Staccato: A Story of Sleep (Or Lack Thereof)

Towards the end of pregnancy friends and relatives unknowingly utter the most annoying phrase known to pregnant women worldwide, “Make sure you’re getting your sleep now because once that baby comes you’ll be dreaming of the days when you could sleep.” There are two things wrong with that sentence. Thing the first is that no, you will not be dreaming of those days because you will, in fact, never sleep to dream. You may stumble around your house deliriously muttering about pillows and sleepy time wondering where your mommy is and why she hasn’t tucked you in yet. Alternately you may find yourself yelling at the couch for sitting so still or looking so leathery. Either way, that’s not dreaming. It’s the nonsensical blabbering of a sleep deprived whale woman. This bring us to thing the second –the truth is that you already haven’t been sleeping for at least a couple of months. That ship has sailed and it left the dock so quickly and without warning that you didn’t even have a chance to buy a ticket. During the third and fourth trimester sleep is non-existent at worst, staccato at best.

Staccato: Marked by or composed of disconnected parts… [In] Music (of notes) short, clipped, separate… Italian, past participle of detached, to detachfrom staccare, short for distaccare (, 2012).

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In music staccato is denoted as shown above. Each note is a crisp burst of sound separated by an equally short silence. In a major key this can sound lively, blythe, and joyful, like Bach’s Invention No. 8. Fingers trip lightly and happily over the piano keys. In a minor key, however, staccato relays a sense of urgency. This brings to mind the passage from mins. 2:37-2:58 of Mozart’s Fantasy in D Minor from his darker days. Producing this urgency, the minor key and rising staccato notes combine with the volume beginning at a whisper and building to an apex where suddenly the sound. Just. Stops. Seemingly without resolution, before tumbling off a cliff at min. 2:59.

During the third trimester the waking moments (silences) between the short bursts of sleep (notes) are marked by heartburn, muscles spasms, difficulty breathing and/or the need to make a trip to the bathroom. Telling a very pregnant woman to get her sleep while she can is actually a joke. The sleepless nights begin long before those newborn cries pierce the night (also rather staccato with a building crescendo– wah. waH. wAH. WAH!). Dreams of the legato sleep of Brahms’ Lullaby are but a distant memory.

Legato: In a smooth, even style without any breaks… [In] Music to be preformed smoothly and connectedly… Italian, past participle of legareto bind, tie together (, 2012).


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Hunter likes to sleep in my arms and not so much in his crib or bassinet. I nurse or rock him to sleep, but the second I try to put him down he’s awake, wide eyed and wailing. I have tried warming his bassinet before placing him in it, bouncing, swaying, rocking, walking, dancing to his favourite music (Jack Johnson, for the record) etc. None of these methods have worked, much to my and his chagrin. Sleep deprivation makes me go a bit insane and it makes for a very cranky baby.

I’m currently working on ferberizing him. This is also known as the ‘cry-it-out method’, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Basically at 3 months of age you start putting your baby to bed awake. He may cry, but you are not to pick him up to soothe or feed him. You do, however, come to him at regular intervals to pat him and reassure him that you are still there. Theoretically this teaches the baby to soothe himself to sleep. Hunter is only one month old and so I am not using this method to the T. Since returning from the hospital the only way he was sleeping was if I had him with me in the bed. The problem with this is that Joe has been relegated to the spare room for the unforeseeable future and I live in constant fear of smothering my baby. Several times now I have fallen asleep with him on my chest, or nursing him at my side. Although unlikely because I tend not to move too much in my sleep, all it would take would be for me to roll over in the wrong direction. I shudder to think…


Hunter and his new buddy, the Sleep Sheep

Three nights ago I started trying to put him in his bassinet at my bedside, but he kept waking up. I swaddled him very tightly which worked the first time I put him down but stopped working soon after that. In sheer frustration, after having tried to put him down for what was probably about the fifth time in a three hour sleepless period, I didn’t pick him up again and he cried and cried and cried. I then began to feel like a horrible person. How could I let my baby scream like that? It was making me cry. So I turned to Dr. Google and found out about Ferberizing. Being too young for this method as it was described online I decided to modify it to suit my and my one month old’s needs. I turned on the sleep sheep that Nana had given us earlier that day, put my hand on little Hunter’s heaving chest, and began to rock the bassinet. The crying slowed in response, so I removed my hand and over time eventually stopped the rocking. He wasn’t quite asleep yet and started to cry again, so I resumed the rocking. Miraculously, he stopped crying again. I repeated this until he fell asleep. I have continued to do this over the past couple of nights, but I don’t attend to him immediately when he begins to cry. Lo and behold, sometimes he barely cries and puts himself straight to sleep.

When I was getting little to no sleep I was exhausted and irritable. I had feelings of desperation and hopelessness. Nursing at night was painful and I dreaded it. I was seriously worried that I was going to slip into a postpartum depression, eyes wide shut. Since the modified Ferberization of Hunter began, yes we have had to deal with some tears, but ultimately both mum and baby are much happier. We both sleep in longer legato stretches and are refreshed in the morning. We awaken only once or twice to nurse and resettle at night. Sleep more closely resembles that classic Brahms Lullaby and dark and desperate Mozart is now becoming a distant memory.


9 thoughts on “Staccato: A Story of Sleep (Or Lack Thereof)

  1. Love this. Very smart and clever and the video was incredible. Not a huge fan of ferberization, but what you are doing isn’t that really. I think what you’re doing is perfect (anything that allows both people to feel loved and get sleep is perfect) and even if you were using the actual full-blown ferber method and it worked for you I would think that is awesome. Babies don’t come with a rule book other than “please don’t kill me”.

    • Thank you for the compliments 🙂 I woke up with this post in my head. I thought I’d try something different, although my father has informed me that the tone isn’t that different from the shenanigans. Oh well! I still things its best to separate things.

      • I can (obviously) understand not wanting all things so open to everybody (or at least not obviously so) and I think this had a different tone. Shenanigans was more quirky and silly. This was much more intellectual and introspective. I knew you had those abilities but hadn’t seen them presented like this from you before. Maybe somebody who knows you in person knows the whole you and doesn’t notice the difference. For your e-friends, this is different.

  2. Pretty new blog, Shan! And I love the cerebral/musical quality of this post. It sounds like you are doing what you need to without letting your boy feel abandoned, and that’s what matters. Babies are GONNA cry, it’s just better if they don’t do it alone. We have found that A is getting much better at putting herself to sleep since we don’t intervene at the first sound of fussing – I think we intervened too much with E, and it took him a long time to learn how to go to sleep on his own.

    Seriously, I think sleep is the #1 HARDEST thing about having a baby – why don’t they warn you about this? Even in prenatal class it’s rarely talked about, the fact that after the first couple very sleepy weeks are over (or sometimes even before then), you are most likely going to have to help your baby learn to go to sleep. They don’t always just fall asleep when they need to. Counter-intuitive and so hard.

    I think all moms feel alone sometimes, but it still sucks… I’m sorry you’ve been going through that. But you’re obviously going to be okay. You’re a trouper.

    I LOVE that sleep-smile pic at the end. 🙂 Beautiful son you have there.

    • Thanks! I agree he’s quite the looker, just like his daddy. Melts my heart to look at him.

      People do always say you don’t get sleep with a newborn, but no one really talks about the toll it takes both physically and psychologically. But hey, somehow it inspired me to think about music. Maybe I’ll dust off the piano keys one of these days… If Hunter will allow!

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