Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sleep Deprivation and Mommyhood

Everyone told us when I was pregnant that once Colden hit four or five months old, he would start to sleep through the night and we would be back to getting six or maybe eight hours of sleep a night. Great, right? So we used that thought to comfort ourselves through the first four months of being parents, when Colden needed to eat every two hours, and we found ourselves sleeping whenever we had fifteen minutes to spare.

When he was about five months old, he did start to sleep longer, and at first, like any new mom, I would find myself waking up at two hour intervals anyway, and creeping into his room to check on him and make sure that everything was okay. (Which it always was.)

And then my mom got sick and went into the hospital down in Galveston, and Colden and I went down there to see her, because we weren't sure if we were going to get to see her again. I stayed with my sister, and my sister found a pack-n-play for Colden to sleep in while I got the air mattress on the floor of their spare room.

Colden did not like that pack-n-play. The first night that I put him in it, he just screamed and screamed. Not wanting to wake up the entire house, and desperate for some rest after a twelve hour trip from upstate New York, I put him in bed with me and let him sleep there. For the remainder of my trip to Texas, which was the last time I saw my mom, every night I would tuck Colden into bed next to me to comfort both of us.

The day after I got back to New York, my mom passed away, and Colden did not want to go back to sleeping in his crib. Again, mostly as comfort for me, I would just tuck him into bed next to me and Tom at night and let him sleep there.

Because he was sleeping right there with us, he got used to being able to nurse all night, on demand. And I, desperate for sleep, would very often just let him nurse as I went back to sleep, thinking that it would make all of us happier people.

Eventually, it started to wear on me, being constantly on call for Colden 24/7. When we tried to get him back into his crib, it was horrible for everyone. He would scream until he made himself throw up, which wasn't fun for him, and certainly didn't let Tom and I get any sleep, anyway. I just couldn't bring myself to let him scream it out every single night because I just felt like that was cruel, but he wouldn't sleep longer than an hour at a time at night in bed with us, anyway.

Finally, in January of this year, right before his second birthday, I set up the Big Boy Bed in his room, made up with all sorts of his favorite comfy blankets, his stuffed animals, and a warm pillow. At first, he resisted it, but then once we instituted a new bedtime routine, he started to fall asleep on his own, in his own bed, clutching his Eeyore or his Po or his birdie.

It wasn't perfect, though, and we still have yet to get through two nights in a row where Colden does not wake up calling for "Ma-ma" and wanting a cup or bottle of milk. Some nights, I am just too exhausted to put him back to bed and we let him get back into bed with us. And then lately there have been nights where he will kick me and Tom, pull my hair, and generally thrash about, making all of us miserable and sleep-deprived the next day.

It's getting so hard to function during the day when I only get three or four hours of sleep at night. We put Colden to bed at eight, usually, but then I try to stay up for a couple of hours and finish up whatever work I didn't get done during the day. Bu the time I'm ready to go to bed at ten, Colden is usually awake and crying for me, so I have to put off going to bed until I can get him back to sleep, usually in our bed, which means that once again, Mommy gets about six inches of bed and four inches of covers in which to make herself comfortable. And when you add a 90-lb Moose into the mix, well, I get even less space to sleep.

I know I'm not the only one with a toddler with sleep issues, but it's really starting to wear on me. If Tom goes to Colden, Colden just screams his head off, this high, shrieking primal scream, and Tom can't do a thing with him. If Tom tries to change his diaper, he kicks and rolls and frustrates the hell out of Tom. If Tom tries to do bedtime routine with him, he can get as far as turning off the light, but then Colden won't get into bed and just cries for Ma-ma until I pick him up and rock him in the rocking chair for a few minutes before tucking him into bed.

The last few days, Tom said something to me about the circles under my eyes getting worse, and truthfully, I hadn't looked into a mirror in over a week, so I had no idea. As I was getting into my shower this morning, I looked, and I didn't like what I saw. The circles ARE getting worse. I look as if I've got two black eyes, and lately, I'm so tired that when Colden wakes up in the middle of the night, I get angry and swear a lot because all I want is to just go to sleep.

The other day, I was so tired that I took a three hour nap alongside Colden after we had our lunch. I regretted this later when I realized that after I got up, did the dishes and straightened up the house, cooked dinner, did the dishes again and got Colden into bed that I had a huge pile of work and emails waiting to be finished. That's the trade-off: I can take a nap during the day if I can stay up late at night and finish my work, but then the problem becomes what happens at night when Colden wakes up and then I can't get any more sleep. At the risk of using a cliche, it really does become a vicious cycle, and it ends up with me getting no sleep and getting stressed out about losing my job because I can't keep up with the work.

