We haven’t been getting much sleep lately, and it has nothing to do with our six month old.
No, we’ve been quite lucky that she has been sleeping, for the most part, through the night. Sometimes a need to nurse arises in the wee hours, but on the whole – she’s been great.
One of our little kitties however, has not.
It usually begins around 3:30 in the morning. Sometimes four.
Sometimes I try to ignore it, or my arm instinctively falls out of the sheets and down the side of the bed to pet his orange fur, hoping it’s just some attention and affection he’s looking for at these early morning hours. He takes the petting, of course, for a moment or two before turning around to walk away.
Though I wouldn’t call it a success as his battle plan then takes one of several paths – one is to scratch at the bed itself, always conveniently out of our reach, making one of us get up and out of bed to stop him.
Another tactic involves jumping onto my wife’s nightstand and knocking over any myriad of objects atop – a pile of books, a stack of magazines, remote controls, or her water bottle. It used to be a glass of water. We’ve learned that lesson time and time again.
If his plan involves my side of the bed, it means any number of magazine, books, or comics thrown with his back feet across the floor beside my bed, or knocking over any notepads, paper, etc, atop. He’s tried for my alarm clock, with a fifty-fifty shot at success, or the lamp. There’s nothing quite like being awakened by a table lamp, tall, slim in the middle giving it easy tipping ability, landing on your head as you sleep.
Now I should mention, this little guy has been a part of our family longer than either of our kids. In fact, we got him right before we got married, six years ago. And in those six years, he’s found a comfortable spot or two and slept right on through the night. Perhaps a little frisky fighting with his brothers now and then, but otherwise, it’s been dreamland for him. So it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it started just before our little girl was born six months ago.
When the petting did not get us anywhere, I thought that maybe his stomach was the one in the driver’s seat. So, I’d either guide him downstairs, or pick him up and carry him downstairs, setting him down in front of his bowl, always full of food, to remind him he has food there. He starts snacking, to which I then proceed back upstairs to fall asleep, only to have him wake me up about a half hour to 45 minutes later and we start the dance again.
Thinking it was his stomach, I began putting a dish of food in our room before we go to bed. Perhaps having it closer will help and put an end to this.
It hasn’t, and all it’s done is create the expectation that this extra dish will be there.
I should note, with the age and condition of our house, the doors to rooms do not close and latch like you’d find in most homes. That means that even if you close a door, it can with great ease be pushed open by a feline head. So, that option has been ruled out.
And rather than risk him waking Meg (although he sometimes still does), the baby, or our little guy, I continue to get up when he waltzes in at that 3:30-4 a.m. point every morning, and the intervals that follow.
At one point, I woke up in our hallway. I had lured him out of the room and downstairs only to have him come up again, and I fell asleep without making it back to the room.
I just can not fathom what exactly sparked this, and still, months later have not figured out what it is he wants. Petting, hugging, holding – he’ll have none of it in those wee morning hours. Food – a few bites then back at it.
At first I thought perhaps the Daylight Saving change in the fall/winter, but that disappeared in the spring to no change. Could it have been the baby? But this behavior started before she was born? And it didn’t happen when our son was born.
We’ve often wondered if there’s something neurological underlying within him. He was a pretty bad case when we found him. Curled up in the bushes, barely able to move, he lifted one paw up and placed it on my wife as she bent down near him, and our hearts melted. We scooped him up and took him home where he wouldn’t eat, drink or anything. Getting him to a vet, he stayed there for a week before we could take him home with us.
The doctor said had he been on his own a few more hours before we found him, he wouldn’t have made it. He was sick, beat-up, and barely had the ability to move, or even meow. He would try, but nothing would come out.
He was estimated at the time to be about a year or a year and a half by the vet, making him about 7 years old today, though we’ve always suspected he’s either older than their estimation or just lived enough life to seem that way.
Whatever they did at the vets that week, they brought him back from death’s door, and we couldn’t be more grateful. But being that close to the end, we’ve always accepted that his return came with a series of chronic health issues as a trade off. Many an issue that we’ve dealt with short-term, some long, but we’ve handled them.
