Thursday, May 5, 2011

We survived!

I'm so sorry that I've not updated sooner! You all have been so sweet to pray for and encourage us, and I wanted to follow up with you. Unfortunately, mommy the nap-nazi had to make her debut this week (more below) so I've been focused on that and haven't had a chance to sit down a write until now.

The meeting went so, so well. Both families remarked that it was far easier than we thought it would be. Todd and I had met Sheila and Beau several times before, which helped a lot. I think I did enough stressing on Friday, and then Saturday was a horrible night with sleep, so by Saturday, I was too exhausted to stress out. I just focused on spending time with them, rather than processing my emotions. It made things flow much more naturally than I thought they would. Both families were very open and honest about their feelings and experiences, especially since Matthew was born.

They came and we hung out for a while and then we went to lunch before coming back here for a few more hours. Honestly, it felt more like a reunion than a meeting. One of my friends posted on facebook that she was praying that it would feel that way and I think that was the perfect way to describe it. It just felt like we were getting together with old friends. There wasn't any newness or awkwardness to it. And it was so cute-their son (age 5) just fawned over Matthew. Sheila told him that Matthew is his baby brother--I wonder if Seth was wondering why the boy gets to live here while he has to live with two girls. (Just kidding, Seth is a wonderful brother to his sister).

Beau and Sheila explained to Seth that they gave Todd and I "baby seeds." They planted some seeds in their garden and she told him how just like when they planted seeds and they grew into flowers, their baby seeds grew into him and his sisters and to Baby Matthew. I thought that was a really kid-friendly way to explain things. He basically said "ok." Later, the only question was when Baby Matthew would be able to play with the truck he brought him. I love how simple and accepting kids are. No weirdness. No caveats. Just "ok."

A huge moment for me was when Sheila told me that she had been unsure how she'd feel when she held Matthew. Once she did, she told me that it just felt to her like she was holding a friend's baby, rather than her own. That was such a huge weight off my chest. I've always sort of felt like we "took" something from them. We only have Matthew because they don't/can't. Hearing her say that I think finally helped me bring some closure to that feeling. Sheila had said that Matthew's birth brought some closure to her grief journey for her. Our pregnancy was actually much harder on her than his birth was. I think that seeing Matthew was an opportunity for her to prove/test that the closure really was there, so I'm grateful God helped me get out of my feelings and go through with the meeting so that she could have that.

I think from now on, it will just continue to get easier. We didn't cry until the end. We weren't overwhelmed. We weren't stressed. We just were our two families, spending time together loving each other.

Here we are:

Now on to the nap-nazi. Matthew loves to be held. LOVES it. And I love to hold him as much as he likes being held. So for the last 3 months, that's what I've been doing: holding him. And I've adored every second, and have been so grateful for the opportunity to just BE with him. The problem is that he wouldn't nap unless I was holding him. And so some days he got a nap, and other days he didn't, depending on what else we were doing that day and if we had the opportunity to just sit in the recliner for hours at a time.

But his sleep was cycling out of control. Several days, he went ALL day without a nap. I kept thinking that exhaustion would kick in and that he'd sleep out of necessity but I've since read that with babies, the longer they're up, the more chemical messages their bodies send about STAYING up so it's a vicious cycle. It got to the point where he would sleep 6-8 hours out of a 24 hour period, total, including night time. Once of us was exhausted and grumpy most of the time. And so was Matthew :P

I had reviewed BabyWise and Happiest Baby on the Block and the No Cry Sleep Solution and none of them seemed to work for us, nor fit with our family philosophies. We have the Sleep Book too by Dr. Sears but I haven't had a chance to read it. Some friends really strongly recommended Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I resisted at first because the book is long and clinical. I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day and she suggested that I just read the part about Matthew's specific age to start with. So, I did. And just in that little bit, we learned so much (specifically about sleep begetting sleep, rather than exhaustion bringing sleep). What I loved about the book is that it's not a "stick your kid in a room and let him cry for hours on end until he passes out due to sheer exhaustion" but it's also not a "let the kid run the sleep ship" philosophy, which we had done and which WASN'T working. It's not about keeping such a tight schedule that life shuts down, but it also does stress the importance of routine. It's right in the middle, just like I'm finding myself to be on most parenting issues.

