can pick up on enough of that message for it to really help with any confusion the child has about the new arrangement.
So the first night, we followed the plan exactly as Dr. G and Alexis suggested. Harriet cried (screamed) for twelve minutes. And then she went to sleep. Honestly! She did! After only twelve minutes. Andrew and I could hardly contain our excitement! We joked about wishing we had bottles of champagne to spray around the living room like baseball players do after winning the World Series! We laughed as we pictured Andrew dumping a cooler of gatorade over my head like players do to the coaches when they win the Super Bowl. That’s how victorious we felt!
The second night, she cried off and on for twenty minutes. The third night, it was about ten. The few nights after that, she cried for about five seconds before settling herself and falling asleep. Since then, she hasn’t cried at all. We just snuggle her as we walk around the room, praying for her and singing to her. Then we lay her down…and she stays put…for ten hours straight…every single night.
I cannot even tell you how much this has changed our lives. We feel better physically, emotionally and mentally. You probably won't be shocked to hear that rested people are better at marriage than crazy, sleep-deprived people. And we’re definitely better parents too.
Things aren’t perfect. That’s for sure. Ten hours isn’t a long enough night for a baby of her age, especially since her naps are still pretty bad. She only sleeps about 30-40 minutes at a time and it often takes 30-60 minutes to get her down. I talked to Dr. G’s nurse about this, and she recommended the CIO method for naps as well. We tried this several times. Harriet poops. She pukes. She screams her head off for over an hour…and then we give up. Andrew says that she just isn’t tired enough during the day, and I think he’s right. I’m hoping Alexis from Troublesome Tots will write a post about naps sometime soon because we’re stumped. But with Harriet sleeping through the night, the nap issue is more than manageable.
It’s interesting…the lessons I'm learning as a mom, the things I thought would be one way, but are just the opposite. It’s humbling and kind of transforming. It has helped me broaden my view of myself as a parent so that I can be both an attachment mama and a mom who sleep trains. I feel pretty good about that.
So next time around, what will we do differently? It might surprise you to know that we aren’t planning to let our next child cry it out from the beginning. Dr. G recommended waiting til the baby is at least six months old before doing CIO. I think we’d wait even longer than that. I want the baby to at least understand some of what’s going on rather than experiencing only confusion and betrayal. Dr. G describes CIO as an ultimate last resort, and we’ll use it that way…when nothing else works.
Also, just as a sidenote, we did some research on CIO methods. There are two main methods – Ferber and Weissbluth. The big difference is that the Ferber method recommends going back into the room at increasing increments of time to soothe the child without picking her up. The Weissbluth method is a cold turkey approach. You leave and don’t come back unless you really, really, really have to. The Weissbluth method seems a bit harsher, but Dr. G and Alexis from Troublesome Tots both prefer it over the Ferber method because returning to the nursery can send mixed messages to the baby and get them all riled up again. We had tried the Ferber method several times before our appointment with Dr. G, and it never worked. But the Weissbluth method worked the first time…in only twelve minutes. So anyways, that was the best way for our family, but lots of families swear by Ferber, and I can see the upsides to that method as well.
So again, thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers. I feel like a new woman.
Mini update #1 in response to this post: I mustered up my courage and tried to talk to someone in the waiting room at the fertility clinic yesterday. I picked someone who looked really nice and friendly. I smiled at her. She smiled back at me. I sat close enough to her to have a conversation but kept some distance between us to avoid freaking her out.
I took a deep breath and just dove in headfirst.
"Are you here for blood work or an ultrasound?" I asked.
She didn't speak English.
At least I tried, right?
Mini update #2: I'm not really responding to clomid yet, even though I've been on it for 10 days (100 mg/day). The ultrasound tech said that there weren't even any follicles worth measuring. I also have over seventy (eek!) cysts on my ovaries, meaning that my polycystic ovarian syndrome is alive and well. This is a bit frustrating because I have been cutting down on sugar, dairy and processed foods considerably. Plus, I weigh less than I did when we were trying to conceive the first time around. I’ve also been using organic produce and meat as much as I can. All of this should be helping, but it doesn't seem to be. I go in for another ultrasound and more blood work in a few days. So for now, it's just a waiting game.