As most of you know Kaycie has had a major sleep setback since Luke was born. I put her in bed, go thought our usual routine and then she panics if I leave the room. She's also started waking up in the middle of the night crying and coming into our room. I've chalked it up to everything I could think of, starting with the obvious - we brought a new a baby home. I blamed it on separation anxiety from me being in the hospital and then everything being topsy turvy while Luke was in NICU. I did a little research and found that it's apparently normal to see a sleep regression at 27 months (which she hit the day before Luke was born). I've come to the conclusion that it's a combination of all of that with one more big thing thrown in...
One of the best books about baby development I've ever read is The Wonder Weeks, which I've posted about before here and here. I didn't get it until Kaycie was nearly a year old and it only follows developmental leaps through 18 months, but once I figured out the signs it was easy to continue to diagnose leaps after that. It occurred to me recently that the 27 month sleep regression and the insanity she went through a while back is probably due to a developmental leap. All of the sudden my baby girl has an imagination. Before she would play with her toys in a very factual way - she'd name or count her animals, talk about their sounds, etc. Over the past two weeks her dinosaurs have started having conversation and tap dancing and inviting each other to tea. Her Little People toys have to ride the school bus and take naps. It's a whole new world of play for her. BUT, if she can suddenly imagine her toys doing all new things, she can also imagine all new things hiding in her closet and under the bed.
I think she's having nightmares, but I don't think it has anything to do with me or Luke or the environmental changes in our house. I think it's because the section of her brain that controls her imagination has clicked open and she's overwhelmed. Meanwhile, the section of her brain that lets her communicate these feelings is still locked down pretty tight. I did a little Google research and found that there is a whole school of thought on this issue and I'm probably on target. I don't think she's actually having separation anxiety related to me, as it doesn't really matter who stays with her as long as it's somebody. Greg, my mom, her 7 year old cousin Robin... She just wants a warm body in the room with her at bedtime. This weekend we were at my parents' house and she slept through the night with no problem both nights, but she also had a roommate both nights.
The problem is, I flat refuse to start the habit of sleeping in her room or letting her sleep in ours. We'll deal with the issues until she grows out of them. We've made a little progress and I'm now able to sit just outside her door while she goes to sleep instead of at the side of her bed. She doesn't get up and play or try to get out of going to bed, in fact she usually goes to sleep easily and quickly as long as somebody is there. But the minute I get up to go to the bathroom before she's asleep she comes up screaming "NO MAMA HAS TO STAY!" and goes into a panicked crying fit. And when she wakes up in the middle of the night she's only crying about one out of every three times and usually settles back down quickly with a few sips of milk and sixty seconds of my presence. She just can't quite do it on her own right now.
The worst part is that she and Luke have sync technology. She'll wake up at 2, he'll wake up at 2:30. Or 4 and 4:30. I'll get him fed and back in bed, she'll be up an hour later. This is what's killing me right now. Last Thursday my mother-in-law drove from Sebastapool to hang with the kids while I took a three hour nap. Over the weekend Greg and I abandoned both kids to my mother (and father and brother and sister-in-law-to-be and her three kids...) and drove ten miles back to town to check into a hotel and sleep. I slept for about 15 of 24 hours from Saturday to Sunday, and that probably would have been more if we hadn't had to kill 3 hours before we could check in and then had to check out by 11. I really think I could have made it 20 of 24 hours under better circumstances.
From what I've read, the sleep issues at this development stage can go on for a couple of months. I'm not sure if I should start counting from when she quit going to sleep easily on her own or from when she started waking up in a panic during the night, but either way it should be winding down in the next couple of weeks. Theoretically.