Time to get some sleep: a prayer request

March 4, 2006 | Motherhood | 7 comments

I’ve never asked for prayers before in my life, but I’m currently in a stressful situation that I clearly cannot solve on my own, so I figured this would be a good time to ask for prayers…

I may have mentioned that my 18-month-old son is not much of a sleeper. And after 18 months of constant sleep deprivation, I have to do something about it. The main problem is that he never learned how to fall asleep on his own. I never taught him. I was so devoted to attachment parenting when he was born that I scoffed at the notion that that was something I should try to teach him. I figured that it wouldn’t matter since we were going to do the natural thing and just have a family bed if he didn’t like sleeping in his crib. We would be just like a picture I saw in one of the Sears’ books: Mommy and Daddy peacefully asleep with their zonked out little baby between them. If he had trouble going back to sleep I would just lean over and gently soothe him until he drifted off again.

I actually laughed out loud as I typed that last sentence. Man, that is NOT how the family bed has worked out for us. Most nights (like last night, for example) he thrashes around constantly while he is asleep. Around 4:00am his sleep cycles into that light phase and he wakes up and cannot go back to sleep until he’s at the point of exhaustion. Last night in between kicks to the stomach I got an hour and a half soliloquy about “doggy” and “helicopter” and “school bus” as he alternately crawled and rolled around. He didn’t go back to sleep until 5:30 in the morning. He usually insists that I face him, which inevitably leads to accidental kicks to my stomach, chest or face (he almost broke my nose once). If I roll over and face the other way he has a screaming meltdown and starts climbing all over me. My husband does what he can to help but if he prevents my son from being right next to me a total meltdown ensues. Also, he has a job that requires him to be “on, ” so more than a couple nights per week of him being exhausted just doesn’t work for us.

I mostly feel bad for my son. He doesn’t want to be awake all those hours every night, and I know it hurts his feelings when I’m short with him. I try to be patient but when I’m totally exhausted and it’s 5:00am and he’s been thrashing around and making noise for an hour and I get a strong kick to a sensitive part of my body, I tend to get extremely frustrated. Night before last I actually snapped, “Go to sleep, dammit!” And I knew that that’s when something had to change.

So tonight we’re starting sleep training. I feel so depressed about it because we’ve tried all sorts of things before and they’ve never worked. Also, I haven’t found any book that I think is both effective and humane (I think I have read every single book on the subject of baby/toddler sleep issues). The “no cry” books are so obsessive about the baby not shedding one tear that the advice isn’t very helpful (for us, anyway); but the other books just say “leave the child in his room to cry alone, he’ll get used to it, ” which is ridiculous.

I know that whatever I do will involve some serious crying on his part, considering that anything short of me lying on my left side so that I can face him and bear the brunt of his flailing hands and feet leads to major tears. I HATE to hear my son cry, it really, REALLY bothers me, so this is not going to be easy. Yet something has to give. My son and I are both constantly exhausted and I have to have at least some improvement to the situation before the new baby gets here.

Currently I have only two sleep training goals: a) that he learn to fall asleep with minimal intervention on my part, and b) that he sleep in his crib. I plan to sleep right next to the crib and will continue doing that indefinitely if that’s what he needs, but I just cannot share a bed with him any longer.

Anyway, that’s the long, rambling version of why I need your prayers. Please pray for me that I’m doing the right thing and am able to follow through, and pray for my son the this is not too traumatic for him and that he’ll finally be able to get the sleep he needs.

(Quick disclaimer: I don’t mean for this to be an anti-family-bed post. It doesn’t work for us, but I know a lot of people who happily use this sleep method with no problems.)

7 Comments

  1. SteveG

    First, the prayers are a certainty, but I am going to go a step further and pray in a very Catholic way so that 1) I can fulfill your request, and 2) to try to give some meaning to my own sleep trials. I am going to do what we call Offer it up for you and yours. This simply means I am going to offer the suffering I am experiencing in my own sleep trials as a sacrifice and prayer for you and your son during yours.

    Beyond that, we’ve already discussed this a few times, so not too much new to offer. But I did have one thought that you might want to explore since you are moving away from the family bed. It might sound silly, but it’s the closest thing that I’ve seen to a gentle cry it out method.

