Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sleepless at Six Months

"She looks pretty new." A friendly older woman said about Michelle as she lay sleeping in the cart like a little angel. Yeah still has that new baby smell!
"Six months," I replied.
"She's beautiful. These must be the best days of your life." She said and smiled sweetly.
"Yes. And the hardest," I answered.

It was the first time I'd been out in quite a while. If you've been following my blog then you know that between the weather, the lack of funds and the fear of Michelle having a Stage Three Meltdown in public, I have been avoiding going out as much as possible. Even to the point where I started ordering my groceries online. Her six month check-up and needles were coming up though so I knew I'd have to go out for that. Even though they were calling for snow and freezing rain. Super. I was nervous about the excursion and decided to have a trial run the day before. I needed to pick up a few things anyway that I couldn't get online. My car was covered in snow. I wasn't even sure if it would start. Luckily it did. The whole day went far better than I'd anticipated. Michelle was good as gold in the grocery store and actually fell asleep. She was solid even when I left the store and put her in the car so I decided to be especially daring and go to Sears after. I can't afford to shop anymore unless it's free so I went to Sears to redeem my Club points. I had enough for a $30 gift card. I got a couple of outfits for Michelle on sale for $9.99. Miracle of miracles, she even slept in Sears and when she did awaken she was mellow and didn't fuss. This was almost too good to be true. I couldn't resist going for McD's across the street. It had been a long time since I'd had a Big Mac and I wanted to celebrate my great day. She even remained quiet as I rolled through the drive-thru. I thanked Michelle for being such a good girl. This was awesome. What a perfect day. Maybe things really were getting easier. Not quite. Unfortunately later that night she put me through sheer Hell.

Life with Michelle is definitely a rollercoaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of the lows. Lately it's been tougher than ever. The kid just doesn't sleep. I mean I was always a night owl but she can stay up later than me. For several nights she was up until 4 a.m. It was unbearable. I was so exhausted I nearly collapsed trying to carry her. I started having back problems and thought I was going to have to go to the hospital one night when I twisted my back lifting her. When I started her on solid food she seemed to sleep a little better (at least settling down at midnight or 1 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. was a big improvement) but it didn't last. She was back to her old tricks again. I cut out caffeine. I tried eating more bland food (no more tacos). It didn't seem to matter what I did. She just wouldn't sleep. She'd cry. I'd feed her, walk the floor singing lullabies for hours and she wouldn't sleep. Or she'd fall asleep for a few minutes and wake up crying again. Or she was just wide awake and wanting to play and I was too exhausted to function.

I read that some babies that are very alert and sensitive have a hard time settling down because they're so overstimulated, their minds don't stop going. She is hyper. I don't know about her mind but her arms and legs never stop going. She's a ball of energy 24-7. Even when she starts to get sleepy (she's rubbing her eyes, her eyes look drowsy, her head is bobbing) she fights it. It's like she doesn't want to sleep. She doesn't want to miss a thing. It is very difficult for me because it means I get no break. For a while there I was trying to do Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred. I was feeling better and stronger. Though the workout was difficult I forced myself to do it because I want to get back in shape. Unfortunately Michelle put an end to it. She started waking up sooner and sooner until I couldn't even do 5 minutes of the workout. She couldn't give me even a few minutes to myself. Someone suggested to me that maybe my working out was actually affecting her somehow but it doesn't seem like that was it because even since I stopped exercising her staying up into the wee hours continued.

Some days it feels like I'm going to break. I spend all of my time and energy caring for her and don't have a minute to take care of myself. I don't get to shower. I don't get even a few minutes peace. Sometimes it's overwhelming and when I'm sleep deprived and in pain, it's sheer torture. I know she doesn't mean to do it but sometimes it feels like she's trying to drive me mad!

Then all of a sudden she'll be an angel and I'll think how lucky I am. She has started reaching up her hands to touch my face so gently sometimes and look into my eyes and really try to talk and it's the most adorable thing I've ever seen. She has also started patting her own head with her hands, cupping her hands together and waving her hands around. She hums and sings and chatters and squeals with delight. I love playing with her in the day and seeing how excited she gets. I love how she hugs me now. I love her smile and her giggles. Most of the time she is a joy, the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. But sometimes she's a monster -- when she screams and won't settle down and won't sleep and won't let me do anything. Some people say "Just let her scream." I can't do it. The most I've ever left her in her crib to cry is a couple of minutes. They say that she would stop crying eventually and go to sleep but I don't believe it for a second. This kid is stubborn. I bet she could go for hours. Days even.

