Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What To Do When Your Kids Refuse To Sleep

It's been a long three weeks. That's a major, horrendous understatement. After switching the 2 year old from her own room downstairs to the upstairs to share a room with the 4 year old, things have not improved at all in those 3 weeks. The first few days they were waking at 6:30am. Every day that got a bit worse until our current situation; they wake around 5:15am every single day. They won't nap. They sometimes don't fall asleep at night til 9pm. Or later.

I am nearly 31 weeks pregnant and that in itself is tiring. My day starts at 5:15 and goes all day long with no break since they aren't napping and then Jake gets home from school around 3:45 and it's organized chaos getting chores, homework and dinner done by 5pm for him to be out the door for sports or school concerts/programs. Often our night doesn't settle down til 8 or 9pm with sports and school stuff. Every day is a long day. Then I just want a minute to sit with my hubby or just breathe without breaking up toddler fights or folding laundry...but by then it's already 10pm and I've been awake for 15 hours and the braxton hicks are raging and I'm exhausted and very irritable.

The lack of sleep has made me feel like I just don't know myself anymore. I know there is a happy, funny person in there somewhere, but I just can't seem to will her to come out and play. All that's left is a cranky, beyond irritable mother who yells despite never wanting to be that mom. I force myself to stay awake while driving kids around to appointments and such....I am chronically over tired, frustrated, and exhausted.

In my mind, there's no reason why the girls shouldn't be sleeping more. They have a huge bedroom and each have their own cozy bed on opposite sides of the room. There is only one window that is sealed with black plastic and covered with blinds AND a blackout curtain AND they have a sound machine. It's like a cocoon of coziness in there. Yet still, they won't sleep.

I've been feeling sort of panicked thinking of adding being up every 2 hours nursing a baby with also having kids up too late at night and up too early in the morning and also up several times at night (yeah, did I mention that part?). It's enough to make me think, "why do people have kids? why did I get pregnant again? will I ever sleep again? will I live long enough to get to sleep again?"

A lot of the stuff that is supposed to help with sleep just doesn't phase my kids; Benadryl occasionally works, until it stops working 4 hours later. Calms Forte hasn't made a dent. That left melatonin as an option. A simple Google about *melatonin and kids made me scared to even try it with them. I finally called the pediatrician this morning and she squeezed us in right away.

Here's my basic notes:

Moving kids around and having them share a room throws things off immensely. It can take months for things to normalize and that takes a lot of work sleep training them. 

It usually works best to have one child go to sleep 30min before the other (we've been doing that for about a week and it does help).

Kids usually have to nap in separate spaces or nobody ends up sleeping.

They have to learn that unless somebody is hurt or in danger, they are not to leave their room until a certain time. They can read, play, try on every piece of clothing in their dresser, but they cannot leave their room other than going pee and then right back in their room. If they fight, they sit in timeout chairs for 30 minutes. 2 rules: 1)no fighting, 2)no leaving the room.

At the first sign of being tired, put them to bed. That might mean they nap at 9am and it might mean they go to sleep at 5pm. Just put them to bed. They won't die without dinner and will likely just eat a bigger breakfast the next day. Do not let them stay up past 7pm at night. They need to be in their rooms by 7pm at the latest. Let hubby be responsible for the teenage nighttime schedule so I can be home with the girls. While it might feel like I don't love my kids if I put them to bed at 5pm, it's really a good thing. They didn't get yelled at and they didn't get spanked- it's just sleep.

Make it a priority that I get sleep. There is great danger in being pregnant and never getting to sleep and even moreso in having a newborn and being SO exhausted that the baby ends up being dropped or worse.

Think outside the box. Things will seem chaotic, messy, weird, and like there is no schedule. The goal right now is for everyone to sleep. Try anything you can and see what works. 

Put a playpen in a separate space and have them nap in different rooms. 

