So sorry for the inappropriate bad 90's song allusion, I couldn't help myself.
We are fast approaching a year since Joseph's birth, and there are a few things I have been wanting to add to the blog, not for any purpose other than for posterity's sake, but if perhaps you find yourself in a similar boat, it may prove helpful- or at least exist for commiserations' sake.
The first of the things is most and least exciting thing ever to blog about- sleep!
I wrote a post when Lucy was a baby about how tired I was, and how it was "all ok", and looking back I have had to chuckle a little at myself.
(if you caught the Office reference you win 5 Stanley Nickles)
I was pregnant when I wrote that post, and pregnancy fatigue is a type in its own class. I was definitely legit tired, but the thing that was absent from that post is the utter importance of sleep, and the heights of sleep loss that can literally turn a woman's world upside down. I didn't pay any attention to that because I had never actually experienced that level of sleep deprivation, and then Joseph was born.
Hormones are a major B after birth, and I know in the case of many women that is all it takes to send them into a tail spin of postpartum depression, but FOR ME, the trigger was the sleep.
I had 4 kids- I had done this 3 other times, I just kept telling myself that I had done this before and that I could cope. And maybe I could have coped if Joseph had been like my other new born babies and at least given me 2 hour stretches of sleep each night, but he wasn't and he didn't.
I existed for 3 months on barely more than 1 (maybe 2, if I got lucky) hours of sleep before he woke up screaming, and some nights it would only be 20 minute stretches. He had more digestive issues than my other babies, and would not even sleep in bed next to me, which was my coping mechanism with Bernadette and Lucy. I should have recognized that this was a different situation and called on Mike, who would have been more than happy to step in for help, but I just kept trying to manage on my own.
Finally the flu hit me in October, when Joseph was about 2.5 months old and I had to give in-- I pumped a bottle and gave him to Mike for a night and slept, but only because I had a high fever and the shakes and aches and I really had no choice. Once the flu left I went back to being the one up with Joe every night but it within a few weeks, the anxiety and depression that had been building up over those few months of next to no sleep started to spiral out of control.
I couldn't think straight, I couldn't control my thoughts, and it just kept getting worse and worse. Mike recognized that the sleep loss was taking its toll, and strongly urged me to either pump or get some formula so that I could get more sleep-- both of which we did a couple times a week for a while. Formula was hard on Joseph's already sensitive stomach and I was having trouble with my milk supply and having enough milk to pump during the day to give him at night.
Mike helping me out a few nights a week would give me a short respite and I would see an improvement immediately in how I was feeling. However, Mike had to work and couldn't take him every night, and as soon as my body went back to functioning on barely any sleep, I would go right back to the same depressed and anxious state I was previously in.
We had one terrible Sunday where I could barely breathe all the way through Mass, I had panic attack after panic attack and after Mass we made the decision that it was time to make major changes during the night so that consistent sleep could be gotten and we could get on top of things.
That night we started to sleep train Joseph (aka, cry it out) and within a few days he was sleeping for 4, 5 or even 6 hour stretches. I remember meeting my counselor for the first time a few days before we started sleep training Joseph and being a total basket-case and within the first week of sleep training things had changed to drastically that at my appointment only one week later I was an entirely different person. I am sure the medicine I had just gotten on was at least having a placebo effect, but it general takes several weeks to get into a persons' system and work, and I had only been on it for one week, so I was fairly confident that it was primarily the sleep.
This is NOT an endorsement of sleep training, this is not me saying that cry-it-out is the way to go-- CIO is what worked for us and it is what we needed to do to function and survive. This is me endorsing sleep for moms and encouraging moms to do whatever they need to do to get as much sleep as they can.
Obviously as mothers a certain degree of sleep deprivation is expected,
and we learn to live with less sleep-- before becoming a mother I never could have survived on a two 3 hour stretches of sleep, but now I can. What I have learned through
this experience is that I have a bare minimum amount of sleep that I need to function, and without which everything starts to fall apart.
If you're a mom going through something similar, the only thing I would actually recommend is not to take it lightly, but to really value your own physical health and your body's true need for sleep.
If cry-it-out is not for you, then maybe pumping and giving your husband a bottle is. If pumping is too hard or you don't have the milk supply during the day for it (as was the case for me), buy a can of formula and know that your baby will be fine and you will be a better person too. If your baby will sleep better next to you in bed and you will get some extra sleep that way- then DO IT!
This was one of those real life lessons for me, one that left enough of an impression that I felt the need to e-log it for future Ana. I feel sure that I would have had to get help for my postpartum issues either way, but I do not think that things would have gotten as out of control as they did if it weren't for the extreme sleep loss, and I hope they never will again.
But then if they do, there's always sleep training ;)