I can’t sleep, and I can’t write.

My functional routine is shot to pieces, and this new, dysfunctional routine that has taken its place is pissing me off. I haven’t slept well for weeks, not since my baby started sleeping through the night.

At first, I didn’t sleep at night, at all. I would fall asleep around the time my family was getting up, and sleep through the afternoon. Now, I’m waking up a little earlier and falling asleep at reasonable hours, but waking up around 11:00 pm, falling asleep again at 6:00-ish. And waking up a little earlier in the afternoon. I can’t get anything done.

I don’t know what is happening with me, and that might be what feels most uncomfortable. I usually pinpoint the sources of my anxieties and ruthlessly cut through them, or at least make enough progress to stop the anxiety from interfering with my daily life. There was conflict with two different people who are close to me, and I had the difficult conversations. I opened my mind, and my heart, and it felt great. I was surprised, relieved.

I talked to my therapist.

I cut out any caffeine after 2pm.

I tried to have more of a bedtime routine.

I tried falling asleep with the baby.

I tried doing nothing, while laying there, awake. I tried reading. Then I tried reading. I tried reading less exciting books. I tried watching TV. Less exciting TV. Playing games on my phone or kindle. Boring games. I sometimes think it’s working, but then it turns out that it’s just 5:30 or 6:00 am, as usual.

I woke up around midnight. Tonight, again.

I should take Benadryl or something to help me sleep, but I am so tired, that I haven’t remembered to find some until it’s too late.

I am going to New York tomorrow, to read from my essay in The Good Mother Myth. I want so desperately to be well-rested. Maybe I’m anxious about that, tonight. I’m hoping that with the celebration and the excitement, I’ll finally sleep, in the bed that Nathan’s mother so sweetly keeps for us, in New York. Maybe the insomnia will shift away, and disappear, the way it arrived.

The glow from the TV. PBS, because the silence is creepy and I don't want anything too exciting.

The glow from the TV. PBS, because the silence is creepy and I don’t want anything too exciting.

Night Weaning for Sanity

Walt is fifteen-months-old today! And last night, he celebrated by sleeping from 8:00 pm until 6:00 am. Less than a month ago, he was waking up five times a night. How did we get here? Thanks to the advice of Jessica Weber, of the popular blog The Leaky Boob, and her advice to look into Dr. Jay Gordon’s night weaning method. Dr. Gordon is a pediatrician who offers a way for parents who share a bed with their baby to teach our kids to sleep for longer periods in a short, free article called, “Sleep, Changing Patterns In The Family Bed.” This seemed like a Godsend for us, deprived parents (meaning: no attention span, no short-term memory) who share a bed with our baby because he will not sleep anywhere else. And it has been. Oh, what a blessing!

Essentially, we did everything Dr. Gordon describes in his article, which comes down to teaching Walt that his preferred sleep pattern, one that included nursing every few hours, was not working for me. As the phrase “night weaning” suggests, we used Dr. Gordon’s technique to teach Walt to sleep without nursing. We were supposed to comfort him a little bit less, in stages, until just some “shushing” and a few pats were enough to put him right back to sleep.

I know. I was skeptical, too.

It wouldn’t be easy, and it would be loud. He would be angry. Reading about Jessica’s experience told me that this would probably be true, but also worthwhile.

Then, as he has done so often, my child shocked the heck out of me with his gentle, adaptive response to whatever curve life throws at him–he fussed and cried, but from the very first night, he slept longer than he ever had. Disclaimer! Our experience does NOT seem typical!


Nathan and I discussed our schedule and chose a seven hour window, 11:00-6:00, as suggested by Dr. Gordon, during which Walt would eventually not be allowed to nurse. This would be the “weaning” at night, and the no-nursing rule would appear at exactly 11:00 pm and disappear at 6:01 am.

