I found this post in my drafts and it never got published. It's almost a year old and I'm happy to report that my kids are now great sleepers. Margot still asks four thousand questions before bed and Albert still wakes up and fusses a few times a night, but the important thing is MAMA is getting plenty of sleep these days! This was fun to read again and I wanted to post it - better late than never!
I read Jen's post on Sleep tonight and I was inspired to post about our own battles and triumphs with baby sleep. I am obsessed with the topic of sleep, perhaps because it's such a luxury for myself these days, but I also want to document our own journey through three babies. I truly believe that all of our family's health and happiness revolves around sleep. I also believe that there is something special about walking around in the evenings while kids are sleeping....something sacred about just....being....after all of the kids have gone to bed.
There's the peace and quiet, of course, but there's also a sense of such safety and responsibility. I tend to pat myself on the back every night while I pick up toys and run the dishwasher, toss towels into the hamper and pull in the picnic blanket from the front yard. These three tiny bodies are safe and sound, asleep and happy, because I made them that way! I trained them that way. I put in the hours of routines - baths, jammies, snacks, teeth brushing, allergy meds, vitamins, the nightly hunt for dou-dou bear who is NEVER EVER EVER where he is supposed to be, bedtime stories, and more stories, and now listening to Sylvia read her own stories, lullabies, prayers, four THOUSAND questions (Mommy? Are you going to school tomorrow? Mommy? Where's Daddy? Mommy? Can I have a donut? Mommy? What does "spy" mean? Mommy? I need another hug and a kiss. Mommy? My friends aren't tucked in! Mommy? Is it my birthday? Mommy? I want to be the pink doggy! Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?)
My almost 3 year old and my 5 year old have completely surrendered to the bedtime routine. When we went to France, I was able to put them to bed any time, anywhere (except the airplane), because if you followed the right pattern, their brains would totally switch off and they'd sleep all night long.
But the baby...
Ohhhhhh, the babies.....
There is nothing more difficult than getting a baby to sleep. Nothing. And there's nothing more infuriating, humbling, and emotionally draining than listening to a baby cry in the middle of the night. It is pure torture. And it's even worse when there are older siblings in the house who have been properly sleep trained and who MIGHT WAKE UP if the baby keeps crying and then all hell will break loose because you have to do the whole routine again in the middle of the damn night. As a nursing Mom, this problem is compounded because running upstairs to nurse the baby back to sleep is SO EASY but also so annoying and sometimes it was just downright impossible. This is where new mamas lose their minds.
I remember, with all three of my kids, the breaking point. There was always a night where I had already been up at least two times, and when the baby started crying again, for the third or fourth time, less than an hour after I last fed them....I just laid in bed and cried. I cried: Go to sleep! Just go back to sleep. I can't go up there again. I can't get out of this bed. I can't listen to you cry anymore but I can't physically move from under these covers and so I might as well just die. I'll die right here listening to you cry. I'll be on the news because I'm the world's worst mother who died while she listened to her perfectly healthy baby cry. And you'll never leave your therapist's office because you'll know that your mother died listening to you cry. So for the love of Jesus, just go back to sleep. Just sleep. Please sleep.
For my first baby, this only happened once. My husband and I worked hard, as a team, to make sure it didn't happen again. We let her cry it out. She wailed for many nights, but she figured it out. She was sleeping through the night by six months.
For my second baby, it took so much longer. We were so worried about the older sister. I used quite a few sick days to catch up on lost sleep after going to her room again and again, trying to soothe her but always popping the boob in her mouth to just get her to stay quiet. I ended up getting used to the multiple night feedings. I decided it was easier to just run upstairs and nurse her than to listen to her cry. My husband's job required a lot from him, and he took our oldest along to a daycare in the same building, so I didn't rely on him in the middle of the night at all. I just nursed. All night long. I became a zombie, but somewhere between 6 and 9 months old, she started sleeping for longer stretches, every once in a while she'd sleep all night long, and then suddenly I realized that I had achieved a string of three or four nights of solid sleep myself. Life became sunshine and rainbows again and we immediately decided to have another baby.
This third baby.....bless the boy. He is the world's happiest, least managed, most satisfied baby. I can confidently say, at 11 months old, that I will not die of sleep deprivation because he is FINALLY sleeping through the night. My husband was much more available in the middle of the night this time around, but I still didn't sleep. After the breaking point with this one, my husband would go upstairs in between feedings to rock, pat, sing and soothe him to sleep, but once the four-hour mark had passed I'd just run up there and nurse him. I knew when he was six months old that he would be our last baby...that I just can't do this again. That all of this sleep training is too hard on me and is therefore too hard on our whole family. Like the second baby, he started sleeping for longer stretches at night. I started ignoring the "fussing" and started to wait for the real crying, but lately, the fussing finds an end and he goes right back to sleep. Precious boy. There is nothing more beautiful than a sleeping baby, but only because the opposite of a sleeping baby is a screaming baby, so a sleeping baby is amazing.
And now, here I sit. With three sleeping babies. Five years of hard work. An 11 month old who finally gets it. An almost 3 year old who naps on command. A 5 year old who practically puts herself to bed. I want to travel back in time to visit myself in December. I want to give a hug to myself while I was baking lactation cookies at 10:00 at night and shaking because I was so scared the baby was going to wake up before I could get an hour of sleep in. I want to tell myself that it's going to be okay and that very, very soon I would have three sleeping babies, but it wouldn't have mattered. You can't gift yourself sleep. You can't change the fact that losing sleep makes people CRAZY! All I can do is decide that it was a fun ride while it lasted but now we're ready to work hard, play hard and SLEEP hard at our house!
I will say this - after six years of pregnancy/nursing, I am looking forward to watching my kids grow. I am looking forward to sleeping all night, playing all day, and getting my brain back to a normal state of being. I've been an absolute lunatic. It's a wonder that my husband and children still like me. It's time to be me again.
Aaaand, it's time to go to bed!