Friday, October 8, 2010

coming full circle

all the things leon used to do, he's doing again. crying for over an hour nonstop. crying until he vomits. napping for less than an hour (in the car, in the stroller, in the bed, doesn't matter). it's like trench warfare, and we've lost ground again on sleep training. he demands 'mommy' at 10 or 11 pm instead of 2 or 3 am. he screams and vomits...i come and nurse him. he doesn't nurse during the day unless he's upset. he nurses continuously from when i go in at night until morning.

twice in the past week he's fallen asleep in my lap while nursing--at 6 pm. this is a boy who has insisted on falling asleep between 8 and 9 pm for the past 6 months, and never before 7.30 since he was 4 months old. the early bedtime (no dinner, no bath), plus the less than 1 hour nap (in the car, which was fool proof for nearly 11 months), and i'm about to fall apart. it's as if the small gains we made in the past 6 months make the setbacks that much harder to take.

my love is stretched thin. leon is a toddler. he's stubborn. he pushes against me, unable to articulate fully enough. his motor skills aren't good enough to use chopsticks or pull on his shoes. he's not quite ready for the toilet, but he's fed up with diapers, fed up with being carted around, pushed and prodded and dressed and undressed like he's a doll. i would be fed up, too. we're working on the motor skills, working on the steps to independence. he cuts his own cheese with a butter knife. i'm going to set up a water station as soon as i can figure out where to put it. i'm trying so hard, but i'm stretched thin. my love is stretched thin, and it makes me afraid. 


dp said...

i wonder if it has to do w/ the changing seasons. fluctuating temps + the length of days shaking up the rhythm, affecting his mood.

erica said...

i hope so, because i am really not ready for this new schedule!

Lena said...

whew, that sounds so challenging erica. of course i don't have any advice to give... but i wanted to say (again!) that your honesty is so amazing to read and it makes me realize that when i become a parent i won't have to act like everything is perfect.

Catherine said...

Oh my god, your last few sentences. I really feel for you. I still recall those times earlier on in Audrey's life where I didn't feel like myself. I liken those difficult times with a toddler to being micromanaged at work. No adult would tolerate it, but we have to because we are their mother.

Has Leon ever seen a chiropractor? I went a few months back (Lucy threw herself on my back and near broke it) and on numerous visits noticed babies and young children in for treatment. I know it could be anything, but maybe checking his alignment is worth a shot? I almost took Audrey and I so wish I took Lucy earlier on (she had a dreadful birth). I did actually ask the parents who were in with their children if they thought treatment was helping, and they said yes.

During those difficult moments, walking away for a bit always saved me (and ultimately them).

agoandiga said...

Dear Erica,

I feel for you. I understand I am a mom of two 23 months apart. My first was/is definitely more needy of his father and myself. We had him on a schedule from week 4, but as he matured (we felt that) we would regress as he became increasingly alert and aware of his ability to command attention. What can I say? Keep at it. When you feel frustrated take a shower and close the door. He is five now and smart as a whip. And he sleeps well. 12 hours a night. BUT he never sleeps in -- wakes between 6 and 7 a.m. every morning, weekends included. So some habits haven't changed. Every turn and new movement carries new celebrations as well as frustrations. I spent the last two weeks renovating his diet and reviewing a short list of rules on classroom etiquette with him! Too chatty at school -- so eliminating cow milk and juice (we were only serving "smoothies" made from organic fruit/veggies) and replacing it with water and almond milk; and adding an egg into breakfast he has improved. :D You are a champ and your boy is so bright. No one has a right to judge mothers until they step into those shoes. It is a calling, and your love (as thin as it seems right now) will carry you through. (ah, and my second... seems so much easier than the first... so much new emotion invested in the first.)

Mona said...

Parenting is challenging. I experienced a few tantrums today because we dared going to Harvard Square during Oktober Fest.

I bet that school will really help. My friend whose baby/toddler never slept started a preschool at 2.3 month and the school had made him a good sleeper: the activities, the other kids, the discipline that other caregivers have work. I cannot get a nap in with my 2.9 but she does it everyday at school: I walked in and saw it with my own eyes.

I think you have the most difficult until Leon goes to some tot program preschool. The paradox of parenting is that we do a better job happy and sometimes being happy does mean getting help from others. In the absence of a village, we pay for the experience in daycare and preschool.

Weaning will come with school too if you are both ready for that experience.

Christine said...

It sounds as though Leon is having trouble adjusting to the new schedule, namely you going back to work, and all the shakeups to his world that entail.

