Experiments, Failed and Otherwise

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Life is an experiment.

And thus, when we created a new life, we decided to try some things. We used cloth diapers, and they worked. We opted not to feed her cereals, and today she’s healthy and eats a whole lot of sweet potatoes, yams, and squash instead. We tried to exclusively breastfeed…that didn’t work out so well. And we also thought we’d try a floorbed.

Which worked.  Until it didn’t.

We are blessed with a mobile baby. She rolled over early, sat up early, and started crawling way, way before the milestones said she should be crawling. She was standing with assistance before nine months, cruising a week later, and can hold an unassisted stand for a few seconds before she has to grab something or sit down. It’s basically only a matter of time before she’s toddling around the house. I’ll be shocked (shocked, I say) if she isn’t doing it by her first birthday.

We were also blessed with a strong home sale that allowed us to buy our shabby but unique and more suitable home in Oceanside. And with that blessing came a two-stage move that unfortunately interrupted ZMP’s sleep routine. She slept with us for most of the time we were in the rental, and if we are honest, she was sleeping with us at Chorizo house, too (though usually only in the early morning, and usually only if she cried for me to come get her). As she became increasingly more and more mobile, the floorbed stopped being the-place-where-I-sleep, and became the-place-where-I-play. The look of delight that would cross her face when I took her into the bedroom didn’t say “Mom!  I’m ready to sleep!” but, instead: “Mom!  You took me into my other playroom!  Awesome!”

And that is how the floorbed experiment morphed into the cosleeping experiment.  While she wouldn’t sleep on her mattress, she would sleep on ours.  And so she did.  For nearly two months.

Life is also a series of tradeoffs.

One of the tradeoffs I made when I went back to work was not being able to spend my sleeping hours chasing a baby.  I do not have the luxury of sleeping in if she has a bad night, or wants to cuddle at 1 AM.  This is cruel and cold and we can all rail against society about it (or rail against me, for wanting to have a career and a baby), but this is the truth: I have a job as both a mom and a game producer, and I need the gray matter between my ears to do both. I do not have my brain when I’m running on sleep fumes because I had to be up at 6 AM to make the 7 AM train that takes me to the 9 AM meeting.  Not to mention that sleep deprivation makes me cranky…and my daughter doesn’t need that Mom.  But that’s what I’ve been doing for two months ever since ZMP started only sleeping when she came into our bed.

There’s another, darker piece to this: I have a sleep disorder.  It abated for a few months after Zoe’s birth, but came back with a vengeance a couple weeks ago.  During the first 30-90 minutes of sleep, I sometimes wake up screaming and fighting invisible monsters.  With Zoe in bed, this has translated into me waking up screaming, clutching my baby, and trying to defend her from monsters.  At least my maternal instinct is to protect, but unless we went through elaborate efforts to get her to bed after I’d had an attack, there was always a danger to her and me sleeping together.

Again, we can rail against Western medicine’s inability to cure my stupid brain* and the unfairness of biology, but that’s life and that’s the truth.

…which is all my roundabout way of saying we have gone the way of most parents in America and bought Zoe a crib.

She spent 30 minutes crying after I put her down in it last night.  I believe in gradual extinction, so I washed dishes, prepped her sweet potatoes, and went in every 5-10-15 minutes to let her know I’m still there, I still love her, and she’s not going to die from this.  Doing household chores helped: kept my brain busy while her distant cries echoed from the back room.  Nothing is sadder than having a baby clutch you and sob, a baby who knows that if you’d only pick her up, she’d stop crying and go to sleep.  The maternal instinct to do just that is strong, and opponents of cribs and crying will tell you you should listen to it, but those opponents have never woken up to find themselves clutching a terrified baby and trying to fight off an imaginary Jigsaw’s puppet from Saw.

(No, I don’t keep evil puppets in my bedroom on a regular basis. That’s just my brain being my brain.)

When she finally did knock off, I found her sitting up and having fallen face-forward.  She only woke up once after that — around 1:30 AM.  Her father and I assured her we’re still there, we love her, and she isn’t going to die from this, and then left her to sob that heart-rending sob that lasted, oh, five minutes before fading off.

And this morning, when I came in to get her, she was standing in her crib quietly.  She saw me and grinned, and I picked her up and nursed her, and it was like none of last night had happened.  Just pure love.  My favorite snuggles.

The back and forth on CIO is nearly as stressful as the act of doing it. You’ve got people who’ll tell you you’re permanently damaging your child, that it causes PTSD, that your instincts are right and you should listen to them.  And you’ve got people who’ll tell you that babies need structure and they need to be forced to learn to sleep and that the brief flood of cortisol and stress hormones a baby experiences during the CIO process is not enough to permanently damage them (and if it was, we’d all be totally screwed).

In the end, I decided to do as my mother had done with me.  She had no monitors, no handbooks, and no advice other than what her own mother had given her.  And at the end of the day, she put us in a crib, kissed us good night, and closed the door.

Tonight is night two of the routine. We’ll see how it goes. It could be worse.  It could be the same.  It could be nothing at all.  But all of us will hopefully sleep well from now on, and my child will be safe from my unconscious self.  And so ends the grand floorbed/cosleeping experiment, which was fun and snuggletastic and I honestly loved every moment, but not with a mom who sometimes thinks ninjas are trying to steal her daughter, and not with a baby who just wants to crawl around the room because she can.

Oh, she can.


* Actually, hypnotics like Ambien do work. They shut down the nightmares…and me. They also give me piercing migraines and aren’t supposed to be taken regularly, and certainly not when you have a baby in bed with you.  I was on Clonazepam for a long time, but it had only about a 30% success rate, and it’s a Class D medication so that was a big nope when we decided to conceive.  I also tried Melatonin for a time…the minty tablets tasted good, but otherwise no impact.

I don’t take anything now, and just prefer to ride out the nightmares.  We know stress and alcohol contribute to them, but the biggest cause?  Fiction writing. Yes, I have a weird brain. (back up)