Monday, January 17, 2011

Sleep: the final frontier - (or, alternatively, learning acceptance by sleeping in the play pen)


This is, in many ways, a mommy/daddy blog entry... Loosely formed around the topic of sleep training a baby. I may discuss bodily fluids, boobs and other such exciting sub-topics at will, as these and other such things quickly become central in your vernacular the minute you pop a baby into the world! So, if you are not into to it STOP READING NOW.  That said, I encourage you to read on. Especially if you are not a parent but hope someday to be one, and also if you are just a person who has had to meet challenges head-on in life. You know, the kind of challenges you cannot walk away from? This blog entry is, most importantly, about Acceptance, in the purest sense, so, if you are not a mommy (or parent) you can continue reading and still gain from the experience. It also is bound to be a funny one ;)

My first born is pushing a year. If you are a parent you will relate with my feelings of dread when the much anticipated question arises, "so, is he/she sleeping through the night????".  My face instantly turns a pale shade of grey, my natural sunny smile morphs into a plastered on 'happy face'. With the somewhat 'forced' positivity only a new love-struck parent can muster under the circumstance of approximately 4 hrs of sleep, a night for almost a year (and may I add these are often interrupted sleeps) I respond, "oh no, but we are being flexible with our little one...", or "we are trying new things", or something equally as vague.
Let me now interpret the true meaning of such statements. I am a wimp. I cannot STAND the (incessant) crying. I cannot bear to see my baby 'sad', 'lonely', or 'in need', as this is how crying registers to my semiotic senses. Many a wise parent has told me I am crazy (as if I didn't already know that, people!!??). They've told me that unless I want to be getting up 5-7 times a night until my kid is 7 years of age, I need to take charge (may I remind you here that one of the translations for the word "Yoga"/"Yuj" (in Sanskrit) is "to take charge") and do something about this. They explain that I am training the baby to sleep through the night. That all humans innately wake multiple times a night and all humans had to train to return to sleep eventually and sleep through. I get it... Yet, somehow, without much recognition of my own actions, I have dodged this 'bullet' with the deep dread of a wild Jack Hare pursued by the Hunter. I have elusively avoided sleep (the topic, the action..) much, MUCH, longer than many of my friends in parenting circles I roll with, in hopes that the Universe will intervene and offer me an easy out. It's not happening. I tried convincing my husband that HE had to do the dirty work; that the baby just won't sleep with me because I.AM.FOOD... If you are interested my mama(lian) friends, I will be making t-shirts that read this above truth, each with one giant burger over each breast, for all other unsuspecting new moms who thought breastfeeding would be a loving 'side-thought' in your days as a newbie mom (I recall telling another mom, prior to having my baby that I would just be BFing and giving him bottles and, you know, it would be no 'biggie'...Erin,  if you are reading, I am eating my words, no pun intended. LOL). NEWS FLASH!!!!! from one breastfeeding mother to the next, for the next 6-12 (to 24 or 36...) months you are the most delectable, morceau on the open market and that is what you ARE. 24/7 'round the clock all-you-can-eat-buffet. Suck it up. Anyhow, I digress. Let me return back to my other favorite (not) topic; Sleep. They are very entwined, these two topics but sleep has been my biggest parenting challenge and so lets focus on this for today.

I have moved through different stages of acceptance (or lack there of) when it comes to sleep (training) a baby. For the first several months, I did not believe that sleep (training) was needed. I was a 'la-di-da' attachment parent who thought that sleep was 'over-rated'. It is rather enlightening, once you do in fact embark on a journey of parenting a sleepless/sleep-little child, how very little sleep us Mothers can exist and function (albeit sometimes quite sloppily) on. Remarkable creatures we truly are! I say Mothers because, in my experience, they are the ones getting up for the 'post-motem' shifts. Sorry brothers from other mothers, if you are out there, feel free to pipe up in a response below, but thus far, I see the mama's lurching to attention when the desperate cries come through the milky darkness at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 a.m. So, this is exactly what I did for about six straight months. My parents called me "The Rocket-Part Deux" (my older sister was known as the original rocket). I would be up and out of bed to scoop up the little one in seconds flat, multiple times a night, every night. I was there. Easiest way to get a baby back to sleep? Feed, Feed, Feed. So it was all Feed and Sleep and Wake and Feed and Sleep for the first little while. When this pattern was broken up somewhat by the introduction of solid food (which, incidentally, sometimes comes with the promise of more sleep... do not believe the hype!!!???) it was like coming out of a drug-induced coma. I was still here! Wow!

