Archive for February, 2009

Thanks, Mel!!!

February 25, 2009

Mel posted a very insightful response to the question I sent her last week about the Brianna situation.  I felt kind of weird about asking a parenting question on an IF blog, but I did think there were some parallels to the IF experience… anyway, she handled it graciously.

I haven’t decided for sure what to do, but I am leaning towards letting her go.  My other babysitter, Helen, said she can take on more hours, and MIL and T. said they can fill in some as well. 

I’m just so conflict-avoidant that I’m having a hard time getting up the nerve. 

This afternoon I did ask if she’d be open to trying other ways of getting V. to sleep, and she said sure, she just didn’t have any luck before with rocking etc.  “She won’t sleep for me.”  I need to get my work done, not spend 40 minutes trying to get V. to sleep because Brianna thinks she’s ready for a nap.



February 22, 2009

So… I’m still mulling over what to do long-term about Brianna.  She came back last week, under the condition that I put V. down for naps.   This is what I used to do with my babysitter last semester… but for some reason it feels different this time round.  Maybe because I imagine this haze of disapproval wafting in from the living room as I do it, over us not doing CIO.

And I won’t say that we never will.  The option is on the table.  But it’s not our first choice, and we’re going to avoid it as long as we can find sustainable alternatives.  What we have now feels sustainable.  I put her down at night, and then T. is on duty until morning.  It’s working so far.  (Exhaustive details on our sleep training process can be found on my blogspot blog – ep-knits.)

But really CIO/not-CIO isn’t really the issue, the issue is my relationship with the sitter, and the fact that we have different philosophies about parenting in some arenas.  Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but as I go about my day, now, I keep wondering what else about us and our lives does she find fault with?  The sheets we are using for curtains?  The state of the kitchen floor?  Perhaps the imperfect baby-proofing?  Even though I presumably have the upper hand as the employer in this relationship, it feels strangely vulnerable to open my home and my life to someone I know so little.  Of course I interviewed her to begin with, but it’s not like I know her.  You know? 

In responding to her second e-mail, I addressed what she said, but not really how it made me feel.  I feel like I need to do that somehow, at some point, but I don’t quite know how.  I tried to open a conversation at the end of the day on Thursday (she comes Tues/Thurs for about 4 hours each time) by asking her to please tell me if things were bothering her, but it didn’t really go anywhere.  I’m not sure what to do.

Maybe I should ask Moxie.  Why oh why did I only discover this site NOW?  She is freaking brilliant.  And the wealth of comments?  AWESOME.

We report, you decide.

February 16, 2009

This is the e-mail I received from one of my babysitters on Friday (I’ll call her Brianna):

I need to inform you that i do not think i will be able to work for you any more. I have tried to put V. down the way you guys have requested, however i spend 20-30minutes trying to get her to sleep and then she only sleeps for 20 minutes and we are back at it again trying to get back to sleep for 20-30 minutes. I have tried every trick i know to be able to calm her down when she wakes up, however she is so tired and wants to go back to sleep that she dose not want to eat, or play or have her dipper changed. This continues for 3 to 4 hrs. I feel like i am unable to give the amount of energy that that situation requires. I hope that you are able to find some one who can fulfill what you are needing.
thank you
Brianna [not her real name] 

 I called her immediately, and also sent an e-mail:

Hi Brianna, I really really don’t want to lose your help!!!!! If there is something else we can try I am very open to a different approach. I can stay around and be on nap duty if that works. Can we talk about it??? I mean if your mind is made up I guess I’ll try to find somebody else but I know she likes you… I’m sorry it’s been so frustrating. But I am open to trying something different, since it’s not working. Let me know if you’re open to give it another shot next week with a different strategy – but if not, I’ll have to accept that.

Then I cried for almost two hours.  After I calmed down, I wrote this follow-up e-mail:

Hi Brianna, now that my panic has subsided I thought I should write a little more. Again, I’m so sorry that the babysitting has been so stressful for you. I’ve pretty much abandoned the way we were putting her down, because I couldn’t sustain it either. That’s what I meant the other day when I said I wasn’t going to be the “nap nazi” anymore, but I probably should have been more specific about what I meant.