So mommy the nap-nazi made her debut. I wasn't going to give up just because he cried. The first time, I followed the suggestions in the book and put him down after he'd fallen asleep in my arms. As soon as I put him down, he cried. Normally, I would have picked him up here. The book said at this age, to let him cry for up to 20 minutes, to see if he would calm and settle himself. If he didn't, I would pick him up and start over. Well, those 20 minutes didn't worked so I picked him up. We snuggled, he fed some more, we changed him, we played, and we tried the whole thing over again. 20 more minutes-they didn't work, either. So lather, rinse, repeat. More playing, cuddling, changing, feeding, soothing. The third time? I put him down (after he fell asleep in my arms) and he didn't wake up or make a peep! And EVERY nap since then has gone the same way. He's gone from no naps to two naps a day and we're working on the third. And you know what? In just 2 days, he's a totally different kid! He's so happy and smiley and active! Yesterday, he didn't cry hardly AT ALL the entire day. I know we made the right decision for his health and well-being.

I know some of you don't believe in any kind of crying it out, ever, even the short, controlled crying that this book suggested. I guess all I can say is that I think each of us has to make the best decision for our families. Letting Matthew set the tide was NOT working for him and his personality. It was coming at his own expense. Just like exercise, or discipline, or eating right, or doctor's visits, I have to do what's best for him, even if he doesn't like it, or frankly, even if *I* don't like it. He *needed* sleep and since he wasn't doing it of his own volition, I had to force it. In the end, I think 2 separate, 20 minute crying sessions will do far less damage to him than prolonged lack of sleep was going to. I'm so grateful for friends who helped and supported us as we tried different methods. And to anyone looking for more sleep suggestions for their child, I recommend that book a lot! It was a far better resource for our family than the other books/philosophies were.

Well, I'm nearing the end of his naptime and I still need to go eat and finish getting dressed for the day before he wakes, so I'll skidaddle. That's what's going on in our household!


  1. Good for you, Jen! On all accounts!!! :)

    There have been two CIO (cry it out) moments in our parenting career (that is, major landmark moments, aside from little ones), and both of them were smashing successes (and I'm talking the middle of the road philosophy, as you say, not the extreme types). The first was when C. was 7 months old and I was sick and TIRED of having to nurse him to sleep for every nap. One day of training later, he went down on his own! And the second was at 11 mos, when I wanted him to sleep through the night - 2 nights of using the Supernanny method, and he was done for good. It was great. Anyhow, I'm glad you had such a great outcome - with your genetic family, and with Matthew's sleep!! Love you!!

  2. Thank you for the update. I'm so proud of you guys on all accounts. You are great parents and a great testimony to the ministry of adoption.

    I checked out the book on the Amazon Sneak Peak. It did look great! I would have loved to know abut this book sooner instead of having to mellow out and adapt the books that I read that seemed too extreme. We've been having sleep problems around here lately. Toddler ones because of course there is always something more interesting to do than sleep, though he has actually been a lot better the last couple of days. And baby ones, because though she takes naps and goes to bed at the right time but she has big problems waking up when her sleep cycle changes. I've tried all the tricks that I know of and she can't seem to re-settle herself without assistance from me. She is a little under the weather right now, but when I'm sure she's 100% I need to try again. Maybe this book with help. I am sure tired!

  3. yeah! Glad for the update Jen :-) That happens to be my favorite sleep book and the one book I still reference for my five year old :-) Did you notice it goes through teenager? Love it :-) Looking forward to seeing you soon !


  4. SO glad your meeting went so well- thanks for sharing! Hope the napping gets better!

  5. Glad all went well with you guys and his genetic family - I'm sure that God will continue to bless your relationship! :)

  6. Awesome to read about the success of your reunion with Beau, Sheila and Seth. I am so happy that all of you were able to work though your stress and grief, and come together to celebrate each other. I SO look forward to a meeting like this with our little one(s) and their genetic family!

    I am so glad that you posted the link to that book! I have an amazon wishlist going of all kinds of things that I don't want to forget about when it's time to baby shop/do my registry. This book will go right to the list!

    Thanks for the update! As always, it's so nice to check in with you!

  7. What a beautiful picture! Thank you for sharing. I love your openness to things. I remember the emotions that went through me when we met our genetic family as well. Amelia was a year old. What an incredible gift to all of us. We will always remember that visit. I must admit, her genetic family felt like distant relatives to us. We almost felt like family in a weird sort of way.