Night One– I tried nursing him when he woke up, but didn’t let him fall asleep nursing. I switched to holding him and rocking him, but staying in bed, after a few minutes. I didn’t let him nurse after stopping until after he had fallen asleep and woken up again. Cue major heart ache as he looked up at me with big, fat tears and signed for “more” over and over. My saving grace? The sign for “wait,” something our babysitter taught him when he started asking her for breastmilk! (I know, I haven’t told you about hiring a babysitter. I will.) I saw understanding in his eyes, and his crying lessened to a disappointed whimpering. Besides being able to communicated “wait,” in whatever way Walt understands the concept, it helped enormously that Nathan and I were doing this as a team.

The next day, we talked it over and agreed that nursing a little bit, but stopping him before he fell asleep, had seemed confusing. Maybe this works better for babies who are always told “yes” by Mom when they ask to nurse. I will use the “wait” sign myself, however, when I want to finish a task, so I thought that a familiar event, even if at an unfamiliar time, would be easier for my sleepy baby to understand than the entirely new experience of being cut off from the breast before he was ready. I don’t do this, mostly because, rather than watching me sign “milk, all done,” he just starts playing. I don’t know how someone as highly strung as I am has such a laid back kiddo, but here we are! He only minds being interrupted if he is nursing during naps or bedtime.

The Other Nights When He Woke Up– things did, in fact, improve when I just started asking Walter to wait if he woke during the time we had designated as Night. They improved so dramatically, in fact, that I can’t remember which were the nights he woke up and stayed awake. I nursed him to sleep when we put him to bed, and every time he woke up before 11:00. He cried when he woke up, but he didn’t even seem angry. I held him in my arms. We both sang songs to him. He lay between us, and we took turns falling asleep mid-lullabye, trying to stay awake to keep any sort of rhythm to our pats on his back.

Most nights, he has stayed awake. The last few nights, he has seemed to really learn the schedule; his eyes have popped open within five minutes of 6:00 am. I, on the other hand, have hardly slept. I’m so anxious about sleep and sleeping, suddenly! My kid is adjusting better than I have! Explain that, please. I can’t.

I’m less exhausted, though, because a well-rested child, and nights spent reading, if not sleeping, are a HUGE improvement. It will be two weeks on Tuesday since we started this journey, and it feels like a month. But only for me–as I said, my husband and child had a pretty easy time, despite my sudden insomnia.



Bring it, 2014!

2012 was the best year of my life (giving birth? yeah, I rocked that). 2013 gave it some good competition (published, times two, thanks very much). 2014, what are you all about? Well, I’m giving you a theme.

Background info: I read a post over at my friend Diana Stone’s blog about how she had chosen her “word” for the year. I had heard of this idea, before, but not until it seemed a little late. The idea is really that either instead of or in addition to resolutions, you meditate on an idea for the year. A sort of theme. I didn’t want to force it, but when a word came to me, I grabbed it.


These past two years have been so much about STUFF–doing stuff, packing stuff, moving it, unpacking it, organizing it, cleaning it. Well, the baby, his stuff (babies come with so much STUFF in our culture!) and my work, both in writing and in HypnoBirthing, have arrived. It’s time to simplify. There is so much great groundwork, here, in our home, and I don’t want to lose all the work we did with the professional organizers. I have some ideas. But as this mothering thing, and my TWO other careers, get going, and Nathan gets down to writing his dissertation, I want to make sure that we keep life as simple as possible. I am looking around at my desk right now, and there is mess. I’ll write more about what I plan to do about it, but today, here is my plan for what I will NOT do: beat myself up. Thinking of all the ways I suck and could and should do better? Not simple. Comparing myself to other moms? Not simple. I am not just saying what I am about to say to sell more books, even though selling more books would be nice:

The other essays in The Good Mother Myth are keeping me on track, with the comparison thing, and keeping me focused on MY family, MY motherhood and MY life. In fact, my dear friend known online as Jane, gave away a copy she purchased, because this book has been so good for us. We are calling it “the book cure.” Anxious about mothering? There’s a mom whose story will make you feel like you are doing ok. Not by comparison, but because honesty fills these pages. You can’t read honest writing about motherhood, the nitty gritty parts of motherhood, without realizing that your own internal monologue about The Shoulds is all made-up nonsense. These poem/song that goes with my word is an American song, very old, rumored to be Amish in origin.