Oops, I missed a day in my quest to blog daily for 30 days. November is a very full month. The days between Halloween and Thanksgiving are busy and then suddenly everything is red and green and twinkling. The evenings arrive quickly as the light disappears from our afternoons at the park. This morning dawned grey and cloudy, but the boys spent a good ninety minutes running around at the park. I think our youngest may actually be napping – napping as in real live sleep – and I’m not going to jinx it by writing another word about it.
Two adorable babies joined us for lunch today. It was so sweet to look into the eyes of a seven-month-old girl and a nine-month-old boy. Their curiosity about the world around them is inspiring. Watching them crawl and eat and smile the way that babies do was lovely. My babies are far from grown, but they are far from babies anymore.
As usual, babies suggest the need to talk about sleep, lack of sleep and broken-up, desperate-to-rest, constantly-woken-up sleep. I will never forget the nights of extended wakefulness nor the tears, sighs and screams as we experimented with co-sleeping, floor sleeping, cry it out, scheduled feedings, feedings on demand, and more. I read the books. I walked and rocked for hours. I signed up for positive parenting sleep strategies that said helpful things like “put baby to bed on his back when he’s tired, but not yet asleep” and “let baby know that you love her and that you are in control” and “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I tried to ignore the cries while my husband walked and rocked and fed bottles to our little one (impossible).
Our beautiful, bald, funny, sweet boy child just refused to sleep. I kept a sleep and feeding log for eighteen sleepless months and eventually threw it into the fire.
Nothing. Worked. At. All.
Until my oldest child turned two years old, he did not sleep through the night. As a full time working parent with another fulltime working parent, we were at our (and each other’s) wits’ end most nights. But as with many things, it passed. Eventually. Around age two he began sleeping ten to twelve hours a stretch, and four years later he is a champion sleeper.
But in the moment, it sucked. I was tired, beat down by a horribly stressful job overseen by a manipulative boss who would eventually be fired, but not before I left for a saner and healthier professional environment. This talk of sleep deprivation stirred something in me today that I have not spoke or thought of in quite some time. The dialog followed a comment a close friend made recently lamenting how parents (especially mothers) engage in competition when it comes to personal, critical issues like sleep and our children. Either subtly or directly, we – and I do mean we as I’m not 100% innocent – make judgments as to what is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to how and what and when we feed, water and sleep our children. Most of the time we – and others – try to be helpful. We want to be heard and sometimes we do ask for guidance. But most of the time I believe that what is most helpful is not to try to help — or at least, save it till asked.
Although my babies did not sleep well, I did not feel like a bad mom. I did wonder what I was doing wrong, or right, because there was truly no rhyme or rhythm to whether or not (or how many times) my oldest would wake in the night. It remain a mystery today. Our youngest wasn’t great, but he slept infinitely better than his big brother. We didn’t do anything hugely different with him. I think each kid is born with his or her own special needs, personality and energy. The trick, so to speak, is to get to know the child and learn how to help them navigate their way into the world, and this begins the moment they take their first breath, and will continue so long as we are blessed to have them in our lives.
So many sleep – and non-sleep – memories bubbled to the surface today. I am eager to say nothing to parents of crappy-sleeping children, nothing at all. Except I’ve been there. You’re not alone. And this, too, will pass. Someday. Maybe.