Sleep much? No? Me either. Chances are if you have two or more children at least one of them isn't a good sleeper. I know parents who have one child and that child is a dreamboat sleeper. And then they have another baby and that kid is also a dreamboat sleeper. However, I know very few moms with more than two kids who have all dreamboat sleepers. I'm sure they exist and are out there, somewhere - and I'm happy for them, really I am. (Insert fake smile) But many parents have one or two or more crap-tastic sleepers and for those of us in that camp, this post is for you.
(If you're one of the parents that has had a couple great sleepers, go ahead and read up on what's in store for you if you choose to roll the dice of sleep again)
I have five children. Ugh. That sounds like so many, doesn't it? Well, it is. Of my five, two have been terrible-awful-horrible-why-do-you-hate-me-sleepers; baby #1 and baby #5 (my current sleep fighting ninja). What did I do differently with those middle three to make them sleep better, you ask? NOTHING. At all. All were fed the same. All basically had the same sleeping arrangements. For whatever reason the middle three took it easy on me and slept like "average" babies their age. Current research suggests that sleep is highly developmental and has nothing to do with food. (I'm looking at you, person who is about to suggest rice cereal before bedtime). It's just something that some babies do later than others.
So, in the spirit of my 10.5-month-old STILL getting up anywhere from 1-4,290 times a night, I have compiled a list of things that parents with sleepless babies can relate to.
1. You have sleep anxiety -- Sleep anxiety is defined as (I just made this up): Being nervous to go to sleep because you know your baby will be up soon. Due to your sleep anxiety, you will sit on the couch asking yourself "Do I go to bed now? Or do I just stay up until the baby wakes up to eat again?" This is a perpetual cycle. Like, you're so tired you just want to sleep...but there is nothing more terrible than getting all comfy in bed and hearing that wail from the baby down the hall. And almost always, no matter which road you choose, it will backfire. Right in your face. If you choose to go to bed, the baby will literally wake up as soon as your eyelids shut. If you choose to just wait it out and watch another episode of Gilmore Girls, the baby will naturally sleep for the next four hours straight and all the sudden you're finishing up season three. The worst part is, now you've missed out on four continuous hours of glorious sleep.
2. You will try anything -- You will try sound machines, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, rocking, bouncing, walking, swaying, an earlier bedtime, a later bedtime, rice cereal, oatmeal cereal, you'll have the other parent do bedtime, you'll try a warm bath, lavender lotion, three books, five books, eight lullabies instead of seven, Ferber, swaddling, sleep sacks, rock n play, pack n play, co-sleeping, crib sleeping, magic merlin, you will load the baby up in the car and drive around, you will even try to pretend to be sleeping while your baby is staring at you, in hopes that they see you and want to follow suit, you will try all of this and then some. And nothing will consistently work. You hear me?! NOTHING!
3. You will pray/beg/plead -- Just like TLC said, we ain't too proud to beg - we really aren't. I have literally begged my baby to go to sleep. "Please baby. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Juuuuust sleeeeeep." And this is about the time that he will happily grab my lips with his sharp jagged little finger nails and draw blood at 4am. I have also prayed. "Dear God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Sandman, I don't know. Anyone, at this point. Dear Anyone, Just let him sleep. Please. Just one night. Just like five or six hours straight. Please. Please!! Amen." (Omg, he's awake again)
My current sleepless baby
*yawn - chugs coffee*
5. You will lie to people sometimes -- One of the first questions people ask when you have a baby is "How's he sleeping?" It's a harmless question and usually comes from other moms because we have all been there. New babies don't sleep well. They're babies, they're not supposed to sleep well. They're supposed to be eating all the time. But as your baby gets older, it's kind of expected that he starts sleeping longer stretches. And if he doesn't, people start hurling advice at you. Even your pediatrician may make you feel like you're doing something wrong. So, to save yourself the explaining and the excuses, you just lie. I've done it. You've done it. We've all done it. Sometimes it's just easier. "Oh, he's doing better! I think he was just teething!" (It's not teething) or "We're going to start sleep training this week!" (No, you're not.) This is just an easier route than hearing people tell you things you should try, and more than likely you've already tried just about everything.
6. You are cautiously optimistic -- Expect the worst sleep, but hope for the best sleep. On the rare occasion your baby sleeps well, you are hoping this will become a "thing" for him. Like, maybe this is it! This is the corner he's needed to turn! But at the same time, you are kind of laughing hysterically at yourself for even having hope. At this point, you will just chug all the coffee in house (and at work and at Target and at the doctor's office) and settle on the realization that you'll sleep when you're dead.
My blog has the name that it does for a reason. It has always been something I've clung to in the throes of motherhood. It applies to all stages, really. There are days when I can't wait for my 11-year-old to go to bed, too. I chant it to myself when I'm up all night, and whenever any of my babies would protest naps, or when I've been fairly certain I am going insane from sleep deprivation, or when I couldn't stop crying, and the baby wouldn't stop crying, and when I can't even remember what it's like to not be tired, or when my big kids are wrestling and being loud, or they eat the last of the cereal and put the empty box back, or when they don't want to get out of bed for school, or fight with me about doing any kind of personal hygiene.
"They have to sleep eventually, they have to sleep eventually, they have to sleep eventually." I try to remember that this is all short lived in the grand scheme of parenting. And, you know what? It's true. They have to sleep eventually. Right?
I sure hope so.