Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When Cry It Out Doesn't Work

What is a parent supposed to do when their child doesn't fit what is considered normal? It seems only a matter of time before we question ourselves and our method of parenting. It doesn't take long for others to weigh in and give their unsolicited opinions about why our child is the way they are and how what we've done or not done as parents is the cause. Then we circle right back to where we started; what do we do when our child doesn't fit what is considered normal? 

For me right now, it has to do with my youngest and his inability to sleep unless he is touching me. Just me even saying that out loud is usually met with eye rolls and comments like, "well I wouldn't be able to handle that/ I need my sleep/alone time." These comments imply many things like 1) I chose this by my parenting method, 2) I don't like sleep or alone time. Family members have told me to let him cry as long as necessary for as many days as is needed for him to "adjust", they've told me I have conditioned him to be this way. People seem irritated when I have to remind then yet again, for the 30th time, that evenings are very difficult for me to make plans and if you invite me to something I will probably decline as I will be home with a lightly sleeping baby on my lap. No I can't bring him with. He's a busy toddler and is exhasuted by 7pm. You want to see what that looks like at 8 or 9pm? I think not. No I can't pass him off to Craig. No I can't put him in my bed, his crib, the couch, or anywhere that isn't me for him to sleep. He wakes up the moment he is not in my arms. 

This has been my life for 14 1/2months. He has always been this way, despite me trying every method of sleep training and repeating it all every month or two. He doesn't sleep, cry it out, figure out his crib is lovely, or even tire of crying. Our ped says when he's tired enough he'll sleep and eventually he won't cry in his crib. But that seems like a far cry to our reality as in the last 30 hours he has only slept a total of 9 hours. Not anywhere near enough for a baby. He is terrified of his room now. He screams when I start walking back there just to change a diaper! I am nearly falling asleep while driving because I am awake hearing a baby cry for hours and hours. 

As exhausted as I am by him needing me SO much, I am almost more exhausted by feeling like I have to make excuses and justifications for my situation. I realized this week that the comments I frequently hear boil down to this- I am not a good mom. When you say, suggest, hint, or imply that he would be a "normal" sleeping baby if it weren't for me, you are blaming me for my situation and it hurts. When you berate me that "still? Geez, you need to just let him cry a bit", it doesn't help me. It makes me feel judged and isolated even more than I already am. It says I'm not a good mom because I have failed at something so basic as getting my child to sleep. 

Here's the truth. I am a very good mom. I have held him and laid cheek to cheek for him to fall asleep because to fall asleep. I have rubbed his head, held his arms tightly so he wouldn't sleep flinch (something he got from his dad), and breathed into neck because that insane closeness helps him fall asleep and stay asleep. I have protected him and kept him from falling off our queen size bed every single night for 14 1/2 months. I have gotten snacks, used the bathroom, recovered from surgery, and been very sick all while holding a sleeping baby and being as quiet as can be. I have given up girls nights, evening chores, hobbies, conversations with my husband or anyone else, just to keep my baby asleep and not screaming.

We have tried Ferber, CIO, Super Nanny, and all the stuff in between. What happens every single time is that each night is worse than the one prior. Two different times I've tried as many as 5 days, and at that point he cried the entire night. Literally, the entire night. He only stopped crying because the sun was up and I had to get him because the day was starting! He doesn't wear out and fall asleep. He gets so tired he looks sick. He yawns and falls over trying to play. What he doesn't do is fall asleep.

I think it's so incredibly difficult to be in my shoes. I never get a break. I can't put him down for nap and work on laundry or make dinner. I can't put him to bed and finish all of the things I didn't get to during the day. Instead, if it isn't done by 7pm, it won't happen. I clean, cook, shower, etc. always with a baby. No part of my day is time for me or time without a baby. My nights are the same. See? It's hard. Then we add to that equation the judgement from friends and family and it's just so draining. I feel like I have to make him sleep train and cry for hours and hours because, it must be my fault. I've made him this way. 

The truth is that he has been this way since he was born. I have tried numerous major efforts to get him sleeping alone and it's always a huge failure. I have raised 3 kids and he is the only one like this. I don't know how this will end or get better and that makes me worried at times. What I do know is that my job is to love and protect him and that is what I'm doing. Because that doesn't fit into the American way to parent, many don't understand it.

I wonder what life was like in Biblical times. I imagine that a family shared a tent and babies slept rightwith  their mama until they were old enough to wander off and sleep in a different corner/mat. This notion that babies are an inconvenience and must sleep isolated is a modern western theory.  

So, for me and my two dear birth group friends whose 14 and 15 month old babies also are like this, I offer love and grace and the expectation only that we love and protect our babies. The other expectations; that they'll sleep alone, that they won't wake up every hour, that they'll fall asleep before 11pm,etc, are hogwash.

If they require our arms to feel safe and to sleep, it's OK. 

*If you believe Cry It Out is a good method and what I should keep trying, I urge you to read this Psychology Today article-


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To My Future Self

The blog I write today isn't for pity or a cry for help. I'm writing because I hope someday soon I can look back on this phase of life with awe at what I went through. That life won't always be like this. For Pete's sake, I hope its not always like this.

My craptastic ovaries required surgery almost exactly 2 years ago. At that time a tumor was removed from my left ovary and my right heavily cystic ovary was 'cleaned' out. I felt amazing 24 hours after surgery. Like I was myself again. It was truly wonderful and I was in tears at how much better I felt and the knowledge that how horrid I had felt for months, if not years, was to blame on my ovaries. I was able to know I'm not just a mean, bitchy person. Several months went by and I slowly started feeling horrible again. But by then I was pregnant with our one and only natural pregnancy. I blamed the pregnancy for making me feeling crappy again. But it just got worse and worse. For a long time I thought I was just too traumatized from losing my dad the week after his cancer diagnosis. It was so wrong, so unfair, so deeply sad. I was 14 weeks pregnant and that compounded it all. Then the baby came and I continued to feel horrible. I started Zoloft and immediately felt emotionally better. I was able to look over offenses, not freak out about my kids' behavior, not require much, if anything, from my partner. I could coast and not feel like I was drowning every day. But I gained nearly 30lbs in 8 months. And the other side effects aren't lovely either; increased sweating, low sex drive/function, etc. I decided to stop taking it and after two attempts over a few months, I got off of it.