At least she survived her six month doctor appointment and needle. She screamed at the needle of course. She smiled at the nurse at first but wasn't a fan after getting a needle stuck in her leg. I managed to soothe her with the bottle of breast milk I'd brought. I was upset when the doctor said that she weighed less than expected. Her weight isn't increasing at the same rate as her height. I had weighed her at home (weighing myself with and without her but apparently that's highly inaccurate) and thought she was over 15 lbs, closer to 16 lbs by now. At the doctor's office she wasn't even 15 lbs. I couldn't believe it. She breastfeeds every two hours or less and now she's even having cereal for breakfast and dinner on top of that and she's underweight?! Mind you, she probably burns off every calorie she's taking in because she's NEVER STILL. She jumps if you try to hold her on your lap, jumps in her Jumperoo and Jolly Jumper, rolls over and over on the floor during tummy time, kicks her legs and moves her arms constantly (even while she's nursing). She is so hyper she's doing aerobics 24-7. And if she's anything like her father (and she often seems to be) he ate non-stop and was still rail thin. It's tough though when I feel like I give her everything I have and it's still not enough. I started to worry if it was my fault (I have problems with "Mom Guilt" -- it's like Catholic guilt only worse. I try to do all the right things for her and beat myself up over it if I feel like I've done anything wrong.) What if my working out affected my milk? What if watching my diet and trying to consume less fat is leaving less fat in the milk for her? I know that "Thin is In" when it comes to adulthood but among the baby set it seems "Fat is where it's at" -- everyone thinks that a chubby little cherub baby is the picture of health. My mother, who is a chronic worrier herself actually told me it's no cause for concern. I was an underweight baby and apparently her doctor at the time told her that the plump roly poly babies you see are the unhealthy ones and that I, little toothpick in a sleeper that I was, was actually healthier. I've seen some really huge babies. I know that that isn't healthy. I guess some babies just sit around like Jabba the Hut and barely move. It may also be that the mothers load them up with a high fat diet or they may just have a different metabolism. With childhood obesity at an all time high I should probably be grateful to have a child who's a lean mean kicking machine, who can eat as much as she wants without gaining an ounce. But I worry. And the doctor made me feel like something was wrong. The weird thing is my Mom had commented how Michelle looked heavier than the last time she'd seen her. She certainly feels heavier to me! She's gone up a diaper size and she's wearing size 9 month-12 month clothes. Maybe the doctor's scale was off. I just have to stop worrying. She's not like other babies in any other way so why should her weight be different? My Mom pointed out that with two slim parents (well, Mike was skinny and I used to be, back in the day) it stands to reason that Michelle would be slender too.

While waiting in the doctor's office a woman sitting nearby remarked on Michelle's red hair and blue eyes. "She's gorgeous." She also told me that the hyperactivity, moodiness, lack of sleep and everything that I'm going through with Michelle is common for redheads.
"I had one too and she's 13 years old now. They're very high maintenance but the trade-off is they're very bright."
Michelle was quite happy in the waiting room. She was looking around at everyone and squealing in delight, jumping on my knee. Anyone who saw her would think what a happy baby, they'd never guess the hell she puts me through in the evenings.

After the appointment we went back to my sister's place. It was a nice visit until dinnertime. Then all Hell broke loose.

I naively thought I could try giving Michelle chicken for dinner. She'd been on the rice cereal for a week and the literature I had from Nutrition Canada or whatever it was said to introduce meat next because at six months babies really need their protein and iron. The doctor seemed to agree. The rice cereal had gone over so well that I thought I could just give Michelle chicken no problem. It didn't go well.

