Thursday, December 22, 2011

Days of Thanks #29

I am grateful every single second of every single day for my precious little boy. And I am so grateful to his big sister for continuing to remind me of how grateful I should be.

We are really getting put through our infant parenting paces in the sleep department. I meant it when I told the doctor we were getting a hard lesson in how your second child can be so totally different from your first child. We somehow managed to sleep train Hudson right at 5 months—it took only two nights and a tiny amount of crying right in our arms to get her to give up the last middle-of-the night nursing session and get her sleeping from 7PM until 6AM, which she did until the day she died, no matter where we slept or how off her routine she was. The only exception was when she was sick, in which case she woke up coughing and we just rocked her back to sleep.

Mr. Jackson is made of much feistier stock, apparently, where sleep is concerned. After his first three months, where he regularly slept through until 4 or 5 in the morning, he started waking up every three hours. So I would just nurse him and put him back to bed, with plans to try the same sleep training method with him at 5 months that we did with Hudson. And we did try it. And it was a LOT more work with him, but after two nights, it seemed to have worked for him, too. He was waking at around midnight or 1AM and talking to himself for several minutes before going back to sleep on his own, and then he would wake for good at around 5:30AM. The 5:30AM wake-up was tough for me (and made for a long day) but it was worth it for the solid 6 or 7 hours of sleep I could get overnight.

But it didn’t stick. Within a few days, he started waking earlier and earlier, and soon he was back to waking twice during the night. And then it was every three hours again, and he would not nurse right back to sleep like he had before. It started to get harder and harder to get him back to sleep and often we’d spend 45 minutes to an hour trying to get him back to sleep only to have him wake again an hour later. That’s about where we are right now—he usually wakes at least every two hours and sometimes more frequently than that. Sometimes I can nurse him and put him back in the crib asleep but sometimes that doesn’t work and it takes another half hour or more of singing, soothing, bouncing, replacing the pacifier, or whatever else to get him back down. Many times I’ve just taken him into the guest bed with me for the rest of the night, but that’s not a great solution, either, because then we BOTH sleep pretty fitfully and he seems to wake even more frequently.

It’s hard. It’s really hard. There are times when I literally can’t see straight and stumble trying to get to his room because I’ve woken up at the worst possible point in my sleep cycle. And I feel so awful for him because sometimes we just can’t figure out what will soothe him and get him back to sleep (sometimes letting him stay latched on for however long he wants to will help, but sometimes it doesn’t, and really, I just can’t deal with that discomfort—it’s hard on the obvious places and also on my back because I’m trying to stay on my side and not roll forward onto him). And worst of all, I feel completely terrible for even thinking, “Oh, why can’t you be easy like your sister was?” I know that every parent whose second child is harder in some way than their first goes through this—I know that it’s inevitable and totally normal. But for me, it just feels so different, so very loaded—I already worry every single day about how to best let him be his own self, how to help him feel loved and valued for who he is rather than for how he measures up to his dead sister who inevitably will someday seem larger than life for him. So every time I let the thought cross my mind that I wish he was as easy as she was in the sleep department, a tiny little knife stabs me in the heart.

The other day, my dear friend Debbie (not even knowing of our current plight) sent me an email telling me that she has been going through the same thing with her 10-month-old daughter, Leah. Leah used to sleep solidly through the night but recently has been waking and screaming and refusing to be soothed. Debbie said that because of Hudson, she doesn’t get upset during these middle-of-the-night meltdowns—she just sits with her little girl, rocks her, sings to her, and tells her how much she loves her and how grateful she is to Hudson for teaching her to appreciate those hours she gets to spend with her daughter in the middle of the night, for teaching her to be a better mommy.

I’ve heard so many stories like this from so many of you, and I remain so grateful to all of you for sharing with me how Hudson’s story has changed the way you parent your own children and how you respond in these situations. As I have always said, these stories are some of the surest evidence I have that Hudson’s spirit is still working in the world and will never be forgotten.

I wish I were perfect, but I’m not. I wish that my own experience of devastating loss had rendered me completely impervious to piddling little things like crazy night-wakings, but it hasn’t. I am exhausted, I am at a loss for how to help my little boy sleep better, and I miss my little girl and the comic relief and perspective she could provide right now.

So it’s right now that I am most grateful for Hudson’s lesson working in my own life. Right now that I am most grateful for your stories. Right now that I need to be reminded how piddling a thing night waking is, how temporary. Right now that I need to be reminded how I felt two summers ago when I would have cut off both of my arms for the opportunity to try to soothe a baby who wanted to wake up and scream half the night. Right now that I need to remember what a gift Jackson is, his night waking and my zombie walking and all. Right now that I need to remember during those difficult hours in the night to pull that sweet little boy in close, breathe in his lovely baby smell, kiss his face, and tell him how much I love him. Because he deserves it.  And because I will never be able to do that with Hudson again. Remembering that helps put it all in perspective.

How amazing is it that Hudson can be such a good big sister even in her death?

Cherish what is.

I love you, my sweet girl. Thank you so much for helping me be a better mommy to your little brother.

And I love you, my sweet boy. I am so grateful for every single inch of your warm, living, breathing little body and every single screaming second with you in the middle of the night. Even though I can’t always see it, I am so grateful for you.


  1. Being grateful for Jackson and the opportunity to snuggle with him whenever you can (even the middle of the night) does not mean that you will always enjoy being woken in the middle of a sleep cycle or that it can magically make you less sleep deprived. It means you do exactly what you are doing... reflect, focus on the positive, recenter yourself, and keep on keeping on... keep on waking up when he needs you and doing your damndest to figure out what your boy needs... and remember that there is a large crew of people lifting you up in Light and love.
    Rachel C.

  2. Mandy,
    Hudson has not only helped parents of small children. When my own 19-year old and her boyfriend came over to tell us they were expecting an unexpected baby, Hudson's story helped me appreciate that my daughter is here, and tangible, and touchable, and for that I am truly grateful. I never for one second take my daughters' existence for granted; I realize how precious they are...partly because of Hudson.
    Thank you.

  3. Oh Mandy, I love how these little babies arrive with their own little personalities and minds of their own! You'll get there with the sleeping, all of you, I know with mine just when it seems we've got a routine all figured out it then goes haywire. Like you, when I feel challenged by something I stop and remember and wish for it all to be so very different. Just from reading this tonight it seems to me that you're doing everything you need to do, putting one foot in front of the other. I'm so sorry that December it such a hard time for you and your family,I'm wishing for peace and lots of love for you this first Christmas with your dear baby Jackson,

  4. My dear Mandy,
    I have been reading your posts for over a year now. I wanted to share how much your journey through the grief of losing Hudson and the celebration of joy in new life in Jackson has meant to me. I have two boys--happy, fun-loving, trouble-making, and cherished. Since reading of Hudson, I have found myself sitting late at night listening to their breathing at night, smelling their hair while hugging them to tightly, and trying so hard to capture every moment in my mind's eye lest I forget. I try to remind myself even when they are so very naughty that time goes by too quickly and that the bad times are also good. I'm so grateful for you, your message, and for your little girl. My boys say a prayer every night to their Guardian Angel that I'd like to share with you, "Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here. Ever this night be at my side, to love and guard, to rule and guide. Amen." I often think of Hudson when we say this prayer. I think of her spirit watching over children like mine. A little guardian angel.