Lower my expectations as a mother. Having 3 children and soon to be 3 under the age of 4 is a challenge that most families just don't know. This is survival time and it'll be this way for several years. It's ok if they eat macaroni for dinner. It's ok if they don't wash their hands every time they go to the bathroom. It's ok if they bathe once or twice a week. WE SURVIVE and they are no worse off. Families with 4 children (or more) have to do things differently than a family with 1 or 2 kids might ever understand. Don't expect others to understand or approve. That's brings us to the next point:

Say no to nearly all outside activities. Are playdates really fun when you are chasing kids and can't talk with the other adults anyway? Is it fun to go out when your kids only slept 6 hours that night and you're all on the verge of or in the middle of a meltdown? No, not really. Invite people over and get used to being home more. At least until the sleep issues are normalized and everyone doesn't look  and behave like a zombie. Again...families with multiple small children must do things differently than those without.

Do you see a theme here? It's about giving yourself permission that things will look messy. This is hard for me. I don't like to do something unless it's done well. I don't like to volunteer with something or work on something unless I know or can ensure it'll turn out awesome. I don't like to make a recipe unless it's fabulous. I only want to parent in a fabulous way...I want my kids to have an amazing childhood. Feeling like things are less than perfect on the home front is not something I can easily accept. But here's the reality, my goal right now shouldn't be perfection. It's simply this: that my kids are safe and taken care of. 

Our pediatrician is amazing. I know she totally and beyond that gets it. She very soon will have 4 kids under the age of 4. She gets the battle of perfection versus reality and just literally surviving the days because you are so exhausted and also pregnant. She can give me the permissions that I somehow don't allow myself. I told her she's like my therapist, and I'm very grateful for her.

We talked about the Facebook world we live in. As moms we see these kinds of posts:

"I just ran 5 miles and now it's time for the ribs and scalloped potatoes I made from scratch! Then I'm off to Zumba and a girl's night. Life is fabulous!"

"I vacuumed the whole house and washed every baseboard and it's not even noon. Oh and I also sewed 4 dresses for my kids!"

"My kids slept til 10am today and while they were sleeping I organized my entire closet and gave myself a manicure!"

No one posts anything like this:

"I just yelled so harshly at my children they they immediately sobbed and my behavior felt borderline abusive."

"I haven't had sex in 4 weeks, not really because I don't want it but because I haven't slept in even longer and I just can't bring myself to make it happen.Sometimes I don't feel married. Just in a weird sitcom with someone's kids who don't sleep and a man I used to know."

"I wanted to punch my child when they argued with their sibling. I knew that was a strange reaction, but I'm just so tired. Thankfully and by the grace of God, I refrained. But barely."

"We all had cold cereal for dinner. Same as the last 4 nights. We haven't seen a real vegetable in a week."

"I haven't groomed my lady bits, shaved my armpits, or plucked stray facial hairs in weeks. I think people can even notice. And I don't really care."

But yet...wouldn't it be sort of refreshing, if not a bit shocking, to see that kind of post? It won't happen, but maybe it should just a little bit. It would mean as mothers, as women, we give ourselves permission to sometimes just survive. And that sometimes it might be like that for months...not just a rough day. I think that maybe if we lower our expectations, we won't be so disappointed. We might enjoy our children jumping on the couch and watching the same movie 25 times in a row if we realize...we are making it through. We are keeping them safe and fed and there's not much you can do beyond that on only 5 hours of sleep a night. And that is ok.

I decided to write this as a blog post, because I know for a fact I'm not the only mom in this spot. I can put on makeup and a smile and chug my coffee and get through a day...but I'm still the same exhausted mommy who misses her husband. And I'm not alone. If you can't give yourself permission to struggle and miss showers, and feed your kids scrambled eggs for dinner every night- I will give it to you.

It won't always be this way. Someday we will sleep. Someday we'll have regular date nights. But probably just not right now. I hope to get my girls sleeping more so I can sleep more. I hope even more than that I can learn to truly give grace for myself. To think outside the pretty and scheduled box. To love and adore and actually enjoy my children in all their mess and frustrations and tantrums. To allow even a bad day to be a good day. That in itself is extremely hard when you are so tired you don't recognize yourself.

My sincere empathy and love to all of you exhausted mamas who have nothing left but tears.