I also wanted to apologize for the unflushed toilet on Thursday. When I got home that afternoon I was HORRIFIED to realize that you’d been stuck in the house with that all afternoon. T. and I are both missionary kids, and as such we tend more to adapt to inconvenient or uncomfortable situations rather than try to change them – which is very different from how most Americans approach life. I was thinking that this might seem really weird to a lot of people, or hard to understand. I’m not saying it’s the ideal approach to life, it’s just how we are and we’re probably too old to change much at this point (that said, though, T. says he’s going to pick up replacement parts for the toilet today).

Anyway, I feel like we’ve had a communication breakdown. I had wanted to talk through the nap issues with you on Thursday afternoon, but what with the grant application taking over my life, it didn’t happen. If you’re willing, my first choice would be to try again, and I’ll work on being more communicative in the future.

On the other hand, it could be that we’re just not a good match – as a family – with you. If that’s the case, we can cut our losses and move on. But I wanted to take the time to at least try to explain.

If you are willing to try again, please let me know by Sunday night. If I don’t hear from you by then, I will start interviewing possible babysitters again.


 I didn’t check my e-mail or even open the computer again until Sunday night.  It was nice… I had some peace of mind for 48 hours.  This was her response:

Sry i have not been able to call you back, my phone is dead and i can’t find the charger.

First off I don not, by any means want to come off as being rude or critical.

I enjoy being with V, however i was very stressed this past week with having to try and get her down for a nap. In my experience over the years i have found it best to let the child put them selves to sleep. I found that if the child has a routine for bed, nap and food times they are more willing to go to sleep. I have also found that if you tell the child that it is time to sleep then lay them down, even if they are awake, that they will eventually fall asleep. I let them cry for 15 minutes and then come in, don’t pick them up, but let them know that they are OK and that it is time for a nap and you will see them when they wake up. I would do
this every fifteen minutes. Eventually they will realize that they need to put them selves to sleep. The first few times you try this it will take a while for them to fall asleep, however with my experience and talking with parents, they have all said that with in 3-5 nights the child was able to put them selves to sleep. If you have another idea on how to get her to sleep i would love to know, however i can’t repeat last week, it was very stressful.

The other thing that i have found in my past experiences is that were a child sleeps needs to be a place of comfort and joy. I believe V. needs a places that is hers, that she can play with toys in as well as sleep in. I believe that when V. goes in the bedroom she anticipates either getting her diaper changed which many children do not like, or going to sleep, something else children do not like. I also think that she might be confused as to why she is sleeping in this room with out you two because she is so used to sleeping in there with you guys.

I think she might needs some more toys that are age appropriate. I have noticed that she has lost interest in many of the toys that she has. You can find cheap toys at resale shops that are perfect for her age.

Thank you for fixing the toilet.

I would like to continue working for you guys if you are willing to try a new way to get her to sleep.

Thank you

 And finally, my response from last night (I had T. read it over and he took out a couple sentences that sounded kind of defensive, he said):

Hi Brianna, I just checked my e-mail for the first time since Friday, I was jut giving myself a break and trying to decompress a bit.

We’ve been trying really hard to establish a more regular routine/schedule for V. since we got back to H. 6 weeks ago, and in some ways I think we have been successful, although I know we have a ways to go yet. I’ve been trying to follow the Baby Whisperer’s “EASY” (Eat, Activity, Sleep) pattern and most of the time I think we do pretty well. For a couple of weeks I was fixated on establishing a 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. naptime but got too stressed out with that – more on that in another paragraph below. But I do try to keep the EASY thing going.

We did try a 15-minute let-cry one weekend… We decided never to try that again. I know it works, and I know it takes 3-5 days, but we aren’t strong enough for it. So what we have been focusing on, our top priority, has been getting her to sleep through the night. And as soon as we moved our bed out of her room, she did. It’s been a full week now and we’re happy with how that is going. I think we have a good, solid bedtime routine in place – which includes storytime in her room, so there are some positive connotations as well.

I know it’s best when babies put themselves to sleep – that’s precisely what we’ve been working on with night sleeping, and the pick-up/put-down strategy (again, from the Baby Whisperer) has worked for that. It takes longer than the let-cry method for sure. It took us two miserable weeks and only worked when we moved out of her room.

I think the hardest thing with establishing a consistent nap routine has been that she has SIX different people who put her down at different points during the week (including Grandma and Grandpa, at their house, every Wednesday – and they often let her nap in their arms). For awhile I was being really strict with the times and place for naps, but I couldn’t enforce consistency with my in-laws and husband and the other babysitter too so I kind of gave up on that. I don’t know that we can do a 15-minute let-cry. I felt completely traumatized the one day we did it.

