Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The winter of Emily's discontent

Emily is normally a very happy baby. Her nickname is smiles, and it's fitting. She loves to smile at everyone - her parents, her grandparents, even strangers, and especially her sister. In fact, were it not for a slew of problems that have plagued her for several months now, I might have been persuaded to call her the happiest baby on the block. But the poor girl has had a number of issues that have dampened her spirits over the past little while, and I can tell you - if baby ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

The first of her problems started about a month after we arrived in France. Emily picked up a gastro (from who knows where) and was sick for a good week (incidentally, the rest of us caught it too). From that point on, one problem after another seemed to keep Emily from feeling at her best. Her teeth started coming in aggressively, we found out the hard way that she's allergic to Advil, her skin started flaring up all over with eczema, and at least in part as a result of these issues, her night wakings kept increasing.

There wasn't much we could do about the teeth, except to treat with Tylenol.  We were amazed to see her in so much pain. Chloe had barely blinked with the onset of teeth, but Emily was behaving as though she had a mouth full of cavities. As for the eczema, it's been an ongoing struggle. We and various doctors are now fairly sure it's related to something Julie's eating and then passing on to Emily through her breast milk. So Julie's now off wheat, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs (a depressing number of restrictions). At least it our efforts finally seem to be paying off. Emily's skin is doing much better than it was just a few weeks ago.  

But the frequent night wakings were the worst for all of us. Emily was waking several times throughout the night and her sleep got so thrown off that we were no longer sure why she was waking. Was it because she was in pain, or itchy, or just because she had gotten used to it and needed to be trained to go back to sleep on her own again. Eventually, after many nights of anguish and soul searching, we eventually became confident in our suspicion that most nights habit was leading her to wake, and we got tough for the sake of all of our sleep. But the night wakings, the crying, the chronic fatigue all took their toll on us as parents.

I'm beginning to think that after both Chloe's and Emily's sleep problems, I'm suffering from a touch of post traumatic stress. Lately when Emily wakes at night my heart beat increases, my breathing shortens and my anxiety goes through the roof. "What time is it? Is it time to feed her? No. Shoot! Will she go back to sleep on her own? Maybe I should go in and tell her to go back to sleep. But what if that just makes her more mad. We should wait to see if she settles on her own. But what if she's kind of stuck in the corner of the crib? Could her teeth be bugging her? Maybe she's starting to get a cold." At this point, my adrenalin's racing and I know I'm not getting back to sleep right away. I turn to Julie: "What should I do? Should I go in?" Julie: "I don't know." We both lie there grinding our teeth, biting our nails and praying that our little girl will go back to sleep.

Do I sound crazy, irrational, obsessive? Oh, probably, but being awakened 5 and 6 times a night by cries of anguish (put on, I might add. Babies throw as many tantrums as toddlers. We just don't call them on it) does that to you, or at least it did to me. Now days, Emily usually goes back to sleep on her own in very short order, so the response triggered in me by her night crying is completely over the top. But I'll be damned if I can talk myself into seeing it that way at the time, and I find myself looking forward to when both girls sleep peacefully through the night.

We can always tell when Emily's not feeling well because she stops smiling. For many months now she's been feeling less than herself, and it's been difficult both to see her not happy and to deal with the toll these issues have had on all of us.

But things are slowly improving. Her teeth have finally started to push through (and no wonder they hurt. They're huge - like Chiclets on a hamster), her itching is settling down, and she only wakes once a night to eat. And yes, she smiles most of the time again now.

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