    My wife and I occasionally watch ‘Supernanny’ (don’t laugh) 😉 and I have to say, she’s really good. She has as gentle an approach to cry it out sleep training that I can imagine. It still involves a good bit of crying for a few days, but I have to say it seems extremely effective, and is not dismissive of what the child is going through. If we were to give up the family bed, it would be how we’d probably approach it. It may be worth checking out.

    She has a book out (can’t give my opinion since I’ve not read it) by the same name as the show. Don’t be dissuaded by the tough look on the cover. That’s all a marketing gimmick. She’s actually quite gentle and loving in action.

    If you don’t want the book (or want to wait for it), let me know, and I can give you the basics of how she approaches sleep training.

  2. Jennifer

    I have really enjoyed listening to Ave Maria radio. They have a show called the Doctor is In, featuring Ray Guarendi and Coleen Mast. If you have a moment I suggest sending them an email, calling in, or just listening. They take alot of calls regarding parent/child relations. Hope this helps. 🙂

  3. SmartBlkWoman

    I’m experiencing everything you are so I know how you feel. My daughter CANNOT get to sleep without me and spends half the night rustling. She has to sleep right up under me. Someone tell me how I ended up sleeping half-way off the bed of a king size bed and my daughter has about 90% of the bed to herself?

    I’ve tried letting her cry it out but I can’t bear it and since she is my first and only child I feel incredibly guilty if I don’t respond to her every need ASAP.

    I don’t have any useful advice but if you figure out some way to get your son sleeping in his own bed then please keep us updated. I need to figure out how to accomplish this myself.

  4. Barb, sfo

    I’ll be praying for you.
    My youngest (turning 4 tomorrow) is still a tough cookie when it comes to sleep. I think some kids just naturally ARE that way.
    If as you say he thrashes around a lot, maybe you need to get him a bed. He might need the space.
    Got no advice, but lots of prayers.

  5. Christine

    Jen, I will pray for you and your son. Chances are, he is miserable, too, but can’t figure out what is wrong. It’s really hard to train them to fall asleep alone. (My daughter was nearly 11 months old when I did it. She would cry, and I would occasionally go in and stroke her head, tell her I love her gently, and then firmly tell her she needed to stay in bed. I just wouldn’t pick her up. It took a couple of weeks, but eventually she just crashed out on her own.)

    Anyway, I haven’t got much aside from that – we weren’t going from a family bed, so my situation started differently, too.

    I will pray for you, right now, and I’ll try to offer up something for you. Hang in there, sweetie! This, too, shall pass.

  6. fox

    I have a suggestion for you which may help.

    They do sell those cribs that attach to the parent’s bed — that way the child will have his own space but will be by Mom and the Family Bed.

    You could utilize this attached crib to get him used to his own space. Then, keeping it in the same position (by your bed-side) close up the side rail so he is actually enclosed in the crib.

    Once he is used to being enclosed in the crib, you can (over several months) move it inch by inch out of the room until he is eventually into his own room.

    It may take a year or longer, but it doesn’t matter because as long as he is sleeping in his “own space” then you won’t have to worry about being kicked.

    Good luck to you!

  7. Tony

    Hi Jen,

    If you could see me, you’d see the T-shirt I’m wearing which says: “Been there, done that.”

    My wife and I have never been “family bed” proponents. We have always considered the bed the “marital bed”. When our youngest had to be trained to fall asleep on her own in her own crib in her own room, my wife said: “You handle it.”

    I did.

    I put her down in her crib and she stood there yelling. I kissed her on the forehead and said goodnight and went to our room. After a half hour if screaming, I went back in, and hugged her (didn’t pick her up or take her out) kissed her on her forehead and said goodnight. Went back to our room. A half hour later… lather, rinse, repeat. It took about 4 hours before she cried herself to sleep. The next night 2 and a half. The next night 1. The next night no crying.

    I think this is the case when dad has to be tough, though loving. Not angry. When I came in to comfort her for a couple of minutes, I let her know I loved her, I was in the next room and goodnight.

    YMMV.

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