I mentioned before that I never again experienced the emotional upheaval that accompanied Ephraim’s first few weeks.
While that’s true, I did come home from the hospital with our new little Clive, and after introducing the brothers to one another, I handed the baby off to someone, went upstairs, and cried.
I cried because knew things would never be the same. It was a whole new chapter in our family’s book, and while we were ecstatic, there was a tiny bit of mourning, as well. But I blame the tears 100% on hormones, and felt immensely better after shedding them. I came back downstairs and that was that.
I felt considerably more prepared for this second round of Newborn Life than I had ever felt with Ephraim. I was confident in what I could do to help things and what I could do to hinder them. I had plans, and not really superficial, I’ll-never-be-able-to-actually-carry-this-out plans. It was a more measured, understanding approach to what I knew would be a tumultuous few months. I had been through the grind once, and I was ready to brace myself and work through what needed to be done.
Going from 1-2 children was the very easiest transition of the three for that very reason. When Clive was born, I had Ephraim on a very solid routine–he was essentially on autopilot. We had ironed out naps; his bedtime and wake-ups were set; we ate our meals at the same time every day; every morning at the same time he did Independent Play Time in his crib for an hour. He and Clive saw very little of each other for that first month, and I deferred to Ephraim’s schedule as frequently as I could. I know this is counter the advice that most people will give–usually it is said to defer to the newborn as the older sibling is more flexible. I found, however, that it was much easier to move Ephraim through his daily routine, which freed me up to focus on Clive. For example, if it was Independent Play Time and Clive was fussing, I knew I could spend about 30 seconds getting Ephraim squared away in his crib, then be free for an hour to focus all of my attention on Clive, which he ended up needing quite of bit of. Attention, I mean.
I had expected a long period of newborn sleepiness like I had experienced with Ephraim, but I was determined not to let it pass me by without building good habits. Like with Ephraim, I spent a considerable amount of time and energy focusing on full feeds with Clive, and by the time we came home from the hospital, he had proved himself to be a 2-2.5 hr eater. Armed with that knowledge, I started sketching out how to arrange his feedings and naps around Ephraim’s already existing schedule. I think it took three different tries before I found something that really worked.
The way to do this is to control the first feed of the day. This means that you’re waking the baby up to feed them at the same time every morning. Then the following feeds usually fan out fairly predictably based on the baby’s preferences and needs. I tried a few different starting points, but ended up starting his daily routine at around 6 a.m., so that he was back down for a nap when Ephraim got up for the day. For the first few weeks, I alternated my care between my newborn and my toddler consistently throughout the day. They were not together very frequently. Usually when Clive was up and nursing, Ephraim was asleep or contained in an activity like eating, playing Table Time (in his high chair, an indispensable bit of training) or in Independent Play Time. Conversely, when Ephraim was with me, Clive was usually asleep–if I had managed to get him to sleep. (More on that later.)
I hope this sounds like work, and not like it was some sort of easy-peasy arrangement. It took discipline and determination on my part. It took careful consideration and paying attention to the needs of the boys and adjusting the routine appropriately. There was frustration and tears, and there was fatigue, but I had a goal to work toward. There was also one very important obstacle to how smooth things could run–and his name was Clive.
That sleepy newborn stage I said I had anticipated? It didn’t happen. Or, it happened, but it lasted maybe a week. After that first week of quiet and bliss, my sweet newborn’s true personality came clawing to the service. He was awake. And he was unhappy about it. I’ll never forget the day that he screamed bloody murder like someone was shoving pokers under his fingernails. He was just a week old, and my mom and I stripped him down completely in an effort to try and figure out what was wrong with him. He was fed, he was dry, he was warm, he wasn’t sick–what on earth? As quickly as he started, he stopped. We looked at each other. What was all that about? We never did find out.
Clive did not have reflux. He did not have colic. He had a fiery personality–he was the quintessential Spirited Child. He quickly proved himself to be incredibly persnickety. While Ephraim would nurse and then quietly fall asleep, Clivey would not let anything be so easy. Keeping him awake during feedings wasn’t a challenge–keeping him latched was. Because if he ever let go, I could not get him to start nursing again. Even if I got him latched on again, he would sit there with the breast in his mouth, his eyes open, looking around, and flat-out refuse to do anything. It was the weirdest thing ever.