I talked this all over with T, and we’re thinking that one strategy for establishing consistency with naptime would be if I’m the only one who puts her down for naps, and re-settles her when she wakes up. This means that during the times when she’s awake/playing/eating, I’d be upstairs working (we finally got our office set up there), but I’d come down for naptime and you or Helen [a pseudonym] or whoever is babysitting at that point could study or whatever. Does that make sense?

Also, with food, just FYI, I’ve gotten in the pattern of starting her out in the high chair, then holding her on my hip to finish feeding. I know I should be more disciplined about keeping her in the high chair but it’s a compromise I’ve ended up making and I don’t see myself being able to really be more strict.

I agree that we need new toys for her, I just haven’t had any time to go toy shopping. Well, I did pick up some blocks at Target today, but I don’t know how engaged she will be with those. Would I be able to pay you to do some toy shopping for us? I think you’d have a better idea anyway what would be good for her.

On a downer note, T. tried to fix the toilet on Saturday but wasn’t able to, and now we have to flush by dumping a bucket of water down the bowl. We are going to call a plumber on Monday.

So that’s where we’re at. I don’t know if this is agreeable to you or not. We have to figure out our own way of doing things, and believe me I’ve read all the books I can get my hands on about infant sleep, and talked to all my friends who are moms. I have no doubt that cry-it-out would work, and would take 3-5 days. Everybody is in agreement about that. But there are also many who can’t or won’t do it because it’s too emotionally difficult, and I’m afraid we fall into that category.

So, I’m happy to have her room be a play place too, in fact we do often hang out on the bed there with her books – so it’s cool with me if the sitters do that too, take other toys in there too, I don’t care! Whatever works! And if I’m in charge of naps then at least you won’t experience the stress of trying to get her to sleep.

I don’t know, we’re doing the best we can, certainly we’re not perfect, but there it is. I don’t know what more to say without starting to ramble. Let me know what you think.


 So… I’m waiting for her to respond to that, but in the meantime I’m realizing how much hurt and anger I feel over this whole exchange.  I feel judged, and I do feel criticized.  I’ve been sort of non-directive with Brianna, simply because she does have a lot of child care experience – that’s why I hired her!  But it does intimidate me too.  And now I find myself besieged with self-doubt.  When I went to play with V. this morning I started crying about how inadequate her toys are for her.  When she wouldn’t go down for her nap right away, I started wondering if we should  CIO. 

What would you do?  Keep trying to work it out, or just move on and start fresh with someone else?

Friday the 13th

February 14, 2009

Today our furnace died and my babysitter just quit.  Because V. won’t nap.

So Tell Me About Your Day

February 13, 2009

The voice on NPR describes agonizing cuts in research funding – post-docs and graduate students losing their stipends, labs shutting down – as I drive to the library to print out my research grant application.  I notice that the registration on our car expired ten months ago and so try to stay within 10 mph over the posted speed limit.  I run into the computer lab, thinking “wouldn’t you know, it figures.”  As I dash from there to the FedEx office, four copies of the application in hand, my cell phone chimes with a text from my husband: “Val asleep, bring pizza, very hungry.”  Pizza???  I think irritably.  Where am I supposed to get a pizza?  Why can’t he call for delivery?  Because the delivery person would ring the doorbell and that might wake her up.  I picture my sleeping baby and oh, how I miss her.  Almost home. 


I spent the last five hours in front of the computer at a coffee shop, hammering out the final details of the application.  I’m not so good at details.  Even though I was hurt when someone described me to a mutual acquaintance as having my head in the clouds, the shoe fits.  So I spent most of my time working on the conceptual framing of the grant application – thinking in grand theoretical strokes, broad abstractions.  Language, identity, meaning.  I nearly forgot that I had to submit a detailed budget as well.  And a bibliography.  And my CV.  And the cover sheet.


Ok – home now.  I creep in the back door as quietly as I can, and slide the frozen pizza onto the counter.  I grab a slice of bread and find my husband sitting in the lazy boy with the baby asleep in his arms.  I feed him the bread as he catches me up in a whisper on the afternoon and the babysitter’s report.  So frustrated – baby didn’t sleep at all until after 4:30, and then only when held.


