A Letter to my Sleep Deprived Self

Dearest little one,

I hear your cries and glance at the clock – 04:18. By now I know it’s futile to delay going to you, you’re not going back to sleep alone. I stumble back to the room you now share with your brothers and to your crib for what I later calculate must be the eighth time that night (it started around 1am and you average twice an hour) and simultaneously, in my blurry state, start writing snippets of this blog post up in my head.

Abe, you’re 7 months today and your sleep is still all over the place, isn’t it buddy. Sure, there’s the odd night you’ve slept through or woken just once, but typically you wake frequently and at times, that means every half an hour. It’s hard, really hard and lonely (my husband sleeps on a sofa bed downstairs); at times, it feels torturous and the night seems never-ending. My husband and I have a deal that he takes over from 6am and there are nights I am counting down the minutes until the clock hits 06:00. Sleep deprivation is no joke and affects me in a multitude of ways, from mental health to sex drive. There are mornings when I literally cannot move my hands, I am so tired, let alone the day of work or any social plans I had arranged.

But what to do? (Because we as people, always want to *do* something about things, don’t we?) You’re eating 3 meals a day, breastfeeding morning and night with formula for the daytime feeds in an effort to boost your calorie intake (but also because you’re not that interested in the boob when there is lots else happening), you sleep a few hours during the day but nothing crazy – but still, nothing seems to be helping you sleep at night right now. We’ve also tried safe co-sleeping; man, I love co-sleeping and it worked so well with your big brother but you were kinda fidgety and unsettled in bed next to me and well, that didn’t work for either us buddy. (sure, you come in from about 5am because well, because… I don’t know, you just do.)

When friends or strangers ask how you’re sleeping, I struggle. Not because I’m sleep deprived (though of course I am) but more because of the societal norms seated behind babies and sleep. You see, I think I’m almost embarrassed to tell people how badly you sleep, as if I should have ‘cracked’ sleep by now, third child in, and that because you don’t sleep, I’m failing as a parent.

Embarrassed and bored. You see, whilst there might be a reason behind it – you’re sleeping too much in the daytime, you’re not sleeping enough in the daytime, teething, nappy, weaning – it’s impossible to really know and I find it futile and exhausting and dull to try to diagnose it.

You see, I think I’m almost embarrassed to tell people how badly you sleep, as if I should have ‘cracked’ sleep by now, third child in, and that because you don’t sleep, I’m failing as a parent.

My heart tells me that so long as we can keep muddling through each day and each night somehow – shout out to my village who I know I would struggle without and being in the fortunate position that I don’t have to get up to go to work – I need to just hold out, and be patient. That learning to sleep is not easy for you Abe and that it’s simply a developmental stage we need to get through, just like learning to talk or working out how to use cutlery. You – and all babies – are not adults and nor are you robots, and working out how to sleep can’t be easy. But you are human – and you will sleep, soon enough. (We went through something very similar with your brother, and we got there)

You see, this lack of sleep challenges me as a mother to the core and I weirdly (perversely?) find something quite compelling in that. It challenges me to trust in the belief that you *will* get there Abe, to not resort to letting you cry it out as others have advised me to do and which feels wrong to me with every bone in my body, to relieve myself of the pressure to do anything beyond look after myself and you lot and confronts me with the need to communicate calmly when I am so tired and want to grunt (or yell quietly). Your totally rubbish sleep generally just makes me dig deep. REAL DEEP and grow as a person. And I find that strangely empowering.

You – and all babies – are not adults and nor are you robots, and working out how to sleep can’t be that easy. But you are human – and you will sleep soon enough.

Anyway, I better try and get some sleep – I calculate that I still have about 8 more wake ups before morning. Just no one tell me to sleep when you sleep, because well that really is impossible. In the meantime, I’ll keep stumbling in the knowledge that I know that sweet, sweet day will come when you will finally learn how to sleep.

I love you little one.

Love, mama xxx

P.S 10 Tips for Hassle Free Potty Training and Let’s Reframe Reflux

35 Comments

  1. March 12, 2020 / 8:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. In the same boat here with a 2 year old who still doesn’t sleep that well and 10 month old who’s sleep is all over the place. I’m totally exhausted on all fronts but I’m kind of in autopilot and not over-thinking it. I remember when my son was just as bad and while he’s not great now, its better and this phase too will pass. Thank you for reminding me that they are just learning, as we are too. I agree with you on the challenge front and I think we need to remind ourselves to do what feels right for us at that point in time and not worry about judgments and expectations from others. Hope it gets better soon but in the meantime let’s remember there’s a whole tribe of us soothing our wee ones in the darkness x

  2. Lucy
    March 12, 2020 / 8:02 pm

    How I wish I had read this last year, when I was crying with sleep deprivation from an 8 month old and 2 year old that didn’t sleep. I mean hallucinating , chewing on 8 extra strong espresso a day and willing to trip down the stairs just so I could go to hospital overnight to sleep exhausted. But at 16 months she started sleeping better, no rhyme or reason just time. Neither child sleeps amazingly but definitely better. You got this mama, your patience will pay off in dividends xx

  3. JS
    March 12, 2020 / 6:12 am

    I feel for you but I guess having read your previous posts you are in a very lucky position having the whole village and au pair to support you as well. Many people, myself included, have children and 0 family support. I live in London with my 5 month old and 3 year old, we just moved to the area and I don’t have any friends either. It’s 6am and I’ve been up since 130. Just maybe good for you to acknowledge that too.

