This week we've been transitioning Maybelle from her crib to a bed (which is her crib with one set of railings removed).
Let's talk about how well I do with transitions: I'm terrible at them. I like most things in my daily life to be routine and predictable. I love the excitement of surprises in my teaching and research (for instance, I loved it the other day when I invited my students to ask some questions I wasn't expecting, and one student--in enthusiasm and sincerity--asked, "Are we going to read any books that are...interesting?" Led to a great thirty minute conversation).
But in daily life, I love a routine. I also love getting a decent amount of sleep. Crib-to-bed transitions don't seem to support either.
The first night was Monday. Within the first hour of us putting her to bed, Maybelle had gotten up and come to get us 66 times. I became so overwrought that Biffle sent me to my office at school. He turned off every light in the house, and Maybelle finally fell asleep. She got up three times in the night, and at 5:30, she was fully up and ready to start the day.
Night #2: She got up 7 times in the complete darkness that was our house, then she stayed in her room for 10 minutes, then got up a few more times, and then within half an hour fell asleep. Awake and ready to go the next morning at 4:30.
Night #3: Took her about an hour to go down, a dozen times getting up between 7 and 8. Then she was up at 1, and then between 2:30-4:40 up about six times, which means I basically didn't sleep starting at 2:30. In the morning. I stood holding her bedroom door shut between 4:40 and 5 just hoping that it might inspire her to go back to bed. It didn't.
On Thursday, the day that started at 2:30, one of the students in my WGS capstone seminar mentioned the oxygen mask. You know, the airline announcement that you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on anyone who's relying on you. As I told the student, this is something I remind myself of pretty much every day. I needed to hear it that day, in my bleary, emotional, sleep-deprived state.
So on Thursday night, night #4, Biffle and I considered making her bed back into a crib and abandoning the notion of her being a person who sleeps in a big girl bed. But before we took that step, we decided to try a step that felt sketchy to me, but necessary according to the oxygen mask premise: we made it so that she couldn't leave her room.
As part of that process, I made her a list of "Maybelle's sleep rules," lifted directly from the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (a book that has some good suggestions but is deeply troubling in some of the things it says). It's a list of things like, "Stay in bed" and "close our eyes." Maybelle read it several times and seemed perfectly happy with it. Then we put her in bed, closed the door, and waited (waited, by the way, in a house with lights on--kind of important for me).
In the dark, she pulled the sleep rules off her bedroom wall and wadded them up. Then she got into her bed and fell asleep. For the whole night.
The next night she went to sleep almost immediately, with no tantruming at all. She woke up early--4:30--but played quietly in her room until I got back from my jog, a little after 5, and then the day officially began. Last night she threw a tiny little fit, but when Biffle told her it was time for bed, she got in bed, and that was the last we heard from her until 5 this morning. Her playing woke me up, so I went for a jog, and when I got back, she was still quietly playing in her room, so I went and got her. Tonight, she checked the door and has been silent.
I don't know about this sleep stuff, y'all. I have no idea how much--if any--of this has to do with Down syndrome, and how much just has to do with being a kid who has to learn to sleep. I do know that we've relied quite heavily on the support and reassurance of some experienced friends. I also know that there's no set of guidelines that explain The Right Way to do things.
As Biffle and I sat listening to Maybelle's fury on night #4, he said, "I'm sure of three things. This is all experimental. It's all gonna work out. We just have to be really patient." I stand by what I said to him then: two of those are a sure thing.