A small part of me has hoped for this day for quite some time. Now that it’s a reality, I’m stymied by which direction to proceed. Asher* takes a bottle. Not just in the manner of, ‘eh, this is something nice to chew on,’ but as something that he realizes is a source of nutrition and a way to fill his belly. The past few nights I’ve had meetings or other events on the schedule that have necessitated an initial bed time without me. Mac usually just gives him some solids and rocks him to sleep, and then once I’m home I go in and nurse him down for the first part of the night. The other night Mac got a bee in his bonnet and decided to try a bottle. The first attempt he took 2.5 ounces, and last night he downed 4 in no time flat.
I’m so tired, you guys. I’m a person that needs at least 8 hours of solid sleep time. I’m that kid that consistently fell asleep in the back of some classes in high school and college because my body was incapable of staying awake due to sleep choices the night before. I can count on one hand the number of nights where Asher has gone for a stretch longer than 7 hours without feeding or waking. There will be a few fingers left over, too. When you take into consideration that for the last few months of my pregnancy, wretched heartburn and discomfort kept me from sleeping through the night, it’s been fourteen months since I’ve slept through the night. Probably longer than that, but I didn’t track my sleep during pregnancy so I can’t pin down a specific date. There are days I’d swear I can see the brain cells exiting my body, full of knowledge and facts, now forever lost because of sleep deprivation. I usually go to bed at a time that would give me 7 1/2 hours of sleep without any sleep disturbances. I’d go to bed earlier, but that would mean cutting out either whole family time, time with Mac, doing essential tasks around the house, and/or the few commitments that I participate in so I feel fulfilled outside of being a mom. Plus, this bed time usually coincides with the baby’s first wake up for the evening. He is up at least twice a night, usually three.Each wake up involves feeding him for about 15 minutes. The first one involves getting him out of his crib and bringing him into our room. I then have to accomplish the task of falling back to sleep. Unlike my husband, who falls asleep at the drop of a hat (4 1/2 minutes. I timed him the other night. I can’t even imagine having sleep that close within reach), I have to wind down my brain, so it’s at least another 15 minutes. Usually the ‘going to bed’ wind down is longer, but the ones in the middle of the night seem to be a bit longer since I’m awake but not daytime alert. Much of the night is also spent jockeying for bed position. Neither of us have it in us to fight him to get back into the crib at night, so he stays with us. Which, I LOVE the idea of co-sleeping. He was with us for the first few months full time because it worked and was the right fit for us. Once they start to get bigger, though, their restlessness becomes a detriment to my sleep and comfort. Which is what happens now. I either can’t get comfortable, or wake up with an aching neck or arm. For a while, I felt silly complaining about ‘just’ two wake ups, but let’s look at the math of the previously described situation (all numbers in hours for sake of not having to label repeatedly):
8 (ideal sleep)-.5(nursing)-.5(wind down)-.25 to .75(misc bed jockeying, bathroom, etc)=6.75 to 6.25 (Let’s call it 6.5 for the sake of averages)
Which, still, I hesitated to complain about, because lots of people would love to get that 6.5 hours of sleep. Check out the percentages, though. An hour and a half is roughly 18%. I’m consistently missing out 18% of my sleep each night. This doesn’t even take into account the science behind sleep cycles and that the sleep I do get is broken into chunks. I now feel a bit more justified in my weariness. Plus, some days I’m not the best version of myself. My brain goes in to survival mode, and heaven help those that get in my way. It’s shameful to look back on the number of days where my behavior probably falls into the ‘asshat’ category, and see that the victims of the situation are my family and friends I care about. I want to not feel like a zombie, or angry that my brain won’t retain information that I desperately need it to (I learned last night that for the past month, I’ve been unknowingly falling behind on the book chapters for the moms group I lead. Leadership fail, as we don’t have an opportunity to cover the last chapters at any other point.), or when it does remember, to process that info. I try to meal plan, but it doesn’t help much when I forget to thaw ingredients, or let’s not talk about the library fines I’ve accrued because I’ll read the reminder email about their due date, then they’ll sit in a pile that someone threw a jacket over and BAM, late fees. I know that on their own, these are normal person snafus, but I’m a detail person, and I used to be SO GOOD at this shit. My mind could be a steel trap of information, but my baby has rusted the hinges.
I cried tears of relief last night when Mac told me he took a bottle. To know that he got what he needed, when he needed it, and his proximity to me wasn’t part of the equation felt so freeing. To separate the existence of his body and mine is intoxicating. To think I could go somewhere and be able to sleep and control my own body for an extended period of time is almost unimaginable. Pregnancy with him was not easy. This lack of bottles has not been easy. I’ve described, numerous times to our PAT educator and doctor, that I feel like he is in control of my body and independence, and it’s so depressing and discouraging to not feel in control of my own body. It’s been at the mercy of my pregnancy with him and his babyhood for the past 20ish months.
Yet, the thought of no longer nursing him makes me feel a bit conflicted. I wanted to share that with him, and let him find comfort, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep a grasp on my sanity with the stress of sleep deprivation and non-independence. Do I try something where he just gets morning and evening Momma’s milk, and if so how do I get there and not hurt my supply and will he get the ‘switch’ or would he still then be confused when offered a bottle, especially if it’s me during the day? I know all the benefits of nursing, the WHO recommendations, and that it’s a good thing for my baby. I also know that my 3.5 year old, who I stopped nursing at 4 months, is smart, healthy, and the most I could want for her to be. Formula helped us keep her strong and healthy when my milk supply couldn’t. In this case, it isn’t a supply issue, but a choice. I want to do what’s best for him, but I can’t think of just him. My mental and physical state matters too. I don’t know what the answer is, and I wish it were easier. Not because I’m lazy, or too stupid to appreciate choice and the benefits of critically thinking about these things. I wish it were easier because I, very often, don’t put myself first, and forget that maybe what I need is more important, and will allow me to make better future decisions for everyone else. I’m the person in an airplane that would consider putting an air mask on someone else before myself. I’m an acts of service person, it’s what I do. I just want my baby to be healthy and happy. You know what? I also want my family to know happiness, myself included. So, almost 1500 words later and the only thing that I know for certain is that I love my kids, would give the world for them, and I want to stop crying so much when I think about how I feed my baby. Oh yeah, I love myself too.
If anyone out there has any suggestions, magic tricks, or words of support, it would be greatly appreciated. I’m so glad for my pocket friends the internet has brought to me.
*Asher isn’t his real name, just the one I’ve decided to use for internet purposes.