Nap time brought out the very most peculiar of his particularities, though. Ephraim would nap out in the open, noise and all, for at least those first few weeks of life. All I had to do was put him down and he’d zonk out almost immediately. Clive would not go to sleep without a plethora of tricks, including a very tight swaddle, a pacifier, a blanket over his head, and a sound machine, all while being bounced up and down in my arms.
To compound our nap time difficulties, finding the appropriate length of time for him to be awake was a serious challenge. When you’re doing an eat-wake-sleep cycle, it’s essential to not keep a baby up too long, or overstimulation interferes with sleep. It’s easy for a newborn to become overstimulated, so you have to pay attention to things like nap cues when assessing when naps should happen (because, ahem, not every baby will just fall asleep when they need to. See Exhibit A, Clive. Or Ephraim, once he hit seven weeks, for that matter. Who makes this stuff up, anyway?)
Because falling asleep seemed so challenging for him, I made deciphering the length of his wake time and his nap cues a priority. I couldn’t quite understand what was happening, though. When I saw possible cues, I started his nap time routine immediately. But he would not sleep. Eventually I realized that what I thought were nap cues were actually signs that he was already overstimulated. The nap cues? I never saw them. But by recording the time I usually saw the overtired cues and then starting his nap routine about 5-10 minutes beforehand, we began to have successful naps. Once I figured this out, he began to nap beautifully, perfectly even. It was uncanny.
It became immediately clear that there was no middle ground with Clive. He was happy or he was screaming. He was ready to nap, or two minutes later he was too overtired to nap. He flipped on and off like a light switch. You never had to guess where he stood on any matter.
With Ephraim, I had eventually been able to become flexible with his naps, letting him nap on the go or be a tiny bit late or whatnot. Not Clive. Never with Clive. Naps in the carseat did not happen–he cried whenever he was strapped in. At home, I watched the clock like a hawk with him, because if his forty-minute waketime became forty-two minutes, the nap probably wouldn’t happen, and then we’d all be miserable.
When everything happened as he wanted, though, he was perfect. An Angel Baby, even. He had his schedule firmly in mind, and so long as I played along, everyone was happy. If I deviated, we all suffered. Needless to say, I dutifully marched to the beat that Clive had set, even if that meant we didn’t really go anywhere for a few months. Most trips to the supermarket resulted in pushing a crying baby around the store. I don’t even remember him liking being worn very much in the wrap. He was just…very, very particular.
the truth comes out
There is a lot of guilt and blame thrown around when you start talking about letting babies cry. I think everyone hates the thought of it. I myself had used a controlled cry-it-out method to break Ephraim’s dependence on his pacifier. It was very effective, but it was torture. I had hoped to be able to avoid doing it again–that was one of the reasons why I paid so much attention to good sleep habits from the very start with Clive. Generally speaking, the earlier you start, the easier it is.
I’ll never forget the day, though, that I reconsidered my aversion to letting Clive cry. I had put him down for his nap–I believe this was before I had figured out the secret to his nap cues–and he seemed quiet and content.
With Clive settled, I took Ephraim to his room to change his very yucky diaper. I had him half-stripped with his diaper off and was grabbing a wipe when Clive began screaming. I mean screaming. Like I’M DYING I’M DYING COME GET ME NOW, a bloodcurdling scream. I panicked. I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew I couldn’t leave eighteen-month-old Ephraim on the changing table with an open dirty diaper to go see what was wrong with Clive.
“Hang on, Clive!” I hollered as I cleaned and changed Ephraim as fast as I could. Then I picked him up and plopped him in his crib, just in case there was an emergency in the other room where Clive was still shrieking. By the time I was out of Ephraim’s door and into the hall, he had suddenly fallen silent. And by the time I ran into our room to where he was lying in the bassinet, Clive was asleep. Completely and totally asleep.
I was absolutely dumbstruck. The whole episode had lasted minutes, contentment to bloodcurdling shriek to fast asleep. I stood there and looked at him, understanding taking root in my mind. Ok, I remember thinking. This kid can cry a little.
It was one of the best naps he’d had in days.
