Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Sleep (or not)

     HOLY JOY!  Etienne has slept through the night five nights in a row!!!!!
     With dry diapers.  What?  In our world, this is God showing up big time.  This is big and beautiful and evidence of His grace.  This is an answered prayer.  This is a boy getting a very big boost in his confidence and this is 2 parents looking a little less zombie-like.  Five mornings of turning up "Say Hey" while we brush our teeth and dance around with praise.
     I blog about our lack of sleep a lot.  I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert at sleep depravity.  After all, most babies prefer sometime after 3 AM but before  AM to be born.  Between living with my entourage and catching babies, it's a topic I don't escape often.  This weekend, I was reminiscing (not fondly) with family about the days that Blake didn't sleep.  For years, he could function pleasantly on only 4 or 5 hours a night!  He was like the energizer bunny.  Ryan once set him in front of Sports Center,  as a 2 year old, at 11 PM.  He called it an "experiment," and at 4 AM, Ryan returned to Blake, tiny toddler with his eyes still glued to Sports Center (which just repeats itself every half hour all night).  I laugh to think it was like God was warming us up for our sleep deprivation in years to come.
     Etienne and Ezekiel came from the Home of Hope, in Kigali, Rwanda.  At the time of their adoption, there were just under 150 children in the orphanage and each our sons was in a room lined with rows and rows of tiny cribs.  Lying in one, a child was surrounded on 3 sides by other children.  They spent many, many hours in those cribs irregardless to whether they were tired or not.
     We took them home and our first mistake was forgetting those rows of "friends."  We tried to have Etienne share a room with Blake and we set a crib in our room, near our bed for Zeke.  Weeks and weeks went by with neither little man or parent sleeping.  As soon as we put ourselves in their shoes, we remembered that a bed or a big spacious crib would be lonely.  So our "3 year old" and our 18 month old shared a crib next to our bed, each swaddled with their feet touching end-to-end.  And it worked. For a bit.
     Zeke now sleeps fabulous.  We are still fumbling our way through new theories and tactics with Etienne.   One thing that we have always noticed with him is that he moves a lot in his sleep, he often sleeps with his hands clenched in fists and his large muscles contracted.  What's heartbreaking about this is that a lot of people-parents and professionals alike-see these same traits.  It is thought that children from an institutional background often don't learn self regulation, do not regularly get their needs met and are often in an over stimulated state of alert (think "I don't know if that noise is bad so I am gonna sit up here, ready to scream and run if I need to,").  It's awful what the world does to it's children.  Along with this, he wakes up a lot and then has difficulty falling back asleep.  Not fair, right?  Poor buddy.
     Here are some good resources for sleep issues:

  •    The Center for Adoptive Medicine- http://adoptmed.org/topics/sleep-and-adoption.html
  •     AdoptiveFamilies.com  
  •    "The Connected Child," Karyn Purvis

     The good news is that God has got this.  As with most parenting, whether a "home grown" kid or not, a lot of what we do is trial and error.  I am thankful that E almost daily reminds me that His grace is sufficient because I am not.  Ultimately, our rest comes from God and not from sleep.  Even though sleep feels amazing.
     So many kiddos have sleep struggles along the way.  "Crying it out" isn't encouraged with children that our newly adopted, but I know some parents have had success with that.   Ryan and I totally jumped on the "Ferber" method train with Molly (mostly because she refused to snuggle and she was so loud when she slept!) while with Blake we honestly found that he liked a dresser drawer.  Desperate times, people, don't judge.
     Does "crying it out" seem harsh?  Can your child sleep better with you or without you?  What about co-sleeping (and how do you ever have another child?!).   I would love to hear how many parents have their adopted children in the room with them...or with another sibling.


  1. In our defense, the dresser drawer WAS left open. Just throwing that out there.

  2. Love that Etienne is sleeping better--for your sanity AND because I know your kiddos were praying for him. I love when God answers the prayers of His little children like this. How precious their faith and trust is to Him.

  3. Our (adopted) big boy was nearly five when he came home, and has slept in the same bed with other children, so he shares a room with his brother, recently he had a nightmare that really bothered him of a person standing over his bed (freaky for even me to hear) so he has slept with his same age brother for over a week. Our daughter was about a year old when she came home and had a fairly typical sleep arrangement in her birth country, a crib next to a caregiver... she slept with me for a few weeks, transitioned to a bed/crib next to me, and now at age two sleeps well and fairly soundly in her own crib in her own room. While I look fondly on co-sleeping and think it is so sweet, I am so thankful she is now able to be in her own space and I in mine! Honest answer. I suck big time at even being woken once at night! She will have spells of waking and crying, sometimes she comes to bed with me, sometimes I hold her until she is calm... really, I am a lucky one... it could be much "worse". Really, I have NO thoughts other than do what works and promote sleeping and work toward independence as with all things in childhood...

    1. I love when parents are big enough to say that whatever works, works! Even better when life teaches us to leave the judgement at the door. :-)

  4. The Prime Minister of England's daughter slept in a cardboard box for the first months. Almost packed a flattened one to take to Rwanda, forgot, daughter slept in a baby bathtub stuffed with pillows and blankets (against every SIDS pamphlet every written). She survived. So the dresser drawer sounds good to me!

    1. Vanessa, I wish we could go for coffee!

  5. My boys(from Liberia) were 7 and 1 when they came home. The younger was anxiouslly(very very) attached, and the older had significant trauma/PTSD issues. Both coslept with me for the first year. I was glad I had gone for the king sized bed, even though I was single! It was good for bonding, and neither of them were really capable of being alone at night for all that time. After a year they transitioned into a room together, but then 3 months later my daughter(then 2, also from Liberia) came, and my older son had a rough time with her homecoming, so all 3 came back to my bed. This time for only 4-6 months, and then all 3 shared a room. She had her own room, but wanted to sleep in their room. My oldest is now 13, and still won't sleep in a room by himself, still has some nightmares, but is 10 times better than he used to be. I'm already thinking about college, and if he will be able to handle going away. So much can change between now and then, and it certainly makes no difference to me. When he is having an anxious day he will ask if he has to go live on his own when he is done with school, and I always tell him he can live in my house as long as he wants. It's an interesting ride, but they're totally worth it!!

  6. susan, that is amazing to hear and gives me hope. sometimes I feel like I am on an island!