24 hour break

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.

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2 thoughts on “24 hour break

  1. Melissa says:

    Oh how I can relate to this post. My son is generally a good sleeper, but there are times when even he is not, like last night, and it is so exhausting and frustrating and I asked myself so many times, what was wrong, what to do, everything like that. Hopefully tonight goes better. When he was six months old, after sleeping well for months and months, he had been a horrible, horrible sleeper for over a month at that point suddenly and we made some choices that others did not approve of and oh the judgement and guilt that I felt over it was immense. Other people had me believing that the choices I made were messing my child up for life. But now that he’s older and I can look back, I see that they were absolutely 100 percent the right choices for him. Maybe not for other kids, but for him. I can also look at him now and see that I did not mess him up and that he is just fine and that he still loves us just as much. I’m hoping with kid #2 I can just trust myself more and do what I think is best and not be so bogged down in guilt for not doing what other people think is best.

  2. shreejacob says:

    Wow…I don’t have kids but that sounded really, really tiring!
    I feel you are right about advice. Sometimes well intentioned ones don’t really do much either…like you say, it’s always better to give it out if asked only, and that too as a suggestion…:)

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