I agree with Mona about parenting being challenging. I also agree with agoandiga saying, "Every turn and new movement carries new celebrations as well as frustrations." Just when you thought you'd solved one problem, boom... there's another one. To paraphrase something I've read elsewhere, parenthood is not a straight path. It's more like a switchback trail - you take some steps forward, a few back, and even a few around the side, to get to your destination.

It sounds like a classic battle of wills when it comes to issues where Leon is accustomed to having his way (I suppose that's true for every toddler). Do you think changing tacks would help? For example, when he becomes demanding at bedtime, you could wait a bit longer than you usually do to check in on him. If he vomits, you could clean him up and begin again. As I type this, I realize that what I'm suggesting you do is to let Leon cry it out (I know that is not your preference). I suggest it only with the best of intentions, because it seems that as he grows older and develops the comprehension of how to command your attention, as well as the endurance to wear down your resolve, you may find it that much more difficult to handle the situation. As hard as the cry it out method may be, the latter may set you up for worse.

That is my long-winded solution to your problem (yes, I am often like this in person, much to my dismay!).

I agree again with agoandiga: "[Motherhood] is a calling, and your love (as thin as it seems right now) will carry you through." Couldn't have said it better myself. Smart lady, that agoandiga.

agoandiga said...

Erica, I was going to ask if you had discussed it with your paediatrician/ and if you are content with your paediatrician. Our doctor has been in paediatrics for 35 years so has seen all the trends in parenting... he is much like a grandpa to the kids and I value his advice so much. My Second seemed to vomit much more than the second. She vomits when she is startled and cries. She vomits when she coughs hard. It turns out she has a sensitive gag reflex. After discovering this, I did not feel as guilty when she started protesting bedtime so vehemently at around 15 months that she would make herself vomit (although I still naturally wanted to nurse her anger away). I would just clean her up with no words, put on new jammies, tuck her in again, kiss her on the forehead, close the door, and walk out. And would wait for her to start up again and we would do the routine all over again. She eventually learned that we would absolutely not play with her at sleep time despite the fact that nothing moved us more than her need for us. Sleep is so important to children (and adults) that the victory of watching her learn to put herself to sleep overcomes our anxiousness to soothe away her anger at not getting Mummy to rock her to sleep each time she wakes. She is a good sleeper now, but even at three, if for one night we let her fall asleep to music, she will scream bloody murder at 3 a.m. when she wakes and realises that the music is gone and it will take three nights to train her again to put herself back to sleep without music. If we give in to the "one more glass of water" (against our knowledge that she had enough to drink at supper) just before lights out one night, she will require it the next and the next. If we let her camp out in our room on Saturday night, she will refuse to sleep in her room on Sunday night and on Monday night. It takes three nights to correct our one give-in. I agree with Christine, kids are so smart -- they'd have us wrapped around their fingers if we let them. :D But check it out with a good time-seasoned doctor first, preferably one who is/has been a parent to little ones before. ;)

valerie said...

ohhhh erica. you must be exhausted. it's hard enough dealing with toddler tantrums with little to no sleep, but to be working as well...i can't even imagine. you are a good mama and it sounds like you are doing everything you can to get through the trying times. i hope it gets better soon. <3

melissa said...

oh erica, i'm so sorry. little hugh has had what seem like tantrums lately and i definitely understand the fear that he will fall apart any minute. someone also mentioned to me that it might be the changing seasons, so maybe they're something to what dp commented?

this weekend hugh was extremely fussy every morning, any little thing would set him off, particularly getting him dressed or putting socks on him. the worst incident turned into a 25-minute screaming/crying "tantrum" (? i still hesitate to call it that). i read about teething issues and emotional development/milestones around this age, but it was still very confusing. a neighbor suggested that maybe he was hungry and wanted to eat first thing. (after he wakes, our routine was to let him play for a few minutes and then change his diaper and clothes for the day, and then eat.) so this morning we fed him a banana right away, before changing his diaper. he didn't get upset this morning, so we're hoping that was it -- he's just needing a change to his routine and we're hoping it's just this small change.

anyway i do feel for you. hugh doesn't sound nearly as intense as leon, but i can imagine how awful and frustrating it is. i will say that hugh being in daycare has been really helpful for us. a friend's mom takes care of him and one other boy, so it's pretty ideal, but it gives us enough of a break that we can handle the toddler outbursts. and our day care provider says he hardly ever gets fussy with her. of course.

Dumbfounded said...