I think during the last year of all of this I had an increasingly ominous feeling that something was wrong with me. A couple months ago I told Craig I thought I was dying and wasn't sure if it was me just scared after losing my dad or what. A month ago it became very painful to use the restroom, get up or sit down, and intimacy had been painful for a very long time. Any normal person would just go to the doctor. I didn't because of a couple reasons. Sadly, I'd felt so horrid for so long that a small part of me wanted it to be a terminal disease so I could just be done with this miserable life. The majority reason was that I knew I would need surgery for whatever was found and it would take every dime we make for the next year or two or longer. I scheduled my annual appointment, the only thing insurance pays for, and planned to talk to my doctor about my many health concerns. Before that appointment arrived I required a trip to the ER. I thought I was dying. My hands, feet, arms, legs, and tongue went numb. I couldn't move them. I had such excruciating pain it was like a monster was in my right ovary with several knives just having at it. After an entire day in the ER, I had a diagnosis. A 12 1/2 cm growth in my right ovary. I hobbled home, in tears and feeling truly helpless. The next day I saw my Ob surgeon. We scheduled surgery for the coming Friday. I applied for financial aid from the hospital and knew that whatever the cost, I didn't have another option.

My ovaries hate me. They don't play nice, they don't behave fairly. Some genetic mutation causes me to have extreme PolyCysticOvarianSyndrome. It makes me gain weight and have trouble losing any of it, it predisposes me to depression, it causes facial hair growth, acne, etc. It means I never have a period (I've had one in my entire life). It makes huge and terrible cysts, and sometimes tumors, grow in my ovaries. It's a terribly mean disease for a woman. Yup, my ovaries hate me.

Because ovaries are a special environment where things are supposed to grow, namely egg follicles into eggs, the ovaries allow tumors and cysts to grow rapidly. Each cell of the tumors and cysts release hormones into their victim. The hormones mess with weight, mental health, and cause exhaustion, fatigue, and pain. This has been my life for almost 20 years, each year seemingly worse.

So I had surgery 2 weeks ago to remove the large growth and also the right ovary. Since then I have been constantly exhausted, moody, fatigued, not feeling like myself, and to add to the fun- my hair is falling out at the root, with the follicle still on it, and in clumps throughout each day. I used to have thick hair, now you can see my scalp. My pony tail is so thin.

I am asked, daily it seems, "how are you feeling? Great since surgery?" I wish I could say yes, but I honestly feel horrible. Every day. And I wish I could just snap out of it or will my body into being healthy, but it doesn't work that way. So now I am waiting for my post op appointment with my surgeon. She can't see me until the 20th, so it's been a long wait. We will do a blood panel to check all my hormones.

After surgery I started Wellbutrin, with the intent it would function like Zoloft but without making me gain tons of weight. I didn't feel much differently on it, but have since learned that Wellbutrin has an occasional and huge side effect of making it's patients go bald. Well shit, nobody told me that. It seems like if there is a horrid side effect besides death, it will happen to me.  So, I've stopped it at least until I can get in and have my hormones checked. It's scary and a blow to my already non-existent self esteem to be losing my hair. Plain and simple.

Amidst all of my health stuff, the kids passed around a puking bug and colds. Two of my children needed surgery and the baby had breathing issues after it. The fridge and freezer crapped out, which we discovered when getting out ice cream for my daughter's birthday party and the ice cream was like milk. And of course there's contract drama between the hospital and our insurance so now I'm looking at up to $40k of bills I have to negotiate between me, the hospital, the lab, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, etc. Fun, right? This morning I was able to access the statements showing what we owe. It bummed me out for sure. Then my daughter, who did not have surgery yesterday, puked in the car. It sort of feels like I'm living in an awful dream.

I haven't had a date with my husband since July. Before that it had been 7 months. The needs a woman has before she gets married, to feel wanted, pursued, loved, and to be conversed with, don't just go away after she's married. It's been an extremely difficult and lonely season of life. I feel like I have no right to be upset or to wish life was different, since I chose this life, right? I chose to get married and have kids. I didn't choose a genetic mutation, so maybe it's OK to be mad about that? I feel like any acceptance or verbal grievance about how hard life is makes me an ungrateful person. Seems like Christians are supposed to suck it up and be happy. Clearly that's terrible dogma. I don't feel that way and I certainly don't want my friends and family to hide their sorrow and pain.

The sorrow of the last couple years of my life lives deeply in me now and I'm not sure how to get it out. I find myself questioning a sovereign God, one that doesn't intervene. Can't he see I'm drowning? Why isn't he allowing me reprieve? He could heal me. He could heal my kids. But he doesn't. I know the theology...we live on a sinful earth ruled by satan and God's perfection won't be experienced until heaven. I know that, but it's still true that if God wanted to heal, he could. If he wanted to make my 14 month old sleep without having to touch me every second of every night, he could. If he wanted to give us great health insurance, he could. I'm not writing it all off or signing up for an alternative religion....I'm just being honest. Humans struggle. This is the human condition.

And I suppose the old adage, "if you have your health, you have everything", is kind of true. I don't have my health and it sucks.

Dear Future Diana,
I hope you have made it to the other side of this valley.

I can barely wrap my head around the message of this, but it's still worth watching: