Silent Nights

There have been many a silent night on my blog as of late.  Forgive me while I try to move from one floor of my house to the other, compile a dossier, fundraise, get my life in order and think about the many deep mysteries of life… while also trying to have an awesome Advent season.  But I am still here!  I would love to give an update soon about where we are in the adoption, but today this is going to be short and sweet.

I thought I should blog about this milestone for my two little ones… new bedtime milestones.  They are always bittersweet aren’t they?

First, Evangeline is now in her very own room!  Since she was born she has always slept in our bedroom, either in our bed or in her bed pushed up right next to ours.  She has always been close enough for me to hold her hand if she woke up and needed me during the night, but as of Friday we have four newly refurbished bedrooms in our parsonage and… it was time.

We had been telling her about her bedroom for a while and she was so excited to have her “own” room. I always assumed our children would never have their own room, they would share once the first two were ready to make the leap.  But I’ll just say it… it was time.  Stephen isn’t going to be ready for a while and who knows when another girl will come along for the girls’ room.  She seemed ready so we decided to go for it!  And she is doing fabulously.

The first two nights she did not make it the whole night.  We ended up carrying her into our bedroom around 2:00am because she was just restless and, hey, we wanted to sleep!  We still have a second bed in our bedroom (back to that in a second) so it was just like old times and it worked perfectly.  Last night I went to go retuck her in once but she fell back asleep and didn’t need us again until morning.

Now for that second bed :)  Evangeline’s twin bed went with her to her room, but we just happened to have another, so we scooted that up next to ours and that is officially Stephen’s bed now!  We are transitioning him over a few months sooner than we started with Evie, but with the new room and everything it just made sense.  It also helps if I have to get up for Evie in the middle of the night, I don’t disturb him and he will eventually sleep better.  Right now he’s not quite used to the new space so he isn’t sleeping as well.  He has always been very space oriented.  If he’s not in HIS bed, he fights sleep.  But  the second night was better than the first!  He still hasn’t made it an entire night yet without cuddling with mommy by the wee hours of the morning, but I don’t really mind :)

All in all we are very happy with the smooth transition and hope it continues!  I have two blog posts coming up the pike for you, one is an update on our adoption, long overdue I know… and the second is a little more heavy in content, but necessary I think.  Hopefully as the days go on and we continue getting more settled around here I will have less and less of those silent nights on my blog!  Praying you are all having a wonderful Advent!

Oldies but Goodies

I have a few posts in the works to start off my new blogging adventure, but in the meantime check out some of these old favorites that I have moved over!

Birth Stories…

Evangeline’s Birth Story

Stephen’s Birth Story

Natural Infant Hygiene…

Elimination Communication

Pottying a Newborn

Co-Sleeping…

The Sweet Sound of Sleep

When Nighttime =/= Sunshine or Roses

When Nighttime =/= Sunshine or Roses

After my last post I had a friend comment how happy she was for us that our transition to two littles was going smoothly in the bedtime category.  Oops!  I guess my relative silence on the matter of the sleep transition followed by a glowing review of our dear daughter’s sleeping habits may have been a little misleading.

It’s so easy in the blog world to read all of those rosy details we bloggers like to announce on a regular basis and to slip into thinking that our favorite bloggers’ lives are full of shiny details complete with sunshine and a bouquet of fresh roses.  (Not that I claim to be anyone’s favorite blogger… but maybe one day…)

But, truly, that is not the case.  Alas, for every shiny detail there are hundreds of not-so-pretty ones I just happen to run out of time for at the end of my posts.  So today (to be fair) I am going to dedicate an entire post to all of those nitty gritty details I would rather leave out…

The transition from one to two was easier than expected, with one glaring exception: bedtime.

Let me give you a bit of background…

Newborn Evangeline sleeping peacefully...

Newborn Evangeline sleeping peacefully…

After you have a baby the first thing everyone wants to know is “Are they sleeping through the night yet?”  Well, this was a complicated question for me because I didn’t *think* my baby was sleeping through the night… but I was sleeping through the night!  So… how do you tell a myriad of acquaintances “Oh I don’t know… I sleep all night, so I’m not sure.  [awkward silence] Cause ya know… we’re co-sleeping so if she needs to nurse she just latches on herself.”

So instead I just always answered “yes” and left it at that…

And then I started nighttime elimination communication with Evie around 16 months old.  And guess what?  She was not sleeping through the night.  She needed to wake up to go potty at least 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) times.  And guess who got to wake up to take her?  So, for the last year or so I have had a total of one… yes one… full night of uninterrupted sleep.  We have had lots of dry nights, but in order to do that I just need to wake up and take her potty.

I have gotten used to not having 8 hours of continuous sleep, but it did become problematic when Stephen came along.  See, Evangeline still nursed herself back to sleep, and Stephen (being a newborn) was unable to wait long between nursing sessions.  On top of that, Evie was anxious with all the change and her nursing back to sleep in 5 minutes or less became 30… 60… 90 minutes or more.  We ended up getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep – on a really good night.  This went on for weeks.

Some nights I was so exhausted and so distraught over our predicament that even with both children asleep on either side of me all I could do was sit in bed and cry.  What was I doing wrong??  For two years I firmly believed that we were doing the best thing for our daughter, and now she wasn’t sleeping.  She was anxious and most nights consisted of plenty of tears for both of us.  This was not good for her!  I began second-guessing myself and retracing my steps to figure out exactly where we had gone wrong.  But I couldn’t see it; unless my entire philosophy of mothering a baby was bankrupt (and I could not believe that) there was no way to make this work.

And then, I was blessed with a conversation with a very good friend.  They have four children, and much the same parenting style.  I explained to her what was going on and she let me in on a couple good secrets that I would like to share with all of you…

1. All children are different.  One of their babies didn’t WANT to co-sleep.  They happened to have a crib on hand and they finally tried that; he slept perfectly there.  He just didn’t like being in bed with them!  He wanted his own space!  Go figure… so yeah, co-sleeping is wonderful, but it isn’t the goal, it’s just one way to care for your child.

2. All children have hard times.  The mistake I was making wasn’t in my parenting style, it was in my expectations of what that style would do for my child.  My good friend also told me the story of how their best sleeper since birth suddenly stopped sleeping – for an entire year.  There was a lot of stress and outside anxieties that probably attributed, but even with attachment parenting techniques and a clear track record – he just stopped sleeping.  And her sister who had the total opposite philosophy on sleep training?  Eventually some of her kids stopped sleeping well at night too.

So why don’t children sleep through the night?  Not because you’re a bad mom!  But because we live in a fallen world, and despite all our efforts, our children are never going to be free from adversity.  Back to my mistake… I thought that by co-sleeping, nursing on demand, baby wearing and all of those wonderful practices (and they are wonderful) I could protect my baby from being introduced to the difficulties this life brings at too young an age.

And so, when her little brother was born, creating upheaval and adversity in her life that I couldn’t fix – I thought I must have done something wrong.  Should I have protected her less?  Should we have waited until she was older to have a baby?  No and NO!  I was asking the wrong questions, because I had the wrong presuppositions.  We live in a fallen world, and it is impossible for us to protect even our babies from hard times.  Adversity comes with the territory in this life, and we very rightly wish we could eliminate that from our lives and the lives of our children.  But we can’t.

What we can do is love them a little more.  Hold them a little tighter.  Reassure them always that they are loved and that they will never be left alone in the hard times.  Pray for them and point them away from this broken world and toward the things that are above.  That is all you need to do and all you can do.

Sometimes nighttime does not equal sunshine (or roses), and no matter what your parenting philosophy is – it’s not going to change that.  So, at 2am when all we want to do is sleep but we can’t seem to do anything but cry – we can let our crying children cling to us for comfort as we cling to Christ for strength.  My daughter has cried herself to sleep.  But she has never had to cry herself to sleep alone.  Our family has trials and difficult times, but we walk through them together.  My children are not independent, and I don’t ever want them to be.  I want our entire family to always share a relationship of interdependence on one another.  And eventually they will grow and have their own families and begin a new cycle of depending on their family for that unique fellowship of walking together in this life.

Likewise, as Christians, trials are a part of our existence until that Glorious Last Day.  Jesus never promised us that carrying a cross would be easy, He only promised us that we would never have to carry it alone.  And so, we come together once a week and receive His promise in God’s Word.  We commune with Christ and the whole Church as we eat and drink forgiveness, life and salvation.  And as the Body of Christ we always strive to bear one another’s burdens so that we never need be alone.

The Sweet Sound of Sleep

“Should you go check on her?” My dear husband asked nervously after about three minutes.

You see… our beautiful, nearly two and a half year old, daughter was upstairs all by herself.  Not making a sound.  I had just come downstairs after trying to put her to sleep.  We did our bedtime routine, as usual, and I laid down to nurse her to sleep… just as I had hundreds of nights before.

Evangeline has nursed to sleep since she was a newborn.  There have been few instances that Daddy has put her down, or the car… but on her own?  Never.  Not until three nights ago.  She wasn’t falling to sleep nursing, and her new brother downstairs needed his Mommy.  So what’s a girl to do?  I told her good night and that when she was ready to go to sleep I would come back up… and then I left.

I quickly nursed Stephen in anticipation of her calling for me.  We waited… and waited… and waited… but all we heard was the sweet sound of sleep.  Nothing.  After about ten minutes a mixture of nerves and thoughts of “could it really be…” forced me back up the stairs just to be sure.  Yup.  Out cold… I was thrilled.  And also… a little disappointed.

You know how moms always have that bittersweet “They don’t need me anymore…” reaction to new milestones, especially ones that take them farther away from you or bring new independence.  Of course they do still need us, just differently than they did before.  But mostly, we were thrilled.  Seriously, you should have seen the smile on Jake’s face when I told him she was sleeping.

We’ve known for a while now that it was just a matter of time before she made this transition.  Even before she turned two I could see the writing on the proverbial wall.  And, just like we did that night, I have been waiting all these months for her to be ready to make that leap.  She’s fallen asleep on her own three times now, and I am so so happy.  Not because she is more independent, and not because she won’t be as “needy” at bedtime anymore.  I’m happy because I know we did it the right way.

Now… before you go all mommy-defensive on me – I am NOT saying you did it the wrong way.  Every child is different, and every child needs a different level of comforting and attentiveness.  What worked for us, may not work for another family or even our family later down the road.  So, now that my disclaimer is well in place… let me finish my thoughts.

For two years well-meaning family, friends and books have all attempted to explain why I was doing it the wrong way.  Why taking this kind of approach to bedtime was unhealthy or detrimental to my child’s ability to do something or other.  Many thought that she would just never learn to fall asleep on her own and I would be chained to her bedside until she was twelve.  Not only did none of those things happen, but we have enjoyed so many wonderful benefits from following our instincts.

Evie is a compassionate and sensitive girl, and the flip side of that is she needs a LOT of love and attention.  She is a very emotionally attuned person, and so her emotions need a bit more work than other children’s do.  Stephen?  Totally different… But our Evangeline is what most would call a “high maintenance” child.  The more the work the better reward though, right?  I knew our approach would pay off, and it has.

She never had to cry herself to sleep… when she did cry, we were right there holding her tight.

She always knows we will be there for her.

She is a secure, well-adjusted child.

Did I always enjoy nursing her for half an hour or more every single night?  No… not really.  Many nights I looked forward to nighttime with much less than excitement.  It was work – always.  But guess what?  God did not put me on this Earth and give me two beautiful children so that I could make them “independent” or “self-soothing” as early as possible.  He gave me two children to love and care for, day and night.  He gave me two children to raise to be confident, loving and strong adults.  He put me on this Earth to serve – and that includes my children.

So many mothers today take their vocation and look at it from the perspective of “How soon can I get my life back?”  Questions like, when will I get to go back to work or when will I get to sleep eight hours without waking up are not questions I ask.  Waking up once or twice (or more) during the night, spending long days with just me and the little ones, never having more than a three hour break, having a date night out only on that rare occasion… that is my life – indefinitely.  Someday I may be given a new season, but that is still yet to be seen.  This is the life I have been given, and it’s not one I am going to run from as fast as I can.

Instead, I am going to embrace this life.  I am going to have as many children as God sees fit to give our family and I am going to help them to get to sleep as long as their little hearts need me there.  Even if that means I have another ten… or twenty… or thirty years of it.  And I hope I do.  Not because it makes me happy, but because living in perpetual service to others is exactly the kind of life that causes me to forget my own happiness, allowing me to experience joy instead.

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A New Mommy of Two

img_1882As you may have already guessed… we didn’t end up live blogging the birth…  I promise that I will post a birth story as soon as I have it written down, but with a labor short enough that even the midwife missed the event – I hope you won’t feel too left out that the blogging world missed it too!

In any case, I wanted to post an update for everyone.  Stephen was born on the 19th in the afternoon (his grandpa’s birthday!) and he is doing absolutely wonderfully.  He has nursed like a champ from the beginning, no pain or soreness at all!  With Evangeline it took over a month to get to a comfortable point.  When I think about it, almost everything is different this time around.  They are both equally enjoyable and lovable, but definitely unique!  I suppose if you know one baby you certainly don’t know them all.

We are looking forward to learning more about our Little Man as he continues to grow.  Evangeline is doing marvelously with her little brother.  There is no sign of jealousy, although the first day I could tell she was just a bit anxious that she was being left out.  After tandem nursing a couple of times, though, she realized that I was still just as much her Mommy as always, and she’s been doing great ever since!

We have already started elimination communication (infant potty training) and it’s going great.  We had our first two catches today!  Not even a week old, and he’s already using the potty 😀  Co-sleeping is also going well.  We’re still working out some kinks, but overall we’re getting enough rest.  And once we get a routine down that works for both kiddos I think we’ll be sleeping all night!

The transition to being a Mommy of two littles is going much more smoothly thus far than I could have hoped.  My own dear Mommy is here helping out, which is a huge part of that!  I’m hoping that during this next week I can start easing back into some basic cooking and chores and that we can get started packing up the house for our move!  So much to do!!

But for the moment I am just enjoying my precious son.  <3

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Ecological Breastfeeding: Part 4

Before you read this post be sure to catch Ecological Breastfeeding Part I, Part II and Part III!

I know mothers who follow all of the ecological breastfeeding standards except the two that we are going to talk about today.  And guess what?  They don’t benefit from the same blessings that following the entire plan give.  Of course, following five of these principles rather than none is definitely a good thing, but you and your child are still missing out on ecological breastfeeding and the gifts it can give your family.

So, I ask that today you keep an open mind.  Don’t immediately disregard this phenomenal method of parenting your baby until you have heard all the facts.  I know that many people will read the next two standards and think “There’s no way I’m ever doing that.”  But just wait, make an informed decision; you owe it not only to your child but to yourself as well.

Standard #4: Sleep with your baby for night feedings.

The story is old and worn and well known by all Americans… “I got pregnancy insomnia, and then after he was born he wouldn’t sleep for three months!  Now he only needs one or two feedings a night, which is better, but I feel so exhausted all the time…”  If you are like many families and have children in close succession, this could mean literally years and years of being sleep deprived.

Whether you believe in birth control or not – it was obviously not a part of God’s original plan for growing families.  This leaves me with one of two conclusions, either God intended for mothers to be useless and sleep deprived for all of their childbearing years (which for some can literally be decades).  Or… God had another model that prevents unnecessary sleep deprivation for mothers.  I tend to go with the latter.

And honestly?  I think I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have been sleep deprived since becoming a mother.  Currently nursing and growing a baby does make one quite tired… but I got ten hours of sleep last night.  Yup, ten wonderful… amazing… needed hours of sleep.  When people ask me how Evie sleeps I always tell them that she started sleeping through the night at four days old… that’s not exactly true, but it’s easier than explaining the reality that I started sleeping through the night again when she was four days old.

I am actually not sure when Evie started sleeping through the night… and honestly I didn’t care when she did, because I didn’t need to care.  When she wakes up and needs to nurse I just have to readjust and help her latch on; normally I never even remember doing this.  See?  Feeding your baby is so easy you can do it in your sleep! Haha…

But in all seriousness, this one practice of having our baby sleep in our bed with us has given us so much more rest and sanity than many young parents I know have had in years.  It’s terribly sad to me that our society has lied to mothers telling them that cribs are the safest and only place a baby should sleep, not even stopping to consider the mental and emotional toll it takes to raise a child that way.

Think about it.  While breastfeeding, chemicals such as oxytocin are released into your bloodstream.  These are very helpful in bonding with your child, but they are also deeply relaxing.  Many moms find it difficult to stay awake while nursing, and it isn’t just because it’s 2am.  Nursing induces sleepiness.  Why would our benevolent and omniscient Creator make our bodies want to fall asleep at the very time that it’s dangerous to do so?  It doesn’t make sense.

Sleeping and nursing go together – it’s natural!  And also completely safe.  Ads like this one make me furious.  They are misleading and inappropriate to say the least.  Many babies in our country DO die every year from dangerous co-sleeping situations, but not from sleeping in safe environment with a nursing mother.

