It’s no secret that having a baby is one of the biggest adjustments in life. We all assume that our child will be on a schedule, follow the rules, and fit into our life, not the other way around. No parent wants or expects for their baby to be one of the “difficult” ones. Surely parents with “difficult” babies are just parents that don’t know what they are doing…right? Lol. My perceptions on all of this changed after having James. For the first week of his life he was an angel. Sure I had to get up every three hours to feed him but that’s to be expected. He spent his days peacefully sunbathing in his Moses basket. Around 2 weeks is when we started noticing the change. It became increasingly difficult for him to nap. There were days where he didn’t nap at all- definitely not normal for a newborn who should be sleeping the majority of the time. He was fussy all day long and evenings became unbearable. JT was inconsolable; nothing would calm him down. Ryan and I would take shifts. I would stay up until around 2 am with him at which point I was in tears, utterly exhausted. Ryan would take the next shift until around 5 am when it was time for him to get up to go to work. I remember thinking that I would never get to spend time with Ryan again! During the day JT had a 15-30 minute “happy” window. After he ate he was happy for 15-30 minutes and then he was unhappy for the next 2-2/2 hours until he got to eat again. If you tried to lay him down to nap or just to play he screamed. Following my doctor’s advice I let him cry until he fell asleep. I did that for an entire week; he never fell asleep once. Out of desperation I would listen to my IPOD or put ear plugs in so I could have just a few minutes of “muted” screaming. If I took a shower, ate lunch, made a phone call etc. he was in the background yelling. And boy does he have some lungs! The kid can crank it up! James refused to sleep flat on his back so we spent an insane amount of money on the “nap nanny”. It helped somewhat at night- we were actually able to put him down in it for a few hours! One of the only other things that would help soothe him was for him to be swaddled as tightly as possible. The child spent the majority of those first few months swaddled. Me and Ryan joked that we were going to have to buy fabric and make custom swaddles since he would probably need them until age 10 or so. After a couple of months he finally calmed down a little during the day but the nights were just getting worse. From mid November until mid- January he woke up anywhere from 4-8 times a night. Each time he cried hysterically and was almost impossible to get back to sleep. It didn’t make a difference if he was held, in the bed with us, in the bed alone: he would not sleep. He continued to almost never nap on his own during the day. If I was lucky I could hold him while he slept and when he started to cry “jiggle” him to sleep so he could get a decent nap. My life revolved around trying to get the kid to get rest, and he was miserable because he was tired all the time. To make matters worse, Ryan was in the middle of almost a month of work without any days off. So much for the law that says residents have to have one day off per week. L I was almost delirious from lack of sleep. I got to the point that I was scared to drive with the baby and had trouble even concentrating while having conversations with people. I got lots of advice from well-meaning people but a lot of it just made me feel guilty like maybe I was doing something wrong and it was our fault that he couldn’t sleep.
“Maybe it’s something in your diet.” Well, it’s impossible to not drink caffeine when you get less than 4 hours of sleep total per night. “Just let him cry – he will stop eventually.” Um, this is the child that cried so hard he busted the vessels in his eyes and lost his voice for a week. He can and has easily cried for over 2 hours without stopping. “My child never slept through the night either. It’s just part of being a mom.” Well, I didn’t expect his to sleep through the night but maybe just two hours in a row? Was I selfish for wanting that? “He will probably get the hang of it by six months.” I don’t think I can make it until then… I was so thankful to have a healthy beautiful baby but how much longer could I continue to function on almost no sleep? I read every book known to man about sleeping, took JT to the doctor, tried medicine, and prayed daily for survival. I was thankful I didn’t have to go to work, but I couldn’t help but wish for my 20 minute lunch break I had when teaching kindergarten. At least then I would be able to rest my head on my desk for a minute and not hear crying!
One of the only things that got me through this time was knowing that my family and friends were praying for me. Trust me- when you don’t sleep for that many months you need Jesus in your life to get you through it! The stress of having such a fussy baby combined with living in a town with no friends or family, and a husband that was working way too many hours almost pushed us to a breaking point at times. Our family and friends were so encouraging and supportive to us. A few moms who really had been where I was also gave me lots of encouragement that we would survive this period of time. I also could not have survived without my parents. My mom and dad were helpful beyond words. My mom came to help me and spent endless hours just holding and rocking James. When he would cry at dinnertime she would take him outside so Ryan and I could actually eat without hearing him scream. They flew me home to visit so I could get breaks and sent sweet care packages to cheer Ryan and I up. My dad gave me the most wonderful gift when he said even though he and my mom were busy, nothing was more important than helping us. If that meant them coming to Shreveport to help or me coming to Greenville, he was willing to do whatever I needed. Just knowing that I had them to fall back on meant so much to me.
Around January Ryan and I changed the way we were praying. We began praying for a sleep miracle, believing that God would enable James to sleep soundly, independently, and without screaming. We were both so tired of hearing him get so upset and cry for so long. Right around the time that JT turned 7 months it was like a light switch came on. He began sleeping more soundly and taking naps on his own- for more than 30 minutes!!!!! Suddenly he went in his crib and would go to sleep without first crying for an hour. Do we still have rough nights? Oh yes. Are there days when he reverts back to the thirty minute naps? You better believe it. Do I ever sleep 8 hours without waking up? Nope. However I do consistently get at least 5 hours in a row and he normally takes 2 – 3 naps a day. It has been life changing for my mental and physical outlook. James is much happier and content now that he is getting the rest that he needs. I actually miss him when he sleeps for a long time!
I write all of this for several reasons. One is to remind myself how far God has brought us in this journey. He truly does give us the grace and strength to make it through each day, each hour, and sometimes each minute. He took my type A control freak personality and gave me a child that to this day often refuses to conform to what I want. And I wouldn’t change him for anything. I love the fact that James’s stubborn wild streak gives him such a fun personality. I wouldn’t trade my “difficult” baby for all the peace and quiet in the world. I also want to encourage other moms out there who were blessed with the more “difficult” baby. You will survive- just take it little by little. The encouragement of others meant so much to me, and I want to pass that on. Celebrate the small victories, whatever they may be. We were thrilled when James finally could sleep in his crib flat on his back, when he started taking naps independently (even if it was only 20 minutes) and the remarkable day that the child slept without being swaddled! Those mornings after he was up every 30-45 minutes throughout the night I would stumble out of bed, guzzle the diet Mt. Dew, and praise God that we had made it through one more night.
As I write this I think back to last night. Ryan laid James down in his crib, unswaddled, completely awake. I didn’t hear from him again until 5:30 this morning. I wrote this blog during his morning nap which was over an hour. If that’s not a miracle then I don’t know what is! Praise the Lord! We give all the glory to Him! Sweet dreams :)
Mad about life