~ Diana

*Small doses of melatonin are ok for children. The problem is by morning it's all worn off, so it likely won't help with them getting up too early. I may try it and see if it helps any, just .5mg or less.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sister Princess Room

Five days ago we decided to bite the bullet and switch Evie upstairs to her sister's room. We knew the day was coming as we need Evie's current room for the baby due in 11 1/2 weeks (ahhh!). Craig converted one of the cribs to a toddler bed, he moved her dresser and shoe organizer upstairs and I emptied out her closet and hung everything in Elly's closet. The girls and I did some major cleaning going through their room tidying up, vacuuming, and rearranging furniture. They were screeching with excitement, running around the house dancing and singing and pretty much more excited than I have ever seen them. It was quite a hoot!

                                                         A very excited Evie :)

The big girl in her room! It's definitely bittersweet to think that both of my girls are potty trained and sleeping in toddler beds. Sometimes I look at Eliana and just think, "wow, she looks so old!" Watching them grow and change is part of the beauty of parenting. It's the fact that you can never go back and redo any of the years that is sad. They are such special little people.

Well, that first night was interesting. They went to sleep around 8, which is late for them and by 9pm Evie was crying and getting out of bed. It was then 2 hours of Super Nanny method; pick up the child and put them back in bed without saying a word. By around 11pm both girls were sleeping again, which means I was putting a kid back to bed over and over for literally 2 hours. Very frustrating. Evie continued to wake up throughout the night.They were up at 5:30am for the day :( 6 hours is not enough sleep for them, that's for sure! It was a long day and neither kid would nap. Friday night was about the same, with Evie getting up frequently. Saturday they didn't nap and we spent most of the day in the hot sun and watching Jake's baseball games. I think they were SO tired by bedtime that they fell asleep easily. It was a relief. They both stayed in their beds all night, although they woke up for the day at 6am. With it being Mother's Day, Craig got up with the girls and tried to keep them quiet until I got up at 8:30am. Sunday they refused to nap as well, although both were rubbing their eyes and were clearly exhausted. Last night they didn't finally fall asleep until 9:30pm, another 2 hours of putting a kid back to bed over and over and were up again at 1am and then up for the day at 6:30am. Neither child has had a solid chunk of sleep in days. As usual, I seem much more tired than they are, but they are definitely tired, too.

It's hard as a parent when there isn't a time of the day that you get any sort of break. The day starts very early and goes until late, with no naps and no 'easy' bedtime anymore. As of yet, anyway. Prior to the room switch they were both going to sleep around 7 every night and I could keep Evie in her crib til at least 7am, so I had a break in the evening at least. Most days at least Eliana would nap. So now with kids not sleeping til 9:30pm or much later, waking up all night, and starting the day at 6.....not good. It's been 4 nights and really no improvement since night one. I am hoping this resolves itself quickly as I don't want to still be this exhausted and experiencing this level of frustration while also dealing with the crazy schedule of a newborn. 

You know on the movie Click, how Adam Sandler can freeze time with the remote? I have often thought, "man, if I could just do that....I could freeze my kids so they are safe and I know where they are and I could just...SLEEP." 

Those who say sleep is overrated has never been truly sleep deprived. I'm going on almost 5 years of it. Praying the nights get easier here soon!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

27 1/2 weeks

Life has been busy. That's an understatement. A 13 year old in baseball, a 4 year old, 2 year old, and then my own appointments and such. It's a lot. I'm trying to say no to things, but it's hard. It seems either I feel guilt and this sense of "I should be able to make it work" or the pressure is external with comments like this from other people, "well, I thought since you're only 6 months you could do it.../you're not due til August so I thought you could..." Yeah, that has seriously been said to me. UGH. Then I want to drop kick kindly chastise said people. There are only so many hours in a day. I only have so much energy. As it stands I am lucky if I have 2 nights a week not occupied by baseball. I believe the best use of my energy and time is that it's spent serving my own immediate family and caring for and raising my kids. Some people just won't get it, I guess. But, as a pregnant lady, it's been very frustrating. I pressure myself enough, so the outside ignorant comments are a terror.

