Thursday, January 21, 2010

nighttime + separation anxiety + tantrums = the vaporization of motherly love

As I write this Ike is screaming god-awful bloody-murder. His wail is relentless and unnerving, like a wild animal in heat. It doesn't help much that he is in his own room: in our Manhattan-sized apartment his crib is less than 12 feet from where I sit. Last night he did this for four hours, despite all our attempts to comfort him. When Charles and I went to bed at 11:30, I wheeled his crib into our room next to our bed. I dozed off at midnight, with Ike still standing upright, holding the rail of his crib, gazing intently at my face. As long as I lay facing him he remained mostly quiet.

It has been a few weeks of this behavior. I know I'm not the first mother who has faced a wailing child who will not sleep. But this is the first challenge I've faced as a parent--Ike was always a good night sleeper, even as an infant. I'm rather unnerved by how viscerally I hate him after he's screamed a mere hour. One hour and I'm ready to donate him to the Goodwill. A few mornings ago I could not even look at him. I was pissed that he'd screeched like a barbarian for more than three hours that night; lacking sleep, and any warm motherly feeling, I drank my coffee and looked out the window, ignoring him.

Today I bought a CD player & night-light that attaches to the crib. I burned him a CD of the choir of the Convent of St John of Kronstadt in St Petersberg. They have a very calming sound, almost like the pouring of water. I found a small icon of St Herman of Alaska which I placed in his crib. And now, after putting him to bed at 7:30, I have my prayer book ready and plan to read through it until (God willing) he falls asleep. As I write this, I go back into his room every five minutes or so and read a little more to him. He calms down while I pray, watching me. I'm nearly finished with Vespers at this point.

I have done a lot of web research. I don't think we're dealing with night terrors, he isn't necessarily asleep when the howling begins. I think it's some combination of separation anxiety, fear of the dark, lingering sickness, and a stubborn tantrum-prone nature. And the fact that, while he was sick, I let him sleep in our bed in order to better monitor him.

But the news for this evening is good. By the end of Compline he'd succumbed to sleep. I had to hold him down a bit to get him on his back, then violently rocked the crib so that he couldn't get back up on his feet, all the while reading Compline over the soft singing of St Petersburg nuns.

Ah. How wonderful he is when he's asleep. I might even love him again.


Jenny said...

I have noticed that even animals seem to feel this kind of ambivalence toward their offspring. It is draining to love, draining to constantly be drawn from. Most especially at night. The mornings after are the worst...

Julia said...

Wow, this sounds soooo difficult. There are times when it does seem perfectly justifiable to disconnect from your child, especially when you know that they are so strong and resilient and can handle it precisely BECAUSE of all the good nurturing that you have given them.