The Science of Sleep

What have I done that has allowed such trauma into my 7 and a half month old’s life that he has resorted to such awful screaming fits when he’s confronted with the need to sleep but not met with the ability to fall asleep within the first five minutes?  Doodle, my lovely son, the one everyone tells me is such a happy boy, that even when he’s fussing, wizened mothers will note that he really does want to be cheerful he’s just tired, is these days having such fits that he sounds like he’s dying and he’s pretty sure it’s me who’s killed him.

We have always struggled to a certain extent with his sleep.  I discovered very early on that a tired Doodle was not an Doodle you wanted to spend time with.  People at church thought he was such a happy baby because it wasn’t really until after lunch that the shortness of his morning nap (he would get a catnap during music practice) caught up with us all.  But we made it through, we found a schedule and once I started guarding it a little more carefully our night time sleep started to make progress as well.  With the exception of the fact that he seems to think 5:30 am is a perfectly acceptable time to get up for the day, I would say we were doing pretty well.  That was my problem, I got complacent.

Lately, there have been times, such as  2:20 (a mere 20 minutes into an afternoon nap) or 5 am (definitely not an acceptable wake up time in this house) or tonight at 6:45 (bedtime is 6:30) where this wonderful little boy that I’m growing so fond of has made me want to pack my bags and move out.  Part way through tonight’s escapade I realized I didn’t have his lovey in the crib and left to go get it.  It was only 6:50!  A whole hour of screaming had somehow crammed itself into 5 minutes.  How is that possible?!  My husband is a physicist, I’ll have to ask him when he gets home.  Yesterday, with the nap, I ended up storming out at one point and slamming my door and screaming into my pillow.  Then feeling 100 times the horrible mother I went back and picked him up and rocked him until he calmed down.  He never did go back to sleep that day, we just rocked away the rest of nap time and finally gave up and went and watched an episode of Charlie and Lola (more for my sake than his I think).

This morning’s 5 am routine I gave up.  (Thinking back at the clock display I have a sneaking suspicion it had only been 7 minutes, but I astutely ignored that)  I felt horrible because the Rocket Scientist is fighting a cold, but I just could not stand over his crib rubbing his tummy in what should have been comfort but was swiftly turning into fury and I certainly could not pick him up.  For much the same reason.  I desperately wanted my son to be comforted, but I was too angry to do it.  So the Rocket Scientist took over and picked him and soothed him back to sleep.  It took half an hour and he stayed asleep for maybe 15 minutes once he was put back in his crib.  Meanwhile I was up anyway, looking up temper tantrums and sleep in 8 month olds.  Turns out they don’t really have true tantrums at 8 months, they just have one way to express frustration but at this age, they’re suddenly realizing they have a whole lot more to be frustrated about.  Great.

Tonight though, something interesting happened.  He was throwing his fit, I was standing there, tummy-rubbing.  No one home to tag off to, and I was bound and determined not to give into my own little hissy-fit again so all I could do was stay there and try to breath and marvel at the fact that only 5 minutes had gone by.  When suddenly, he stopped.  He went from full-throated, my-mother-is-a-horrible-person-who-is-trying-to-kill-me screaming to…nothing.  Not even the hiccoughs that stayed for so long when I rocked him the other day.  If he hadn’t been turning his lovey over and over, I would have thought something was wrong.  He looked at me, calmly accepted his soother (pacifier for all you Yanks out there) and closed his eyes.  I watched for a little while, not even remembering to rub his tummy I was so astounded, and then finally snuck out.  I could hear him moving his lovey around a bit longer on the monitor, but it’s now an hour later and there’s been no relapse.

Maybe God just knew I needed to not come away from another sleep struggle feeling like a horrible mother.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

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