I have a select few friends with 'large' families who understand how challenging it is having teenagers and toddlers at the same time. I am very grateful for their empathy and understanding. Most of the moms my age have only 1 small child and won't know for a decade what my life is like! Because I can only say this a few more months, let me remind you, I'm in my 20's!!! Ha!

Most days I feel pretty good. Yesterday was not a good day. Just so exhausted I could hardly drive keeping my eyes open and I was feeling really frustrated that my options for time alone or anything non-kid related are so very few and far between. Sometimes as a mom you just honestly feel a bit irritated at how much time and resources go to certain things. Then the phone wouldn't stop ringing or someone's iPad beeping, etc. I went in my room at 9pm last night to read and go to sleep...about 3 hours earlier than usual, but I knew I wasn't doing anyone a favor by staying awake. Not a good day.

I feel like I had more energy and more brain cells with my other pregnancies. But, it's really hard to compare. During my last pregnancy I just had a 2 year old to think about. There was no 7th grade homework, shuffling toddlers/bedtimes/a teenager. It's definitely harder having more people to keep up with and more that is required of me. Just making dinner happen every day is frustrating me. There is no wave of frenetic nesting energy. I am tired 24/7. Cranky pregnant lady? Yeah.

I hope I'm just in a slump and will feel better in a few days...not feel exhausted, frustrated, and apathetic for another 12 weeks. We have about 5 weeks of baseball season left, give or take with rain outs, and I think the reprieve of school being done and baseball being done will be very nice. Craig spends a good portion of his evening doing homework with Jacob or taking Jacob to and from baseball, so it's been hard for him, too. We just don't see each other much. And by the time we do at 10pm, we're so tired we have nothing to say. With quality time being my love language, this mama ain't feeling the love.

24 weeks

25 weeks

26 weeks

27 weeks

Pregnancy stats on 5/8/2013
Weight gain: Approx 18-20lbs depending on the day
Baby's size: over 2lbs now! He is a busy little guy and frequently kicks hard enough he's clearly visible on the outside. He kicked Eliana's hand a few times this week.
Pregnancy Symptoms: Freaking exhausted. Skin breaking out here and there. Feels like hips are spreading a bit. 
So far no cankles!

Health wise I think I'm doing really well. Other than the exhaustion, my body feels good. I feel huge most of the time, but my wedding ring is still loose, my rain coat is still huge. It's pretty crazy to put on coats/shirts/etc that were tight on me a year ago before losing weight and realize they are still huge on me now at 6 months pregnant. It's like, Geez, I was huge before! It puts my size now in perspective and helps me occasionally be gracious to myself.....even thought the weirdos around town might not be so kind with their comments. The comments pregnant women get are strange, right? I have had some incredibly kind and thoughtful things said to me. And then just 1 or 2, "wow, you are huge" comments and spent the entire day feeling embarrassed to be seen in public. I'm sure at least half of the angst the comments cause is hormone driven, but that's the world a pregnant lady lives in. Being much heavier during my other pregnancies made me look less 'pregnant', I think. Now that there's less me and more baby, I sure do get the comments. I'm seeing pregnancy from a whole different vantage point.

I will say that a very handsome older the kind of guy that nature has been kind to and has somehow aged like Alec Baldwin (yup, love him) or Richard Gere, told me on Sunday that I was "foxy". Made me chuckle but I really appreciated it. He wasn't hitting on me and he's old enough to be my grandpa, so it was a genuinely kind comment from a non-scary male. Thank you Mr. Way-Too-Handsome-For-Your-Age :)

My midwife is back in town from working overseas, so I'm looking forward to getting to know her. I've only seen a midwife 3 times so far this pregnancy and I think that's part of why I'm feeling frustrated, irritable and disconnected a bit. I need the relational connection in pregnancy that a friendship with your midwife creates. I'll be 28 weeks on Friday, so the every 2 week appointments should be starting soon, although I don't actually see her for another week. I feel like the holistic approach of a midwife helps refocus pregnancy and takes the attention off all the external crap- like the comments from people- and helps keep me focused on eating well, caring for myself emotionally, readying for labor, etc. I need that.