Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Slump

As if writing about Michael's recent progress had magical jinxing capabilities, we had one of the worst nights in memory with him last night.

He and Abby appear to have acquired the same cold/allergy post-nasal drip problem during our stay here, and have begun to cough and sneeze throughout the day, and especially throughout the night.  That, combined with an air conditioning unit that reads every temperature setting as "deep freeze" resulted in several nights of fitful and interrupted sleep for Abigail.  Last night we finally got it together and cooled the room before she went in, then set the AC unit to fan for the rest of the night, with a window open.  I heard her cough on the monitor a few times, but she otherwise slept quite soundly.

Michael, however, is not so good at falling back asleep on his own when he awakens.  The first interruption was a sneeze, which occurred just short of midnight, and since he would not go back to sleep without it, resulted in an earlier-than-usual night time bottle.  I knew at that point that it was likely to be a long night, since it was unlikely we would make it all the way until morning without having to prepare a second one.

Once comfortably settled in his Pack n' Play, he lasted until 3:00 am, when a coughing fit brought him back to consciousness.  (Due to aggravating insomnia, I clocked in maybe an hour during this time.)  It had been just barely three hours since he last ate, so I was hesitant to offer another bottle, for fear that he would vomit the contents all over our only set of sheets.  And so it began.  Tom and I took turns between the hours of  3 and 4, trying every trick we knew to get him back to sleep.  Nothing was working.  Finally, I had Tom lay Michael down on my chest.  After a few minutes of struggling to get comfortable, he finally settled in.  However, I couldn't cover myself with a blanket without covering his head, and my exposed arms were getting more and more chilled in the humid, conditioned air.  It's also not so easy to support the weight of a six-month old as it was to do with a newborn, and my chest began to feel a bit constricted.  Add to that the cramping that began in the small of my back, and the hyper-aware state that I am always locked in when forced to doze in such precarious positions with him, and I found that I had reached my limit by the end of one hour.  Unable to sustain the current position, I rolled Michael over on to the bed, and tried to get him positioned comfortably between Tom and myself.

He was not having it, and his crying quickly built into hysterics.  At this point, I was sure that one contributing factor had to be hunger, so Tom went downstairs to prepare a new bottle.  We hoped that it would settle him enough that he might go back down into the Pack n' Play, but he was restless during the feeding, and then Tom was unable to get him to burp.  That is- until he lay him down to sleep, when he not only burped so loudly and so wetly that I was audibly startled from my sleepy haze in the nearby bed, he vomited all over his one available sheet as well.  Left with no other options, we tried to put him down directly on the Pack n' Play mattress, but he had built himself back up into a state again, and was not to be removed from a pair of warm arms.

After he endured several failed attempts, I took pity on Tom and motioned him back over to the bed.  This time, Michael was willing to sleep next to me instead of on top of me, and nestled into the crook of my elbow, where he stayed until the first rays of sun began to peek through the window.  I slept fitfully, if at all, and was desperate to pass Michael back to Tom as soon as he began to fuss himself awake, perhaps ninety minutes later.  I needed some baby-free space, and some sleep.

Though I managed to work in a couple of hours of sleep that morning, and a pretty long nap this afternoon, the day felt long, uncomfortable, and difficult to manage.  Michael seemed to be having an off-day as well, with multiple periods of fussiness that were difficult to soothe, and several episodes of vomit and spit-up.  I was so desperate to find some way to please him after the latest dose of Mylanta seemed not to have done the trick that I offered him a Mum-Mum (which he downed) and even a bit of mashed banana, though I had initially planned to hold off on any solids until we had his stomach issues worked out.  But I was starting to feel that maybe we'd reached some disappointing level again, of "the best that it would get," anyway, and while he seemed to be hungry it had been only two hours since his last bottle.  I've learned from experience that leaving less than three hours between feeds results in major regurgitation of the most recent bottle.

It seemed to help in the moment, but after a few spoonfuls Michael was losing interest and getting fussy again.  I finally realized that he was terribly exhausted, and as much as I wanted him to make it until bedtime, I was fighting a losing battle.  When we finally hit the three-hour minimum for his next bottle feed, he fell asleep drinking it, and dozed on Nana's shoulder through the end of dinner.  Since being put down in the bedroom he's awoken three times tonight while coughing, and I wonder what challenges we face in the hours ahead of us.

I've been desperately praying for the chance to finally break free of this unending, crushing fatigue, because it colors everything in a definitive shade of hopeless.  The usual struggles that I have from time-to-time to keep my chin up and my outlook bright are impossibly magnified when my constant lack of energy makes small tasks not only seem difficult, but feel difficult to accomplish.  And my decreased level of accomplishment gets me feeling down, and somewhat useless.  I start to doubt myself.  I start to self-blame.

It's been easy to push aside and largely ignore the grief that's been building inside of me over the end of my breastfeeding relationship with Michael while there appeared to be real benefits to the change.  For the first few days he'd been so much more content, independent, affectionate, interactive.  My "mellow little dude."  But the last couple of days, particularly today, have felt like such a backslide, and it's days like this that I end up second-guessing my decision not to kill myself over keeping up a supply while supplementing- that I'm so sensitive to his new smell (that is overwhelmingly now of soy formula) that it turns my stomach to breathe in his scent- that I begin to crumple a little bit at the realization that the next time he acquiesces to a short nursing session may be his last- that I begin to feel a little bit like a failure, after all.


  1. Hey, sweetie...

    There are so many new moms who will benefit from your courage to share these challenges. I just want to give you a big cyberhug and remind you to be gentle with yourself. Michael's fussiness is not a reflection on your parenting skills. There is nothing about the end of breastfeeding that makes you a failure. You are an amazing, generous, attentive and loving mother and both kids are lucky to have you.

    And come home soon! We miss you guys.


    1. Thanks, Lisa. I certainly can't wait to be home. Tomorrow is the big day- let's hope that Michael does as well on the trip back as he did on the way up.