Instead of pushing the crib habit, the government should be focusing on giving real information about co-sleeping that is helpful.  Information like, don’t sleep with your child if you are impaired with drugs or alcohol, don’t let your baby sleep near a crack or on the edge of the bed, don’t fall asleep in awkward places like your recliner, etc.  Asserting flat-out that cribs are the only safe place for babies is not founded on science and is simply untrue.  In fact, it is actually safer to co-sleep in a proper family bed under the right circumstances than to place your baby alone in a crib.  This is a very good summary of how to co-sleep comfortably and safely and is very similar to what we have done as a family.

Not only does co-sleeping give you more rest, but it ensures that your baby always knows he is safe and taken care of.  No one should have to sleep alone, especially not babies who do not have the ability to understand why they are all by themselves.  Low serotonin levels have been scientifically linked to a higher risk of SIDs, and high levels of stress induce such dangerous chemical imbalances in the brain.  What could cause a high level of stress right before sleep?  Being left abandoned in a dark place, all alone, where no one responds to your cries of terror.  This is what an infant experiences when parents unwittingly use the “cry it out” method to get their babies to sleep on their own.

Even with gentler crib sleeping practices, a crib is still not as safe as being next to mom in bed.  Carbon dioxide has been shown to cause the inhaling reflex in infants.  If you are sleeping facing your baby (as you would be nursing while you sleep) your constant breathing rhythms help to regulate your child’s so that his body continues to breathe safely through the night.  Not to mention that forcing yourself to stay awake in a rocking chair or elsewhere while nursing can lead to the more dangerous sleeping-while-nursing scenarios that we want to avoid.

So, what does all of this have to do with making sure that your baby continues nursing through toddlerhood and receives all the nutritional benefits he needs?  Well, a lot actually.  If you don’t sleep with your child there is a necessity to begin limiting nighttime nursings, scheduling, etc., which inevitably limits how much your child nurses.

Putting any limitations on nursing at all can cause your child to wean early and lose many of those nutritional benefits he could have been reaping his entire life.  Furthermore, nursing at night is many times nursing for comfort.  This is an important part of the nursing relationship and, if you cut it out, he will to learn to go to other sources for comfort causing weaning to begin much earlier, whether you are ready for it or not.

Standard #5: Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.

I won’t delve into the safety issue much here as I covered that already; but sleeping with your baby during the day is more or less the same as sleeping with your baby at night, and just as important.  Not only does laying down with your baby for naps give more opportunity for nursing (which is important for extended amenorrhea and a long nursing relationship) but it also gives you more opportunity for rest.

Becoming a new mother is exhausting and simply sleeping through the night may not be enough.  You need to give yourself permission to take naps, and the best time (if not the only time) you can do this with a newborn is while he’s napping.  Because of our body’s natural tendency to get tired while nursing a babe to sleep, this is a perfect opportunity for you both to bond, rest and benefit from the nursing relationship.

This is probably one of the easiest standards to shrug off because so many of us are not used to the luxury of napping daily.  And, you might say, if I am already sleeping with baby at night will this really make a difference?  The answer is, yes.  Just as with any of the seven standards, you lose one and you’re done.  Fun rhyming eh?  Ok… too many bad puns in one post will lose me my readers, sorry, I’ll stop.

Now with me and Evie, and with most I’d wager, we don’t take naps together every day.  In fact, I only napped with her on a daily basis for maybe the first two weeks.  After that it depended on whether or not I was tired enough to sleep.  If I wasn’t tired, I would get up after Evangeline fell asleep and go do something else.  If she woke up before I knew she was ready I would nurse her back down, and sometimes then I’d be ready for a nap too.

Even still today I nurse her to sleep for bed and for her naps every day.  I usually don’t nap with her, although with the pregnancy it’s become more tempting… When I am not tired enough to sleep I will lay down with her and nurse her till she’s fast asleep and then I’ll leave.  When she wakes up I (as Jake fondly refers to it) nurse her back to life.

She always needs to breastfeed upon waking.  I’m not sure what it is about that transition period, but it’s what we’ve always done and it’s become one of my favorite nursing times of the day.  I think it started when she was smaller and woke up two or three times during her nap; I would nurse her just to see if she would fall back asleep, so even when she was ready to get up we would still nurse.  In any case, it’s been an enjoyable bond between us.

I think I’m going to wrap it up for tonight, but as always if you have any questions on this or any of the other previous breastfeeding posts please comment or shoot me an email.  At the end of this series I am going to have a Q&A and I would love to tackle anything you’d like to throw at me.  Blessings on this, the 4th Day of Christmas!

Oh and umm… Go Broncos!

Nursing Toddlers are Cute

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