I would love to hire some help, just someone to come in to the house two or three mornings a week to be a mother's helper and amuse Colden while I got my work done, but when I'm making $675 a month and trying to pay off medical bills from two years ago still, who can afford it? Daycare is absolutely out of the question because we certainly can't afford THAT, and the nearest licensed daycare is either in Lake Placid or twenty minutes in the other direction up in Clintonville.

And then this last week, something has changed in Colden's bedtime routine with him, and I can't figure out what it is yet. Last Sunday night, Colden would not go back to sleep, no matter what I did, unless I stood up with him and carried him throughout the house. I thought I might lie down on the couch with him sprawled out onto me, but the second I sat down on the couch, he woke right up and started screaming again. Finally, around 2:30 a.m., Tom intervened and got Colden a bottle of milk and a snack of cheese, dried cranberries and Goldfish crackers. He sat him up in our bed and put on Baby Einstein, and Colden sat there and giggled at the television and ate the entire bowl of snacks. I was in tears by that point, and I just desperately wanted to be able to close my eyes and go to sleep without a little foot kicking me in the back or little hands pulling at my hair. (Colden has this weird comfort thing about my hair, and yanking on it and rubbing it between his fingers is apparently a source of great comfort to him.)

Last night we had another one of those nights where Colden would not go back to sleep. He went to bed a little before eight, and Tom and I tried to snuggle up a bit and re-connect with each other, but I was so tired the second my head hit the pillow that I just fell asleep. Colden came into our room around eleven and was awake until at least two. We changed his diaper, we got him three bottles of milk, but he wouldn't go to sleep until we put on Baby Einstein and Tom got him another snack of Goldfish crackers and dried fruit.

Sometimes when I do have the opportunity to go to bed early, I lie there awake, because it feels like my brain is telling my body, "Don't even think about going to sleep - you'll just have to get up in an hour!" And that is extremely frustrating because I want to sleep, I need to sleep, but I just can't do it. Sometimes I will take a warm bath and I can feel myself falling asleep in the tub, and then I get out, ready to lie down and sleep, and of course, that's right when Colden wakes up and we have to start all over.

I know I'm not the only person on the planet who has a toddler with sleep issues. We feel as though we've tried everything: we have read The No-Cry Sleep Solution over and over, we have kept charts and logs about Colden's sleep or the lack thereof, and we've tried everything we can think of to create a soothing, predictable and relaxing bedtime routine for him. But the kid just cannot fall back asleep by himself. I'm thinking that this may be the time when I consult with the pediatrician, even though the last time I talked to her about it, she advised me to let him cry it out, and I am definitely NOT comfortable with the thought of causing my kid distress like that.

Last week, I had to go to a singing group rehearsal on a Wednesday morning, and I seriously had no energy and could feel my eyes closing as we sat and tried to come up with a repertoire for our upcoming gigs. I just have no energy left for anything anymore outside of work and Colden.

This morning, Tom went off to do maple sugaring for our friend in Paul Smiths for the day, and we won't be back until late tonight, if we're lucky. I just have to see how I can best get through this day - it's going to be hard. I find myself stressing out again over the pile of work that I have waiting for me this week, and I'm finding it hard to control my temper after having about three hours of sleep last night. I don't know if I will let myself take a nap when/if Colden naps this afternoon, or if I'll keep myself awake and see if I can get some sleep after Tom gets home.

Either way, there's things that gotta get done...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Health Care Rant (For Those of You Brave Enough to Read It)

So, this whole thing with the health care debate and this health care "overhaul" really has me angry. Really angry. Angry to the point where I can barely think of anything else, so I am going to let it all out here for the world to see. And if you get a little angry after reading this, well, good, because I think this is something we should be angry about.

I've heard over and over from people who are against health care reform that they do not want to be told by the government what they can and can't do. These are mostly the SAME PEOPLE who have no problem with the government telling other people what they can and can't do, though. Legal abortions, anyone? Why is it okay for the government to outlaw abortions but not okay to tell people, "We need to help others with health care." Oh, right, it's a religious and moral thing. Well, how moral is it to let hundreds of thousands of people get sick and die every year because we aren't willing to pay a few bucks more out of our own pockets every month? Is that okay with God? Worry all you want about the unborn, but screw the folks who are here, and living, and trying to make ends meet day after day with their families.

