Jane is here, and from that magical moment when I first held her, to the last tear-filled, anxious month, it has been a roller coaster of emotions. Welcome to having a daughter, I guess!
She was called an “overachiever” in the delivery room after latching so quickly. Great, like we need another one of those around here! I’m a bit scared her personality will be similar to mine (Simon is a lot like Neil, which I don’t mind!), but of course I love her so much just as she is.
Jane, or “my Janie friend” as Simon has nicknamed her, was an angel baby for the first month. I was weepy and sentimental over that first special week at home with our family of four. We celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year with Jane in tow. She was so sweet, easy-going, and sleepy! Neil was home a lot because of the holidays and it was awesome. Sometimes he and Simon went out to do special activities like the tree farm and ice-skating, leaving Jane and me to snuggle.
Then she started waking up from one nap early. No big deal. Then another nap. Then she wouldn’t go to bed for hours in the evening. Then the last good nap started to go. With few exceptions, she’s always slept at night, so I know I shouldn’t complain. But the crappy naps started when the holidays ended and Neil was back to the usual work & ministry schedule. He taught CT one week, and was out of town most of two following weeks. Simon was sick during his first trip so I couldn’t see my friends with kids.
Jane has remained sweet and good-natured when she’s awake. She loves to smile and coo! Even though I was enjoying Jane immensely and was very grateful to have here safe & healthy, for a couple days I felt angry about her sleep. After praying about it my anger subsided, but anxiety quickly replaced it. Every morning I felt automatically anxious. Within a week I suddenly fit my (very small) pre-pregnancy pants. I talked to friends and Neil and tried to accept that Jane was simply unable to fall back asleep, and I was unable to help her fall back asleep (I tried one method pretty consistently for two weeks before giving up).
Here’s a sample of crazy thoughts from trying to get her to sleep: I’ll give you $100 dollars if you stay asleep. Doesn’t work. Yawns are supposed to be contagious. So I try repeatedly yawning. Doesn’t work. Sometimes it feels like I’m praying to the monitor instead of God: ‘Please be quiet, please don’t go off.’ And there was the next-child angst: The thought of doing this again is kind of terrible right now. But the thought of never doing this again is even worse. I want more children but no more babies!
I realized Jane was doing the same things Simon did that the same age. I concluded and I could work on “sleep training” her when she was a little older. I couldn’t fix it now, but I was anxious and frustrated because I didn’t know what else to do. I was trying to “go with the flow” more. After all, lots of moms don’t even attempt a regular sleep routine or schedule till their babies are much older, even a year old. I can’t hang with that approach, but couldn’t I accept that Jane doesn’t know the Baby Whisperer and BabyWise author think she should nap for an hour and a half? But I didn’t know what to do with her when she woke up early, and wasn’t happy being up, but could not stay asleep either. And I didn’t want to abandon our routine entirely because I believed it was helping her sleep at night (she usually wakes up only once per night).
After unloading about Jane’s sleep troubles and my anxiety to one friend, she said, “Well at least she’s a good baby for you.” Were you not listening? I wondered silently, but then I thought, maybe she’s right. She’s a great eater, happy when she’s awake, and sleeps well at night. Maybe the problem is me and my expectations. I shared my woes with another mom and asked about her 6-month-old’s sleep. “He just sleeps when he wants. Some of his naps are long and some are 20 minutes. And he doesn’t go to bed till midnight, but I just say eff-it and catch up on my shows.” My mom, who survived having 5 kids in 7 years, plus babysitting others’, said she just followed our lead and “did whatever.” I’m sure that was the only way to juggle all our needs. While I can’t entirely abandon our routine, I could certainly take a page from their books.
During Neil’s first trip I realized I was losing sleep and weight from anxiety, and maybe I needed to deal with it more aggressively. Ultimately it is about control, my “besetting sin.” I thought I was letting go because I wasn’t forcing the nap and bed time issues as hard and accepted that I couldn’t fix it. I thought I gave up the idea that if I just did everything right, she would learn to sleep. Though I have relaxed on these fronts really I was just saying, I’m willing to suffer this much, God, but not that much. Or for this long, until she’s old enough to sleep train (which is another form of suffering!). I can handle this much not sleeping, but I can’t handle any more. I was suffering more from anxiety than from the actual situation, and that’s when I knew I had to deal with the real root issue, even if I accepted the temporary circumstances. So I’m trying to trust God instead of grasping for control but it isn’t easy! I’m also learning to fight the automatic and physical symptoms of anxiety like adrenalin. Ironically, taking care of Jane, unless she’s screaming her head off, is comforting to me, as is being with Simon. We are so blessed to have them and must never forget that!
P.S. This was written over the course of three naps of “binky hell,” i.e. going in every 5-20 minutes to re-insert in the binky. So I hope it makes sense and isn’t too boring.