Could this be among those issues? If so, why only surface now?
I have no idea.
All I know is that I love him, but man am I exhausted and befuddled as to what it is he wants. But, though many probably think of me as crazy, I will continue…because I love him.
He talks to himself and his toys for a bit, sometimes stories, sometimes giggles, and other times, the details of his day. And there are times when he will then fall into a slumber, giving mommy and daddy a chance to get done some of the things they just couldn’t pull together during the rest of the evening with a toddler running all around the house.
The days that he does not sleep so easily usually come with a myriad of stalling tactics and diversions.
“Maaaaaaammmmmmaaaa! Daaaadddddaaaa!” we will hear calling out from his room, usually ten minutes after he’s been put to bed.
Sometimes it’s “Me go potty!” which leads to a trip to the bathroom, and long conversations on the bathroom floor as he sits on the potty wanting to talk about everything under the sun.
At other times, it’s a request for a drink of water.
Recently, there was even the “there’s a monster in there” tactic, leading to very long talks, with the lights turned on, to show that things in the room just look a little different in the dark.
One recent night, though, nothing was going to get this kid to sleep and when I went in to check on him, he insisted that I stay with him.
“Stay, dada, stay!” he said, holding out his hand in that ‘stop’ motion.
So, I grabbed an extra pillow off his rocking chair, laid it on the floor and told him I would stay with him for a little bit. Putting my head down on the pillow, I saw him, occasionally looking up a few times to make sure I was still there.
It worked. He stopped crying out, stopped being worried, and eventually fell right asleep.
But then, so did I.
When I opened my eyes, I realized my attempt to put my head down to comfort him and put me out cold, and as I snuck out of the room, the little guy now fast asleep, I went downstairs to find Meg typing away at her computer and asking me what I had been working on upstairs.
Apparently I had been up there for well over an hour – out cold, asleep on his floor.
“We have only been home from the hospital for three hours and I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life.
I feel terrible even using the phrase ‘I’m tired’ as I feel that my wife had redefined the word after her past few days.
Since we’ve been home these three hours, our little guy has had two feedings, a diaper change, and is now napping.
Both Meg and myself are trying to heed the advice given to us by many and try to nap when he naps, even if it’s for just a fewer items.
Since we are still adjusting the baby and our cats to the wonderful world of co existence, our napping has been in shifts so that one can keep an eye on the baby and cats while the other one sleeps.
But with every little noise he makes, we wake and check.
As I write this, Meg is asleep on the couch, the cats all asleep in various spots, the baby asleep in the pack and play, and I on the chair.
She has tried to convince me to do something lazy and mindless while she and they sleep, such as watching cartoons. But despite the lure of a gilded invitation to do so, I just can’t find the energy to go more than blindly just ‘sit’.
I’ve run races and never felt so tired, but the emotional wallop of the past few days does not compare to any race.”
Now, several days later, we are doing a little bit better. By better, I mean my wife and I are adjusting (as are the cats).
The little guy has taken to feedings at a multitude of intervals throughout the night, starting around 11 or midnight, and wanting to go again every hour or so. That is not counting any of his diaper changes, of which there are several during the night.
During the day, he seems to eat a lot in the morning and then sleep through most of the day, waking in the evening for another feeding before sleeping and starting his nocturnal activities.
A lot of people have told us we need to sleep when he sleeps, but it becomes difficult, as when he is sleeping (and not screaming to be fed or changed) seems to be the only time to tackle things that need to be done around the house, be it laundry, dishes, etc, etc. So, a small cat nap here or there, but no large slumbers for us thus far.
Some people have told us “oh no, he’s got his days and nights mixed up,” but our pediatrician says that, being only a week old, he will, in time, start to develop a more normal routine. We’re hoping this is the case.
Our sleep has still been few and far between, which sometimes makes irritability an issue between my wife and I, but we’re managing. We know that this too, shall pass, and that this is all a part of the wild world of babies, children, and parenting.
I take a huge chunk of responsibility for part of our fatigue, as, with various requests “to meet the baby” I scheduled visits with friends/family each night of the week this week, meaning every night has been occupied. I admit, I think I may have overextended us.