Things got easier then, but, still, my fired-up little baby was not having it... Didn't you know? Sleep's just NO FUN AT ALL! Why would you want to sleep when you spent 6-8 months lying on your back and now you can go, go go!!!!
Nope. Mama and baby were still sleepless in suburbia. My next stage of acceptance (or lack there of) was that something had to be done. I got stuck here for sometime. Something had to be done... but, what? and how? Have you ever felt that way about a challenge or a problem? I think we all have at different times in our lives, come across a challenge that left us at 'loose ends'. Well, it had been awhile since I had to meet one of these lingering dilemma's head-on but this was one of those said-dreaded moments. I was petrified, literally, by what? A little crying, a tiny baby? Yup. My next stage was guilt. How can I be thinking of letting my baby '(not) go gently into that good night'? and Rage, Rage he does, believe you me! I had read a million and one books on attachment parenting (probably to encourage my fading feelings of solidarity as I grew ever more exhausted) and I was feeling really BADLY about the inclination I had towards 'forcing' sleep on my child. My stages of acceptance were flip-flopping between being committed to a cause (attachment parenting/random family bed sharing) and trying to see the forest for the tree (why, WHY? is it so bad to sleep, or train your kid to sleep? Is it so bad? Maybe no?).

So, lets cut to the chase... I am still somewhat in the guilt stage but I am also soon-to-be a working mama, with a super demanding day job (some of my 'clients' look for weakness and go for the jugular!) and I cannot, will not endure on the (lack of) sleep I have been able to beg, borrow and steal from the first 9 months of parenting. So, what now? Well, here is where Yoga, my age-old friend who never has failed me, enters stage left. I am my own sleep Doula, as I cannot afford $800 for someone to come to my house and sleep under the crib for 3-5 days to train my kid to sleep. I need to call on my powers of meditation (another mama in my circle suggests ear plugs!) to get through the dreadful night of tremendous screaming and fits. It's hard. Only, people who are not parents would suggest otherwise. I believe Mothers are hard-wired to have a chemical response to this sort of sound from their child. The number of times I have heard from a non-parent type, "can't you just let him cry it out?" makes me chuckle. Mostly, because I remember that not too long ago I was once a non-parent type too, and to answer the collective question, no, you cannot, and even if you did, it wasn't "JUST, letting the baby cry". It was hard. So, when things get hard, I/we must practice Acceptance. For me, to truly understand where a challenge is coming from, and as a experiential being, I must 'live' the problem, feel the feeling through, JUST DO IT. I must get down level to the challenge and check it out from all angles. So, the other day, in a moment of mad invention, I go INTO the pack n' play!!!! Yes, right in there with the baby... Someone write the company, that thing can hold either 10 plump babies or one 160 pound woman! made to last ;) I learned a lot in there... I learned that under the window there is a COLD draft (time to move the pack n' play). I learned that its a little bit alienating to be left in the corner of a room, in a mesh-sided pen, while you can hear everyone else 'having fun' in the other room, (time to readjust schedules so the baby can nap in relative quiet), I was reminded that, when the Universe delivers you a challenge you NEED to get creative, and that challenges don't just 'go away' if we ignore them. They are put here as 'opportunities' for us to learn, change and transform. To quote my Grandfather (R.I.P.) "there is always more than one way to skin a cat". So, much like when I am on my Yoga mat, practicing a difficult arm balance like 'Crow Pose'/Bakasana, especially post-partum as many of my poses have been transformed by pregnancy, I try, try and try again. Different approaches to seeking balance, different approaches to falling out of the pose... different approaches to sleep training my child. Tt's just life, baby, and its you and me together on this ride! If you come to a Yoga class as a beginner, and you are daunted by poses that seem too challenging, too 'hard' to handle, I hope you will think of my real-life tale of parenting as a reflection of what happens on the mat. There is a saying in the yoga community, "what happens on the mat, does not STAY on the mat". Life is Yoga: Yoga is Life. Wanna T-Shirt? I'll make you one ;)


  1. Awesome post!!! I promise you WILL sleep again! Really, you will.

  2. yup. you will. not a peep outta my little one last night. the big one, well, that is another story! and there is much in the above that i could discuss at length. sigh. if only i had more than 4 mins to myself to think...

  3. ha! i know @ andifitz, this may be a short-lived blog as i am returning to work in 2 mths! i'll wait to hear more from you when you get time. thoughts on getting in the play pen? lol. I've got pics to prove it, just gonna put a radial blur on the kids face and then i'll pop one on here ;)