My baby's finally sleeping well, so why am I depressed?
As some of you may know, he's been sleeping in our bed since he was born. He ended up there because, from the day he was born, he has always flat-out refused to be put down in any approved baby receptacle -- crib, bassinet, swing, bouncy chair -- but it was fine with us once we got used to the idea. In fact, we loved it. Sam could nurse on demand and I barely had to wake up. We all slept deeply and well.
And then Sam turned four months and it was like someone flipped a switch. My formerly sound sleeper turned into a wiggly grouch who demanded to nurse every hour. Not only that, he demanded that his naps only happen in our bed, with me cradling him in my arms. Since he's such a great little guy, I was willing -- if not always happy -- to comply.
I've been in denial about our problems for the past five months. Oh, I'd surreptitiously read a sleep book or two, and maybe even complain about the situation on my site, but I couldn't let myself truly believe we had a real problem that wasn't going to magically fix itself. I was definitely projecting my own hang-ups about sleep. I've had on-and-off chronic insomnia my entire life, and it's not pretty. I'm not one of those gleeful insomniacs who go around proclaiming that they love their condition because they get so much stuff done at night. No, I need my eight hours a night. I didn't want to believe that Sam could be veering down the same off-ramp on the sleep highway, and worse, I didn't want to believe that my inability to come to terms with the situation was enabling the problem to worsen.
There was no sudden dramatic event that made me open my eyes and know that I had to finally make changes. It was just the cumulative effects of watching my husband go to work each morning with deeper and deeper circles under his eyes, of seeing Sam's sleep schedule continuing its erratic ways, and of acknowledging that my own fatigue was starting to take its physical toll on me.
I won't get into the minutiae of how we did this "sleep training" but I'll just say that we armed ourselves with a lot of theoretical literature, a lot of awesome advice and support from a cadre of parents we respect and admire, and a firm plan that we'd both developed and agreed upon.
Still, we expected the worse. Well, I can't speak for the mister, but I -- deep down -- expected things not to work at all. I had firmly entrenched myself in the belief that my boy was going to fall into the category of 0.01 percent of kids with severe physiologically based sleep issues.
I know. What an optimist, huh?
Anyway, despite my secret misgivings, I was determined to follow the rote and stick with it because then at least I could say I'd tried everything. And then I could go hide in the basement and despair.
But -- surprise! -- everything went well. Not great, but well. Really well. Much, much better than I would have expected even if I were one of those cautiously optimistic people you hear about. We were shocked. We're still shocked. When we tell other parents, they're shocked. That's how well things went.
So why am I depressed? Because I am. As much as I know that this is all for the best. As much as I'm happy for Sam that he seems (let's knock wood here) to have dodged the genetic bullet of his mom's sleep issues. As much as I know that Sam had to get out of our bed eventually or else risk turning into Buster from Arrested Development.
I've been trying to think of why, and the potential reasons are numerous. Because it's evidence that my baby is growing up and will eventually leave. Because I've spent the past 18 months connected with him pretty much around the clock. Because, given that he sleeps 14 or 15 hours a day, I now only see him for 9 or 10 hours out of every 24, and I miss him; it feels indescribably weird to be sitting alone in the living room while my husband is at work and Sam is sleeping in his room. Because I no longer get to watch his sweet sleeping face, turned up to mine like a flower to the sun, for hours on end. Because now I'm back to my solo battles with insomnia. Because I'm having a minor identity crisis, in that for the past 9+ months I've been 100 percent invested in being Sam's mom and now I'm reminded that, as he becomes more and more independent, I need to make sure my identity isn't subsumed by my mom role. And I kind of worry that I've forgotten whole chunks of who I am and how I used to be.
All these feelings are selfish, I know, but they're my feelings and they won't be reasoned with. I don't know what else to do with them other than tell you about them. I can't say I feel better, exactly, but maybe writing about them is a step toward feeling better.