After that episode, I didn’t quite rush to him as quickly when he started that shrieking business. Instead, I instated a allow-one-minute-of-crying-per-week-of-life rule. Just in case. It seemed to be more a matter of delivery than actual need. Like I said before, Clive was either happy or he wasn’t. He never “fussed”. He smiled or he screamed. The end. That was my Clive.
sweet moments unlooked for
Just as we got his daily routine needs ironed out, a new complication entered the picture. I had heard of witching hour before from Val’s blog, but hadn’t really experienced it with Ephraim. Clive’s witching hour started at around week four or five, and lasted two months. It went like this: every night at about 7:30, he would cry. And he’d cry until he fell asleep anywhere between 9:30-10 p.m.
You can spot a witching hour a mile away because it’s ridiculously predictable and utterly unlike what happens the rest of the day. A baby that naps perfectly well in the day will suddenly become inconsolable. Nothing seems to help. Gripe water, gas drops. Then, just as predictably, it stops.
You can’t sleep train witching hour. You can’t do a whole lot other than find out what works to help the baby sleep, and then doing it. Some babies will nurse all through witching hour. Some babies will sleep in a carseat, and so it’s a perfect time to try to run errands with the baby. Some babies will sleep in a swing but nowhere else while the witching hour reigns. Clive, fortunately, would sleep in my arms. So that’s what we did.
Every night, I would put him to bed in his bassinet. And he would fall asleep. Then I would put Ephraim to bed. Just as I was done with that, Clive would wake and cry. Every night, like clockwork. I would give him a couple of minutes just to see if he’d zonk out on me again. When he didn’t, I’d get him up. We’d do the routine–make sure he’s not hungry. Make sure he’s not gassy. I knew he was tired, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Check off the list–sometimes those things would help, and sometimes they wouldn’t–then settle down with Clive tightly swaddled, with his pacifier and another blanket over his head, turn on an episode of Monk, and hold him while he slept.
I had mixed emotions about this at first. Actually frustration over it would rear its head more than occasionally over those two months. I started my day at around 5:30 a.m. I had just put both children to bed, and just for once, it would have been nice if Clive would actually stay asleep so I could sleep, too.
I realized, though, how priceless those times were. There was no other time during my day that I could just sit and enjoy holding him because I had no other choice. There was always something competing for my attention–the house, Ephraim, Jeremy, or Clive’s indisputable schedule needs–but at night, the only thing to be done was to settle down in bed, propped up by pillows, with Clive in my arms.
I diligently kept up the routine of putting him to bed on time–I never assumed the witching hour was going to happen, though it did every day for those approximate two months–and I’m very glad I did, otherwise I may have missed when the witching hour dropped out of habit. At about eleven weeks, he began occasionally sleeping through his witching hour. By twelve-and-a-half-weeks, he was over it, and I was able to introduce a dreamfeed for him, which I hadn’t been able to do consistently while the witching hour ruled our nights. After a week of the dreamfeed, he was consistently sleeping from that feed all the way through the night until the time I woke him up to nurse in the morning. Just like that. After all of the rigamarole that he put me through, Clive became the one child to sleep 9-10 hours at night at just 13 weeks.
jumping to conclusions
Because I had goals and because Clive was taking a huge amount of my time and energy to see those goals met, I pretty much put my head down and muddled through for those first few months of life. I was very busy asking for advice and assessments from my Babywise moms, but I didn’t talk to many other people about my persnickety baby at home. Because of this, there blossomed a a general assumption that I had everything down pat and had a very easy baby on my hands. I regularly shared the things that had worked for me when I was asked, but neglected to share the details of how I had arrived at those solutions. It was several months after Clive’s birth before I realized this, much to my chagrin. My photos and videos captured his well-rested, happy wake times, his smiles and coos–probably because it was tough to wield a camera and a screaming baby at the same time.
Clive did eventually make peace with the carseat, and he turned out to be my best and my heaviest sleeper of the three (even though he NEVER slept without a sound machine. Again: myths, people.) Although his great night sleep experienced a couple of setbacks in the form of major sicknesses, we had a few months of peace before we discovered, when Clive was ten months old, that we were adding to our family again. And that pregnancy would be the greatest challenge of them all.
to be continued