For those same people who don't want to pay into a system that they will never use, here's what I have to say. Do you have some crystal ball that lets you see into the future? Are you so positive that you will never be in dire need of health care? What if you lost your job and had a catastrophic illness while uninsured? I'll bet you would be pleased as punch to have someone else to help take care of the health care bills while you could focus on recovering and getting back to being a productive member of society. Unless, of course, you have a small personal fortune set aside for unexpected health care costs, and then, hey, all the best to ya.

What about your tax dollars that go to roads, bridges, and schools that you will never use or even see in far flung states? What about tax dollars that are spent overseas on American interests? THOSE tax dollars are okay, but tax dollars spent on providing health care to middle class Americans is just awful.

If you don't want the government to tell you what to do, fine. Let's keep importing those toxic toys from China and those contaminated vegetables from South America. The government even tells you how fast you can drive. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?

What about prescription drugs? Is it okay for a company to just start selling a drug in this country without any say by the U.S. government?

Oh, wait, you say it's okay for the government to tell you what you can and can't buy and how fast you can drive? Why is health care any different?

The bottom line is that, whether you like it or not, if you live in this country, the United States government tells you what you can and can't do in a million small ways every single day. And now they are trying to say, hey, if you pay us a few extra bucks every month, we can make sure that you will not lose everything that you have worked for your entire life because of one catastrophic illness.

The thing that bothers me the most is people who say, "Well, I've got good health insurance, why should I pay for someone else?" to which I say, first of all, you ALREADY pay for "someone else" through your Medicaid and Medicare taxes. With any luck, you will never become so desperately poor that you need Medicaid. So why should you pay for people on public assistance to have health care? Because there's nothing you can do about it?

Why do we have this mentality when it comes to health care that, "I have mine, screw everyone else?" Are these people who need health care bad people? Do they deserve to be sick? Do they deserve to lose their homes, their cars, and their personal belongings because of bad luck? Why are we so afraid to help people who truly need it?

Now, I have to admit, I'm not happy about this new health care "overhaul". I don't like the idea of the insurance companies still being in charge. I don't like the idea of the government simply requiring everyone to buy health insurance from a private companies.

Which brings me to those stupid "death panels" that were so talked about. Okay, if the government sets up a public option for health care, then the big, bad government will decide who gets treatment and who doesn't. What people don't realize is that the insurance companies already decide who will get treatment and who doesn't.

Has your insurance company ever decided to not pay for a procedure, test or treatment that your doctor recommended?

Mine has.

Have you ever been told that the insurance company won't accept your application because of a pre-existing condition?

I have.

If you want to talk about "death panels", how about those bureaucrats at the private insurance companies who decide that you can't have your next round of chemotherapy or another dialysis treatment? These guys AREN'T EVEN DOCTORS. They don't have medical training. They are MBAs. Do you want some guy from Harvard Business School deciding what medical treatments are best for your cancer? You don't? Oh, well, then, I hope you have about a million dollars socked away to pay for it yourself.

I think the main point I want to make is that in this country, we have this horrible attitude of "It's not my problem." When, exactly, does it become your problem? When YOU lose your job, your health care, your house, and your belongings? By then, it's too late.

I am no fan of Washington politics, but I do give my elected representatives kudos for doing this the best way they could at this point in time. I would really like to see a public option offered. Read that carefully. Public OPTION. Not "REQUIREMENT". A public option would mean that if you needed it, yeah, it would be there for you, and if you didn't need it, someone else who did need it would be able to use it. Why is that so bad?

Just how much do people think this is going to cost them? Are we talking thousands of dollars a month? Some people already pay that just for their health "insurance". Think about it: what is a safety net for your health and your well being like that worth to you? Ten dollars a month? Twenty? A hundred? A thousand? What is it worth to someone else? Personally speaking, I would gladly pay an extra twenty dollars a month right now to ensure that my family and I never had to go without health care.

I'm not saying that socialized medicine is perfect. It certainly isn't. But why, in the most prosperous nation in the WORLD, do people avoid going to the doctor until they deem it worth the cost of a co-pay? What is wrong with the current health care system that people still die from pneumonia because they can't afford to see a doctor?

So, there. Those are my feelings about this whole health care debacle. I think it's about time we did something in this country, the most prosperous country in the WORLD, to make sure that no more of our children die because their parents can't afford to see the doctor. It's time to make sure that the insurance companies stop running the show and let the doctors decide which treatments are best for serious illnesses. It's time to make sure that not one more person or family loses their house, their life savings and their personal belongings because they had the bad luck to get sick. It's about time.