Hi I don't know you and don't even remember how I came across your blog. After reading almost your entire blog, i think you are very stressed and maybe have postpartum depression. Yes I am overstepping but I'm calling it as I see it because I can relate. You have a lot of work to do and a very high needs baby! I have a high needs baby and am a grad student and stay at home mom. Our babies have fantastic survival instincts--which is why they want so badly to be held, to stay close to the milk supply & close to safety. They cry hysterically after 5 minutes of us not being there because they are capable of connecting deeply with others and these things will be of great benefit to them later in life (check out Dr. Sears' website section on high needs). I wish you could enjoy your baby more. I dint think here is a sleep solution. As I type this, my baby's hand is on my belly. If I move or get out a laptop (I'm on an iPod), he will wake and cry and nurse. And he's 10 months old. We cosleep. I wear him constantly. I do my work when I can and say screw it when I can't. Don't know how much of that your situation allows but I wish you the best.

erica said...

thanks for all the comments and suggestions.

i do agree that my new work schedule + two days of full-time babysitting have affected leon. in general, he seems the same, and is very sweet with the nannies, but there's something going on. he's definitely better with more people around, so i'm counting down the days until he can go to a pre-school of some sort. we may try to enroll him as soon as next semester if we get a slot.

i haven't thought of a chiropracter, but i'll talk with my massage therapist, who has a chiropracter at her practice.

agoandiga, thank you for putting the situation in a more positive light for me. i feel it's a 'one step forward, two steps back' moment, but you're right, there are new celebrations to think about, too. my pediatrician is a non-interventionist. i wish i could change to a different practice, but our insurance means that we have to work with the university health clinic's offerings. i know leon has a sensitive gag reflex, but i haven't been able to deal with it appropriately at night. part of it is because matthew is the one with him when it happens, and for some reason i'm always called in as back-up, and a hullaboo ensues.

dumbfounded--i was in your boat 10 months ago, stressed but confident that this, too, would pass. after all, they're only this tiny for such a short time, and work and housecleaning could wait. now, at nearly 20 months, i am feeling a bit less relaxed about the situation. i still nurse on demand and take him everywhere with me in a carrier. i skipped job applications last year and didn't finish the diss., which has meant lots of financial difficulties. i cannot afford to not finish this year, so now i stay up until 2 am writing and working, which means only 4 hours of interrupted sleep every night. i'm exhausted, and i wouldn't deny that being a parent under these circumstances is depressing me, but my dr. sears' approved methods are no longer working. i'm hoping to find a middle-way for dealing with my intense boy.

mr said...

hi erica, i don't have any children of my own, but as a nanny and a person who spent a lot of time as an adult constantly surrounded by high needs children and often their parents in an alternative school setting, i have a few ideas...
do you have any friends or relatives who are available to watch leon in trade for you watching their children occasionally or doing favors in return? it seemed to help tremendously to evoke a sense of community for the parents; the child learns all kinds of different and exciting things from being around others, and the parent is able to feel that they are not alone in the struggle of raising their child... and children often save their worst behavior for the people they feel most comfortable around, their parents. i experienced this so much as a nanny and in the preschool. it is natural for a child to want to spend so much time around mom and dad, and in the past women mostly stayed home with their children and didn't work, which is not what i think of as ideal (balance between both parents is best), but if possible to keep him with you as much as you can while doing what you need to do for financial situations.
the last recommendation i would have is to try to understand that crying and vomiting are fairly common and the more calm and nonchalant about it you can be, the less he is likely to do it because he will realize that it doesn't get the response he is looking for. it is hard at this age because verbal communication is still developing but the sense of a desire for independence in choices is strong!
best of luck! i am a regular reader of a history of architecture and a member of general economy, i really enjoy your blog and i really hope this tough time gets less stressful asap!

Anonymous said...

I don't have any advice, but I do have lots of sympathy. I wish I could send you eight extra hours for every day (or night), a kindly robot middle-of-the-night vomit cleaner/hullabaloo preventer, and a bonus kindly robot to make tasty food and other gentle, soothing, supportive things for Matthew and you. And a more helpful pediatrician.

It must so hard to manage all this at the same time as the final push on a diss and everything that goes along with that -- but I do know and can say that that part really really will come to an end, and you will be incredibly glad when it does. Finally finishing the dissertation, once the shock has worn off a bit, is a wonderful euphoric drug. It will be amazing.

dp said...

lots of insights here already... just want to add something about grad school + baby- either on its own is incredibly intense. Together, well, there are no words.

My best description (although i stopped trying to describe it) was that it probably resembles combat conditions in that it's constant anxiety + extreme fatigue for a sustained period of time. Things got a lot smoother with my little one at 18 months ( wish that were the case with your Leon ). But, she's 2.5 now, i'm just about done with law school, & it seems like only recently have i actually re-entered my own body. It took about a year of good sleeping & then emotions regulated, familiar thought patterns returned, marriage improved, etc. 'this too shall pass,' is fantastic & true ... but you'll also never have to do this again. Not quite in this way.