I woke this morning, less than an hour after having finally fallen back to sleep close to 5:00am, from a dream where Opal was home with a babysitter and I wasn't able, for the life of me, to make my way back to her. It was an epic journey through the minutes of this obstacle-ridden day, and hours passed by as I was in a holding pattern, unable even to call and make sure the sitter could stay until I got there. At one point, after hours of this, I stopped of at a diner to take a breather and figure out my plan of action, when I spotted the babysitter eating in an adjacent booth. You are supposed to be watching my daughter! I yelled. And promptly woke to the sounds of my real-life daughter gently calling for me from the other room.
Morning, mama, she said. Time to get up. Time for some boob.
And as I nursed her after having gone nearly 12 hours without seeing her, smelling her, touching her, another night of restless, dream-ridden sleep, I collapsed into our rocking chair, arms wrapped like twine around her and her bunny, and fell into a deeply blissful sleep as she nursed.
I recently looked back over a blog entry entitled "The Simple Plan," written nearly three months ago about my (fleeting) efforts to get Opal to sleep through the night by not rescuing her with breast-milk every time she made a peep. I wont go into a detailed recapping, but let's just say that I quickly discovered it was harder for me to let go of the night-time feedings than it was for her.
Much has happened since that fateful, inspired evening I reported back on June 1st. We spent much of June traveling, being in different time zones and foreign beds, we attended to many out of town guests and joined many occasions worth keeping Opal out a little later then usual. These things all mess with sleep patterns. Not to mention the fact that she spent much of July learning to crawl, using her body and her mind in ways she was entirely unaccustomed to, thus making it more challenging to settle into sleep at night.
For those reasons, we let the sleeping thing go. And because I sought comfort in the fact that if I got up to feed her, I'd be up for a bit but at least I'd eventually be able to go to sleep, knowing that my daughter was tucked backed into bed with a full belly and warm body. And I always had my morning nap to supplement what sleep was lost during the night.
But lately, this has simply not been the case. Even when I was getting up to feed her, which had increased to two or three times per night, I was unable to get back to sleep. And in spite of a morning nap, I was feeling recked during the day.
Time for a change.
The plan this time around was for Jesse to be the one to go in when she fussed for more than 10 minutes, speak softly and lie her back down nestled between her favorite stuffed animals. The idea here being that if I went in and didn't feed her, it would be even more puzzling and upsetting. This plan was to take action on a weekend, but never wound up being necessary.
A few nights prior to the weekend-in-mention, when Opal called out as usual, I felt like I was unable to play out the habit of feeding her for comfort, when she had just eaten a few hours earlier. What was fine and ordinary the night before simply ceased to be so. So I decided to see what would happen if I went in and comforted her without getting her out of her crib, without milk. I sang softly, lied my hands on her chest and said "time for sleep, honey" and left. A thunderous explosion of sobs ensued as I closed the door behind me and then, within moments, total silence.
She slept until 6:30am.
I only needed to go in for one more night to comfort her . Beyond that, her night-time peeps have been short (under 10 minutes) and un-agitated.
Piece of cake on her end. I even got the sense that she was a bit relieved at the prospect of no longer having her little sleep-abyss be disturbed to commute all the way to the rocking chair to nurse.
It seems, as with the last attempt at all-night sleeping, that it's me who requires the re-adjustment period. I still sleep with an ear-to-the-monitor, as if it's a piece of medical equipment I'm hooked up to. Not to mention that fact that my boobs require some adjustment time, as well. Having been used to feeding her in the night all these months, I've woken up on in a milk-puddle more than once and am required to get up and pump. Then I'm left lying awake for hours after the rigamarole of bottles and tubes. Also, 12 hours is a long time to go without checking on Opal—because checking on her inevitably wakes her up— and there have been a few mornings when she's kicked off her blanket and has popsicle-toes.
But the state of the (sleeping) union is good. Excellent. Border-line remarkable.
With the tiniest bit of effort, Opal has adapted swiftly and without resistance to sleeping through the night, from 7pm to, roughly, 6am without relying on milk to do so.
Mama (along with mama's boobs) is still— happily, willingly—in the process of adapting.