I kind of hit a breaking point though when I go to the bathroom and find the toilet bowl filled with crap – Crap!  I’d forgotten to flush before leaving the house (see, there’s some kind of leak or drip going on, so we turn off the water between flushes, and have to remember to turn it on again when needed)… I think with horror of the babysitter lifting the toilet lid to find… THIS.  Then I see the cloth diaper in the bathtub… and remember I’d forgotten to tell her that there were more disposables in the backpack by the door… I feel so defeated.  The adrenaline rush from finishing up the grant in time to overnight it by deadline drains from my body.  I feel exhausted.  How is it that I am so incapable of running a household? 


I flush the toilet, then go downstairs to hang up laundry (see, our dryer is busted, so instead of getting it fixed we’re line-drying everything…).  Upstairs, I draw the curtains – or, rather, the sheets that we are using for curtains – and turn on the oven to heat for the pizza.  Baby wakes up.  She looks right at me, cries, reaches out her little arms.  I gather her up and sit down to nurse her.  Here little bare feet are the most precious thing I have ever seen or held.  I feel myself begin to relax.  And so it is evening, another day. 

P.S.  Since I wrote this last night, I learned that I’m probably not actually eligible for the grant I applied for… 5 hours and 30 bucks down the drain.  As I said… not a detail person. 


February 12, 2009

Yesterday I had dental impressions made for a night guard.  One tooth in particular has been really sensitive to heat and cold over the past few weeks.  There was no sign of decay, but the dentist said it looked worn down, and the hygienist asked me if I’ve been grinding my teeth at all.  I suddenly remembered – because it had been a few nights, I’d almost forgotten.  I’ve been waking up with aching teeth and clenched jaw since the new year.

Not only that – I have bruises on my wrist and a callous on my knuckle from biting myself in frustration.  The day I called my therapist was the day I started to wonder what I could do that would hurt more, because biting wasn’t enough to relieve the stress I was feeling, and that scared me.

It started when V. was still in our bed, comfort-nursing in her sleep (not feeding – no swallows, just the little fluttery-tongue).  I would try to unlatch her, but she’d just lunge for me again.  Three, four, five times until finally she’d drift off to sleep.   Then again an hour later.  I can’t get comfortable enough to sleep myself while nursing her in bed.  I like to sleep curled up in a ball or lying on my stomach, not with my back arched and my top arm awkwardly trying to find a place to rest without upsetting my balance to far forward or back.  So I would endure her suckling, and release the frustration I felt by sinking my teeth into my skin.

I think we were overdue for a change.

Long, smoldering fuse

February 10, 2009

So we haven’t actually started letting her cry yet.  I think sometimes WE are the ones that need the baby steps towards sleep training.  We took another step last night and slept on the floor of our office instead of in the room that the 3 of us have been sharing.  So she can get used to sleeping in a room by herself, but it’s still a familiar room. 

It’s just that we’re in a transitional phase, and not only that, transitioning into a transitional phase in that we’re still fiddling with the details of the current arrangement.  It is DRIVING ME CRAZY.  I spent much of the morning seething about it, then T. and I “dialogued” when he came home for lunch.  That’s basically how we fight: we dialogue.  Lots of long silences.  I think we’ve only ever actually yelled at each other twice. 

I have a long fuse.  It really takes a long time before I’ll get really angry about anything.  The trouble is that it also takes me a long time to get over it.  I’ve been mad at T. a lot lately.  The lack of sleep is making me very irritable.  I hate it when I lose my patience with V. though.  It’s not her fault.

sleep training

February 3, 2009

This is so hard.

Hope springs eternal, I guess

February 2, 2009

So we’re going to stick with the Baby Whisperer one more night, at least, and see how it goes.  The twist is I’m going to my MIL’s for the night.  As soon as the Super Bowl is over, T. is coming home and I’m out of here. 

Baby V. is fast asleep as I write this, about 40 minutes after I put her down with a record-breaking 3 minutes of fuss!!!  WOW.  We have a modified CIO plan in place if tonight is another fiasco of hourly waking. 

I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight. 

I really hit a new low today.  Every little thing made me cry.  I kept thinking how I’ve failed my baby, failed as a mother, how I wasn’t meant to have her, how it was a mistake to keep trying all those many moons (32, to be exact).  Seeing her smile through her fatigue, her eyes all puffy and red, just broke my heart.  She hasn’t been sleeping any much better than I have since we moved her out of our bed. 

Well, I’d better pack up my toothbrush.  Tomorrow is another day.