The Grabbing Hands, Grab All They Can

November 4, 2009

Things are getting desperate around here. Like, really.

I can’t remember the last time I slept more than two or three hours at a stretch. I had hoped that my brief trip to Chicago would provide a full night’s sleep, but, alas, I spent that night waking up every hour wondering why I wasn’t being woken up every hour. Which, you know: FRUSTRATING.

The source of the problem is this: wakeful little Jasper and his grabby little hands. The boy has been in some kind of continuous developmental spurt/growth spurt/teething bender/WHATEVER since early September and the only thing that calms him down when he wakes – as he inevitably does, every night – is a fistful of my hair, preferably clutched while his little body – conveniently relocated to the master bed – is wrapped tightly around my head. Removal of legs or arms or fists results in high pitched wailing.


Like this, only with my head, and much less charming.

It is not conducive to sleep.

We have tried letting him cry it out. We have tried letting him fall asleep in his preferred, mom-clutching position and then relocating him back to his own bed. We have tried relocating me to another bed. Nothing works. If we leave him to cry it out, he screams with an escalating fury until he works himself into a frothing panic, which then requires an even more intense session of hair-grabbing to calm him down. If we remove him from our bed after he falls back asleep, he wakes and protests. If we remove me from the bed, he wakes and protests. If we move me even a few feet out of his reach, he wakes and protests. If we do anything other than send me off to another city to sleep in a hotel, he wakes and protests, and even then, he still wakes and protests.

It’s all become a bit much. The last few weeks, I tolerated – even took comfort in – his neediness and my own wakefulness, because he was sick, and I was worried – so, so worried – but his breathing has improved and his lungs seem stronger and so there’s a little less anxiety available to fuel my will to lay awake beside him all night.

I am tired, so tired.

I am tired, and my hair is breaking at the ends, and I am reaching the point where little hands – any hands – reaching toward me fills me with cold dread and that just breaks my heart. I think. I am so tired that my heart could have been plucked by crows from my insensible, zombified person some weeks ago and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have noticed.

Need help. BAD.

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    Adventures In Babywearing November 5, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Oh, sending warmth and patience your way. I have been there- and that is a hard place to be as an “attachment parent” like I am. But I get where I can stand ANY touch. You can only take so much. I understand.

    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..Ivy & Asher: Then and Now =-.

    Eastvillagemom November 5, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I know no-one wants to hear this, but I really think you need to get your kids out of your bed. I did CIO with mine and you know what, it took months. And he screamed. And he vomited. And I sat there and listened to him and I cried. But now he sleeps in his own crib, all night every night, from 8-7, and he is happy and healthy, and I am a better mother because I am sleeping too. Keep in mind that every time you wake up because your boy is grabbing your hair, he is waking up too. And probably not getting the uninterrupted sleep he needs. I tried a bunch of other stuff before CIO, and none of it worked. And everyone I know who won’t do CIO has their kids in bed with them. And they don’t sleep.

    Alexicographer November 5, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Oh, geez, I’m sorry.

    I’m not quite clear what your baseline plan is, i.e., does it involve him going to sleep in his own bed and staying there (which then gets understandably interrupted b/c, my god, anything to get some sleep), or whether it involves co-sleeping.

    I didn’t deal with this particular issue, but my son has turned into a good sleeper, and what we did was … well, first, he slept in our room (but not our bed) until he was 15 months old (this wasn’t a plan, it was disorganization … his room wasn’t ready ’til then. I’m not kidding). I put him down and then I stayed with him until he was asleep. But generally I lay on my bed and read a book and talked to him but did not pick him up when he got upset. Not never, just mostly. And even when I didn’t pick him up sometimes I’d go over and cuddle him but tell him he needed to stay in his bed and that I was going back to mine. So this wasn’t a hard-and-fast thing, it was just doing what felt right at the time and/or winging it. It did work for us, but I’m not ruling out (at all) the possibility that we just got lucky. Still it might be a variant of CIO that could have some value for you? I don’t know.

    We have a lovey, it’s a taggie. It works great for us but I’m doubtful it would for you.

    Clare November 6, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Holy cow – our kids are the same age and the same being. Wyatt was just so sick that he did not sleep for one full night, too busy groaning, fighting a fever of 40 and coughing. The fever went on for three days and his poor breathing was in a state. The nurse said don’t leave him to sleep alone and we didn’t. But the transfer back to his bed has been a real problem. For the sake of sleep and some sanity, I have thrown in the towel at “in his own bed until 5:30am” I feel your pain. I emailed you a picture …..

    Kelley @ Magnetoboldtoo November 6, 2009 at 3:41 am

    I haven’t read the other comments, so forgive me if I am just repeating other advice…

    I had a kid like that, compounded by the fact that he has Autism, so yeah the kid was OBSESSED with my hair and me.