I shouldn't have tried at dinnertime because that is often her crankiest time. It's the point in the day where if she hasn't had a proper afternoon nap (and she hadn't), she's REALLY unhappy. The next mistake was thinking I could strap her into my sister's high chair. My poor sister dragged the thing upstairs for nothing because Michelle went ballistic and wouldn't even sit in it. The high chair I have has a plastic thing to hold the baby in easy so I can just slide her in. As soon as you start messing with straps and things she shrieks and flails. So I sat her on my lap and tried to give her a spoonful of chicken. She was not impressed. She was already mad and that was the last straw. Frankly I couldn't blame her. I tasted a speck of the stuff on my knuckle when I tested the temperature. It was pretty awful. It tasted like chicken but the texture was just gross. Sometimes texture is everything. I mean I like chicken but not as a pudding. I love pizza but probably wouldn't enjoy it as a smoothie. Some foods just don't lend themselves to softening. Meat is right up there. So I gave up and decided to try it the next day for lunch, when she was rested, hungry and in a good mood. At least she did consume a little. Close to a teaspoon. She was decidedly unimpressed. The following day she barely had a quarter of a teaspoon and started to cry. You know a food is bad when it actually makes them cry. I had done a chicken dance beforehand to get her into the mood. While she enjoyed my song and dance the chicken itself was a no-go. I didn't want to waste it so I tried to give it to the cat. Even Ali turned up her nose at it. She's used to her Fancy Feast Chicken Florentine so I guess plain old bland chicken wasn't cutting it. I'm hoping she will eat some meat at least because she needs the iron. Maybe once I start adding in veggies it will make it more palatable. She was eyeing my chicken alfredo and likely thinking that life just isn't fair. I told her she could eat Mama's food once she has teeth.

Today she is actually six months old and I can't believe it. The time is flying. When I look back at pictures of her as a newborn I see such a huge difference. Her face, her expressions. She's so much more lively and aware. I know that each month will bring new changes and milestones. It's exciting. She tries so hard to talk. I can't wait until she can say a few words. The sounds that she makes now, even when they do sound like words "Hiya" "eh?" don't really count.

It was unseasonably warm and all the snow had melted away so we went for a little walk. It was perfect walking weather because it wasn't too cold and there was no sun so I could leave the top off the stroller and let her look around. She was fascinated by everything. I'm hoping the fresh air will do her good and maybe she'll sleep better tonight...Fingers crossed. A woman out walking with her daughter admired Michelle and said "They're so sweet when they're that small." "Except at night when she doesn't sleep!" I replied. "Yes but you'll forget about that when she's bigger," she told me. Will I?

I keep waiting for things to get easier but I don't know if they ever do. I think as soon as one thing gets sorted out then there's something new to worry about. Now Michelle is a little better behaved in the store. She hums instead of crying herself to sleep in the car. She can play and entertain herself for a few moments on her play gym, Jumperoo and Jolly Jumper. But she barely sleeps. If she has an afternoon nap, she doesn't fall asleep at night. If she doesn't have an afternoon nap she's cranky beyond belief at dinnertime, falls asleep briefly in the early evening and then wakes up and won't go back to sleep all night. So you can't really win. I look back at the days when she used to sleep for 3 or 4 hours at a stretch and think how good I had it. Now I'm lucky to get 4 minutes to myself. But as Mom is quick to point out, soon she'll be walking and running amok in the house and I may look back at these days and think how easy it was when she wasn't as mobile and I could keep track of her at least.

From one day to the next I never quite know how it's going to go. I just have to roll with the punches (and kicks!) and be grateful that there are more good moments than bad, that she is a healthy, happy baby overall and is the light of my life. Who knows what six months and seven months will bring? I can never predict her behaviour. There's still a chance the day will come when she'll fall asleep at 8 o'clock and sleep through the night. Sure. There's a chance I may win Lotto Max too...


  1. "sometimes it feels like she's trying to drive me mad!" Yes! I have felt that way as well & you're right that it never gets "easier" as there's always something...once you get a handle on one issue another is rearing it's head. & I'm with you on the Mom Guilt! What we put ourselves thru with that! Hang in there.

  2. Thank you! Yes I wasn't sure if the Mom guilt was just me or if other Moms feel that way. I do my best and try to do all the right things but sometimes it's an uphill battle and I doubt myself. It's not easy. Raising a baby is by far the biggest challenge of my life! Learning as I go and hopefully not messing up too badly! :)