Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ella's Birthday, Sleep-Training, and My Sanctification

It's that time of year again when it's almost Ella's birthday.  Last night we were looking at ideas for invitations to her party, and she said, "I really liked what you designed for my party last year, so I think I can trust you for this year."  She said it with such sincerity and spunk.  I love her.  

I woke up with the rain at 5:20 a.m., thinking about her as a newborn, forcing my mind to remember things about that time.  It seems like it was fleeting and fast, even though I spent every waking moment with her in the solitude of our townhouse, reminding myself to enjoy these moments because they would pass so quickly.  They did.

Ella was sweet and precious, not fussy, an excellent nurser, but I lost so much sleep in the first year of her life, and in the early hours of this morning, it all came back to me with startling clarity.  I remembered my sobs, how each morning I felt so horrible I thought I would die, and I had no idea how I'd make it through another day with no sleep.  

All the books said that newborns slept 16-18 hours a day, but a longer nap for Ella very rarely happened.  Most of the time her naps were only 30 minutes at a time to the minute.  When my day started there was no chance to "nap when your baby naps!" like all the books said.  I'm not a napper anyway, and knowing that at any moment, my drifting off to sleep could/would be interrupted with hearing her cry discouraged me from even trying most days.  To this day, if I am repeatedly awakened while trying to go to sleep, I completely overreact and freak out because I can still remember the terrorizing, helpless feeling of being awakened every single time I closed my eyes.  It was awful.

But look at how sweet she was.  She was really sweet!  I loved her so much.  It took me 7 months to finally come to my breaking point, to admit that I couldn't live with 5 hours of interrupted sleep a night, broken into 2-hour segments.  One night when KJ was working the night shift, I went in her room at 11 p.m. when she woke crying, patted her on the back, told her I loved her, but it was night-night time, and left the room.  She cried for 45 minutes.  I repeated the same thing the next night, so anxious and hating it, but trying to hold out for both our sakes.  I'd read that sleep-training only grew harder as they got older, and I was at the end of my rope physically.  I think she may have cried 30 minutes that night, but the next morning she slept in really late. And it was magic.  She learned how to sleep on her own, and from that night on, she slept uninterrupted for 12 hours at night, and for a bonus, it fixed her napping problem, too!  Her naps went from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, and it was the biggest weight off my shoulders.

I'm totally digressing with my sleep-training story.  In those first two months we were a long way from that.  I was just a tired but deeply in love new mama.  And she was the happiest, most joyful little baby.  She just didn't sleep.  But guess who she's like:  me.  

And just think, if she'd been a model sleeper, I would never have discovered Netflix, and secretly got excited when she'd wake up needing to nurse in the middle of the night, because if we were going to be awake, we might as well watch Jack Bauer save his wife and daughter while we were doing it.

At the end of the day, the real lessons I was learning in the furnace of a year with no sleep, was how to lay my life down for someone else.  Motherhood stretched me more than I'd ever been stretched before, brought selflessness and giving to the forefront of my life every moment of the day and night.  And by God's grace, I am different now than I was in my first year of mothering.

The line that came into my head after writing that was:  "With miles to go before I sleep, with miles to go before I sleep."  Ha!  Yes, I still have many miles to go, and my sleeping habits have never been the same.  

She was worth it.

P.S.  Upon proofreading this post I saw the irony that almost every picture is a shot of Ella asleep.  I'm sure I was taking the picture because it was such a rare occasion.

1 comment:

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