    I ended up putting him in a big bed. I slept with him for a week, with him wrapped around my damn head. Then the next week I slept with him but when he fell asleep I would sleep with my head at the other end of the bed and a teddy that had long fur (that we had slept with so it had my scent) replacing my head in his arms.

    Then on a mattress on the floor next to his bed.

    Eventually I made it to my own bed, changing our pillowcases at the same time, his in the wash and mine on his bed (my scent).

    Then I sat with him till he fell asleep for EIGHT YEARS.

    Now he sleeps on his own. WHEN he sleeps…

    Hope this is helpful in some way babe, I KNOW how frustrating this situation is.

    Jen November 6, 2009 at 10:05 am

    You might try giving him Benadryl. Not the ideal, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We have done it. It helps.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Visit to the Ophthalmologist =-.

    Andrea November 6, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Sympathies! Wish I had advice – I’d take it myself. I started reading your blog about the time Jasper was born following your chronicles with a needy non-sleeping boy that in many ways mirrors my own. The post you wrote – Hush – was the first time I had ever heard anyone say how I felt – all those people who urge CIO – no one ever seemed to get where I was coming from. Where the boy and I were coming from. You give so much of yourself for your children, all moms do, and here we are, sleep deprived and confused and dealing with the rest of life that doesn’t stop so we can just take a really long nap before we have to face it all.
    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for putting it all out there, good, bad, ugly and sublime. It seems to me that every time I’m up against the wall and feel like I can’t take one more second of the way things are they ease up just a bit, long enough to give me hope that I can keep moving forward. I hope you get your reprieve soon.

    Jodee November 6, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Oh I am so sorry!. I know the feeling of a bed sleeper though.. My 18 month old kept coming into our bed in the middle of the night when I was 7 months pregnant and would practically sleep on top of you.. I finally told my husband I could not take it anymore and he was kind enough to take my little monster back to bed every time he got up… He was in a toddler bed i think that was our first mistake. But after about of week of this he started sleeping through the night… well until his sister was born.. sigh…..
    .-= Jodee´s last blog ..Shoes….. Wordless Wednesday.. =-.

    Elsewhere November 7, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Have you tried giving him a T-shirt worn by you? So he has your smell around him?

    claire November 8, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    um, maybe a silicone swim cap to cover your hair while you comfort him? so he hopefully would get over the hair part of the equation without completely melting down for hours?

    Rusti November 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    while my situation isn’t nearly as bad – I do feel your pain! About a month ago E was pretty sick and was practically held 24/7 for 4 days straight – once she was feeling better we had to coax her back into her crib instead of our bed, then she started teething again… back to our bed… and then last week she went the ENTIRE week sleeping no longer than 1.5 hours at a time (ends up that on top of the teething, she also had a sinus infection)and was once again in our bed… FINALLY this weekend (after starting the Amoxicilin) got her back into her crib – at least part-time… and I thought I had it bad… I don’t have any suggestions, as E had a lovely, but really doesn’t have any interest in it lately… in order to fall back asleep she has to be holding on to my fingers, or at least some part of my body… wishing you all the best!!
    .-= Rusti´s last blog’s been so long… =-.

    Anne November 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Well, he’s 14 now and allows only the most fleeting of contact-a hand on the shoulder, maybe a mini shoulder rub (if no one is looking, and we’re nowhere near a window). But I clearly remember trying to drive, a standard no less, with my right arm twisted at an improbable angle through the gap in the bucket seats so that he could clutch my thumb, while he sucked his own. It started innocently enough. He would hang onto my thumb while he nursed and gently rub my thumbnail. Later he would hold on while we cuddled. After that it is a blur of really bad parenting choices. We moved him out of the crib too soon causing “boomerang bedtimes” and ended up sleeping with an egg-beater (because, truly, how else can you descirbe sleeping with a toddler?). Here is my position, for what it is worth. Attachment is good. It innoculates children agains a host of evils later in life. Positive attachment however needs to be balanced with parents’ basic needs. I’m no fan of CIO, and I couldn’t do it myself. But I’m also a lousy mom when I’m so miserably grouchy that I’m a danger to myself and others. After I arrived at nursery school and realized I had blown 4 stop signs on the way, I knew something had to happen. It is really hard, but I did both things at once. I stayed present (no abandonnment) and he stayed in his own bed. It took hours each night and about 4 nights. You can’t really go through that and expect to accomplish all of your daily activities at the same time. If I was going to do it again, I’d call for back-up. I’d cancel all the daytime stuff, get friends to come help so I could have naps (or company during the hard part). Your need for sleep is legitimate. I hope it gets easier for you.

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