Saturday, March 21, 2009

comfort level

Uncharted territory. Sleep training has introduced me to a new aspect of parenting: allowing (or forcing?) your child to be uncomfortable for the sake of his growth. Last night was our second night of what seems to me to be hard core sleep training, and it really pushed me to the limits of my comfort. It's like walking the edge of the sword, and it hurts. You're constantly evaluating your child, yourself, the situation... and if you're really not sure just how much you'll be able to do, it makes for a very draining experience, because you're not just holding the line - the line is its own living, breathing entity, and you are discovering it minute by minute, breath by breath.

Poor baby had a hard time last night. I am trying to get him to drift off without his binkie and without me bouncing him on the yoga ball. So far, we've already been able to completely eliminate the ball, which is astonishing. The binkie, though, is not so easily cast aside. The problem is, he can't put it back in his mouth. If he could, this wouldn't be an issue. He's been a thumb sucker in the past, and still does occasionally, so I'm to try to get him to think of his thumb, which is monumentally hard to do when he's upset. If I touch him, he thinks I'm going to pick him up, so the fact that I'm trying to guide his hand to his mouth seems very confusing. He has taken a little to sucking on the corner of his satin-edged blanket, but once he reaches a certain level of unhappiness, that's no longer good enough. So, it was an hour of trying to soothe him with my voice, with my hand on his head or chest, giving him his blanket or thumb, my pinkie (which caused further crying when I removed it). Hard stuff. I finally gave him his binkie, which made me feel defeated and like I'd caused him to suffer needlessly, which I don't actually believe, but in the moment, it felt terrible. I remind myself that when we're in the car, he does cry, and he also falls asleep without assistance. This is evidence that he can do this, it's just going to be somewhat uncomfortable. I happen to think it's my job to determine what is uncomfortable and what is distressed and panicking.

Later on in the night, he did really well. When he woke up at 11, I managed to keep myself away, and he only complained a little before finding his thumb and going back to sleep. And at 3 after his bottle, I laid him down so I could bounce Shogh, and he again fell asleep with absolutely no fussing after about five minutes. Pretty damned good. He's also had longer naps, so we're obviously progressing towards better sleep... it's just getting through the initial putting-down that is really testing me.

I think it's just one more way that this journey of raising twins has taken me away from the parenting style I always imagined having. That's not to say that I regret having twins, but there's just no way to form (at least there wasn't for me) in your mind a realistic expectation of attachment parenting for twins vs. a singleton. Even with all my childcare experience, I had no idea what it would be like, and just assumed that I could go on making decisions as I would have with one. Maybe if I had a husband in the picture, it would be different, but I'm not convinced of that, either.

I started off sleeping with the boys in my bed and loved it. It was so joyful, until it was just keeping us all up all night long. I never managed to tandem nurse with any success, and certainly not in bed. Today I'm having a king-sized bed delivered, but wonder if the boys will ever be able to sleep in it with me. Not that this is the absolute end of our journey with sleep, by any means... it just makes me sad to see how far from my ideal we've come. Attachment parenting isn't just where the boys sleep, nor is it about whether or how much they were nursed. It's a far broader concept, and although I don't limit my sense of my parenting style to one philosophy, I am probably closest to this one.

It's not all bad, by the way. During the day, the boys have become so full of life and personality that it's a lot of fun. We're doing a lot of laughing at their funny little antics, their sounds, their learning. Max is all about peek-a-boo, which Shoghi doesn't get in any way. He makes so many funny noises and laughs so easily... Little Mr. Social, he continues to be. Meanwhile, Shoghi is a little roly-poly, covering distance across the room. He's all physical activity: he does little baby sit-ups and crunches, he gets on his hands and knees and rocks back and forth, he rolls all over the place. It's a wonder to behond them, they are so different.

And so we continue... tonight I will not allow as much crying as last, knowing as I do my comfort level with it. Hopefully Max will move closer to figuring out how to calm and soothe himself for the initial to-bed lie-down. I'll keep you posted. Sorry if this post is all jumbled up - I'm pretty sleepy at the moment.


  1. I bet it just keeps getting easier. You're doing great.

    And I don't think this twin parenting thing could possibly be as any of us imagined. There's just really no way to prepare for it.

  2. I really agree with Tracy. There is no preparing and you are kicking so much ass. You blow my mind at every turn mama. Truly.

  3. Yes, twin parenting is SO MUCH different than a singleton! Now, I haven't had a singleton but I know my parenting would be a lot different too if I had just one. And in a way, I think I'm a better mom with twins... if I had one they would probably be spoiled... :-) with twins, you can't possibly spoil them - there isn't time or energy! They must learn to help themselves, to self-soothe, to be patient and wait sometimes. Overall, it will be good for them. But we still nurture and love them and they still find comfort in us, as well!

    You are an awesome mama to be helping your boys sleep better. Sounds like Max did great after the first laying down... are you using the 90 min sleep solution techniques? It's based on the premise that all of us follow a 90 min sleep pattern. We will most easily fall asleep 90 min after waking - or in any increment of 90 min. So if you can track what time Max wakes from his last nap, try putting him down 90 min (or 3 hours or 4.5 hours) later, exactly. This is when he's supposed to be most open to falling asleep. You're supposed to start the "winding down routine" prior to the 90 min mark...

    Maybe you're already doing this... but I've been experimenting with it today and mine fell asleep on their own perfectly for their first two naps. (Things got a little kiddywankus after that... it's hard to track 2 babies sleep timing AND feed them, etc.)

    Hang in there. You can do this! The first few nights will be the hardest but then you'll have Max on the right track to be a good sleeper for the rest of his life!

  4. this has been such a major hurdle- and an unexpected one! I think back to phone calls from, and then visiting while you & the boys were in MA and their sleep was *prefect*. I remember how confident and reassured you were that they were sleeping nights.

    Since coming back, moving, cutting teeth, not to mention all of the sensitivity detective work with Max, there has been 4 weeks of intensity. Adding to that babies that wake up all night long and the fine balances were destined to crumble.

    I'm so proud of you for the incredible show of determination I've seen this week. I know you have had some dark moments of indecision, frustration and worry where it seemed like nothing would work, or that your parenting style was in jeopardy. Days later, it feels as though you and Max have crossed a bridge together, that trust IS there, and the line where this experience is comfortable has clearly found its place in your heart.

    You guys are upstairs snoozing away after I dropped off Max, not a moment of concern or crying in his transition to a nap. You've got to know what power there is in this house right now, this shift is big big big time. What a change, mama! What a gift!