The Sleep Obsession

As my eyes slowly drift open, the glowing numbers on the digital clock come into focus. 2:26am. In a sleep-laden haze, I struggle to get my bearings. I hear Henry’s slow, rhythmical breathing. Painfully, I straighten out my body from my previous semi-recumbent position, my head awkwardly lolled to the side. Looking down, Henry sleeps on my chest, his mouth slack with my breast still resting in his slightly opened mouth. I have no idea how long we have been in this position. Has Henry fed both sides? How long has he been nursing? Too exhausted to think, I close my eyes again and the lure of sleep envelopes me again.

But in my mind, a silent battle wages. “Wake up, wake up, wake up”, I chant to myself, but my body feels like lead. I just cannot move. Then the bargaining begins. “Ok, I will count ten of Henry’s breaths, then will really wake up, finish feeding him, change him and put him properly to sleep in his bassinet”. I count ten of his slow, heavy breaths… Minutes pass… 2:42 am. Shit. “Come on, get up!” In the end, my fatigue wins. Instead of putting him in the bassinet, I snuggle him close to me in bed. For now, he’ll have to spend another few hours in his wet diaper.

These eyelashes don’t come from me!

Eight weeks into Henry’s life, I feel that I have become obsessed with sleep. I think about it constantly – calculating the next time Henry might have a nap, running a list of items that need to be accomplished in the time that he might nap for, obsessing over what the best strategy is to enable Henry to lengthen his night-time sleep intervals… My fantasies now consist of me imagining myself alone in a king-sized hotel room bed, surrounded by 5 fluffy pillows, complete darkness and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. As the Mom of one of our friends put it recently, “When Dirk was 6 weeks old, I remember thinking, ‘Ok, this has been nice, but when do I get a break?'” I can’t identify more with her comment. When do I get my post-call day?!

Starting to smile lots!

Since Blake, Henry and I have been in Southern Ontario over the past few weeks, we have been following Henry’s lead in terms of a ‘schedule’. He generally wants to be fed every 3-4 hours and we just put him to sleep when he looks tired – usually in someone’s arms, in a stroller or carrier and at random intervals throughout the day. Bedtime was no different, when we went to bed, so did Henry.

One day last week, I suddenly was struck by the realization that we hadn’t started to ‘train’ Henry to optimize his sleep. Maybe it was something someone said or a post from another Mom on Facebook, but that day, I made the mistake of Googling “sleep two month-old”.  Sleep schedules and a plethora of advice from community bulletin posts written by other Moms emerged.

“Start training your six-week old with a bedtime routine”, “always put your baby down to nap in the same place, do not use sleep ‘crutches'”, “your baby should have motionless sleep and should not nap or sleep in strollers or car seats”…

Sleeping in the carrier on one of our wintery walks

Start training at six weeks!?!? Henry was already coming up to eight-weeks and it hadn’t even occurred to me that we should have started training him to be on a schedule. Panicked, I pulled out a sleep book that had been given to me as a shower gift and started reading. Illogically, I began to curse myself for being a neglectful parent. How could I have missed the boat!? Now Henry would be broken, his sleep cycle irreparable for life! I decided in that moment that we needed to start doing exactly what the book was recommending. We would begin routine naps and regular intervals and start a bedtime routine.

That night, the plan had been to feed him around his usual time of 6:30pm and then keep him up until 9:30pm, feed him then put him ‘to bed’.  At 7:30pm, Henry’s eyes were drooping and efforts to keep him awake resulted in him screaming. My anxiety levels shot through the roof and soon I was in tears as well. It didn’t seem right what we were doing, but wasn’t this part of the ‘schedule’?! The next night, we tried again, but this time, while my Mom cuddled him so that I could eat my dinner, he passed out cold. Attempts to wake him up and keep him up lead to a similar scene as the previous night. Henry and I were both confused and similarly distressed.

On the quilt that was made for Henry by our neighbour’s Mother

Through my sobs, I wailed to Blake about how we were ruining him. On one hand, I was sure that if we didn’t start sleep training him NOW, he would fall terribly behind, but in the same breath, I pleaded with Blake to abandon our previously discussed strategy of following the sleep ‘rules’. In the end, Blake logically pointed out that it was pointless to try to get him on any sort of ‘routine’ while we were visiting friends and family for Christmas. He was right.  Of course he would fall asleep in people’s arms and would sleep at random times during the day while we were in the car travelling or out walking or snowshoeing.

Our first snowshoe adventure on the hill at our house in Muskoka

But I  still couldn’t shake my anxiety. I felt like I was failing Henry somehow as a parent. As my Mom hugged me and comforted me, reiterating that we were doing a great job, I knew deep down that we WERE good parents and I was being completely crazy. I wondered if other parents struggled in the same way…

In the end, we still don’t know what the right strategy is but hopefully we’ll figure something out!

After our bath

The last few weeks have been full of changes for Henry. He has grown significantly in length and weight, but more strikingly he is become much more social. Suddenly, he is aware or his surroundings and of people around him. When he’s fed and changed, he will spend at least an hour cooing and smiling at those around him. Blake has also been excited by his strength – if you support him upright, he is able to ‘stand’ on his own! Blake is sure he will have him on skis by next Winter.

Cuddling with Leah in Muskoka

Last week, in Muskoka, we had our Sprague Family Christmas. It is a rare occasion that my sister, my brother and I are at our family home at the same time. This past weekend, not only were all the siblings home, as well as both my parents, but Blake and Henry, my sister’s kids, Luc (3 yrs) and Rosie (7 yrs) and my brother’s girlfriend Meghan were there too. It was a busy weekend filled with tree-decorating, sledding, cookie-making and endless games of Settlers of Catan. It was a lot of fun!

Setting up the Catan board

Hanging out with Rosie & Luc
This was taken right after the first one 🙂

At the Christmas tree

Merry Christmas!

Auntie Leah & Henry

Luc & Rosie studying the Christmas presents

Luc & Rosie making sugar cookies

Rosie concentrating hard while holding Henry

Sliding on the driveway
Luc & Rosie schooling Blake in pop music 🙂

We took to the road again this Monday and traveled to Kingston from Muskoka to spend two weeks with Blakes’ family. On the way, we popped in to visit our friend’s parents near Fenlen Falls and stopped in Peterborough to pick up a used Chariot stroller (complete with the ski attachment!) and to take Henry to the Canadian Canoe Museum! It was his first museum trip  and although Blake and I were pretty keen to seen the collections, he slept the entire time, waking up only to nurse while I watched fabulous footage from iconic Bill Mason’s paddles.

Blake catching a fish at the Canadian Canoe Museum

Henry loving the sights at the museum  🙂

Learning about the Voyageurs

Blake selling beaver pelts to Henry

Now in Kingston, we are set up again to stay for a few weeks before heading West in the New Year. If anything, I hope that our hobo travels with trailer in tow will teach Henry to be flexible and adventure-seeking! 🙂

Visiting our friends Charlotte, Jon & Wesley!

Hanging out with Auntie Leah – look at the double chin!!!

Henry was the star of the South Monck Drive neighbourhood party!
Sleeping on the kitchen table in Muskoka
Blake’s answer for a crying baby – attaching the dog’s leash to the bassinet and hanging it from the ceiling

Sleeping by the wood stove in Muskoka

Morning coffee with Grandpa Steve

At six weeks old
The kids helping to give Henry a morning bath

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