    • Viki
      March 12, 2020 / 10:22 am

      Parenting is hard, especially without a support network (I had no family support and my husband was going through a very hard time with his mental health when our son was born).
      I do think though that Emma is very attune to any privileges she has, but ultimately it is her blog and therefore written from her perspective.
      I don’t think that means she isn’t aware of the struggles of others because she talks often, with gratitude, of her village.
      I really hope that life gets easier for you soon and that you find your village, even if it’s based on new friends rather than family. x

    • Clare
      March 12, 2020 / 11:29 am

      Wow what a horribly judgemental post. Every mother has their own story and path. We should support and lift up each and every mother and their experience. So in that vein I hope you manage to find your group or supportive friends and also your good sleep path with your children. Please be kind.

      Emma you rock. Abe will sleep one day!

      • JS
        March 12, 2020 / 1:26 pm

        Yes, sorry for this post, I did try to delete it but couldn’t! Written in a 6am fug with 13 hours of sole childcare ahead of me on 2 hours sleep. Sometimes it is very very difficult to cope.

        • Emma Ross
          Author
          March 12, 2020 / 2:37 pm

          Please do not worry and just thank you for coming back here to write this! Sleep deprivation is SO HARD. It changes everything – including the way we think and act and feel. I hope today is going ok, x

  4. Amy Hopkinson
    March 11, 2020 / 8:12 pm

    Hi Reading your post brought back many memories and I just wanted to let you know that you are amazing and one day you will wonder how you did this chapter as l did. My children had a similar sleep pattern especially my first. They are now 13 and 8 and my second rarely now sleeps past 5.30 ever. I never knew l could function on so little sleep as l did and never let them cry it out and co slept with them a huge amount just to get even the smallest amount of sleep. I felt alienated at baby groups because my son didn’t sleep well really until 4 and then my daughter came along. Any social event seemed like a mountain on little sleep and it effected everything. Looking back now lm so glad l did it my way and l think it all made a truly strong bond with them both. It’s so so hard at the time and l feel for you but you are doing so well looking after your lovely family. Thinking of you.

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 10:30 am

      what you write about social events seeming like a mountain so resonates! but im so happy to hear you think your bond is so strong because of all the effort you put in when they were young – this is what im hoping for too! lots of love, and thanks so much for reading the post x

  5. Sophie
    March 11, 2020 / 5:14 pm

    I’m right here with you and glad you’re taking a new perspective on the harsh realities. I’m so entrenched in the sleep deprivation now I just don’t even think about it or consider it. I have a 15 month old who still wakes frequently. what I would really really say is to consider safe bed sharing. because honestly I barely have to rouse myself and I feel so much fresher for it. but do what feels right to you. but it can be a saviour. I wouldn’t cope otherwise. also I would recommend ‘the beyond sleep training project’ on Facebook or insta. so so helpful in getting thru this time and lots of people in the same boat and lots of people who have come out the other side

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 10:31 am

      i’ll check that facebook group out – thank you! & yes, loved co-sleeping with his big brother but Abe didn’t seem to take to it nearly so well, though of course he does end up in the bed by mid morning/early morning.. it’s all a blur ! anyway – sending love and thanks for being here Sophie x

      • Sophie
        March 13, 2020 / 1:10 pm

        no. probs
        really resonated with what you said about it being. boring considering all the reasons why they might not sleep. I’m always fighting with myself. over trying to work it out and then giving up and just going with it ha going with it is definately the better option for my brain 😀

  6. K
    March 11, 2020 / 3:59 pm

    This brought me to tears. Thank you for writing this. Thank you For finding the time in your sleep deprived state to write it. And thank you, for then finding the strength to publish this for others to read, listen, feel and relate.

    I’m struggling with sleep with my first child. Particularly after spending 7 weeks solo parenting whilst my husband was away working. I fear I’m not digging deep enough. Not finding the patience enough. Not giving her the space she needs to figure this out for herself. She’s not even that bad and things are getting better. But still, a bad night and I feel a rage bubble inside that I can’t quell. And then rage builds on top of that for not being patient. For not putting her needs first over my need to sleep. For not cutting through the noise and knowing that her not sleeping is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean she is a bad child or that I am a bad mother. She is who she is. She needs what she needs. And I am merely here to support and nurture who she is and what she needs. But I seem to only be able to hold these words of importance once the darkness of the night has left, or after one brief window of ‘decent’ sleep.

    So thank you, most importantly for making me feel less alone in this. And for giving me the inspiration to try again. Try again to be calmer. To be happier. To find those resources i know have somewhere. Thank you

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 10:34 am

      first of all, you are definitely not alone! so many of us are struggling with our little ones’ sleep. and secondly, the rage bubble you talk of ? i know it well! when we’re so knackered, we don’t have the capacities to think or see straight so we can turn in to literally different people (at least this is how i feel sometimes!) and you’ve been without your partner for nearly 2 months, really not easy either. please please go easy on yourself, make no plans, nourish yourself and baby as much as you can in the daytime and let us all know, this can’t go on forever!! sending lots of love to you xxx

  7. Jenn
    March 11, 2020 / 1:14 pm

    I am right there with you, mama, and with my third as well. It’s so hard. I hear you, I see you, I am with you. You are amazing and I hope you find sleep soon. 💜

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:27 pm

      Thank you Jenn! Let’s hope our thirds make things a tad easier for us soon enough! All the love xx

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:27 pm

      Yes love safe co-sleeping but Abe didn’t seem to take to it so well. Will check that site out.. Thanks so much for reading and for being here Imogen x

  8. Deb
    March 11, 2020 / 9:38 am

    Ohhh I remember the sleep deprivation well (26 years ago! ) I had 3 under 4 using cloth nappies and remember sitting in the middle of our bed breastfeeding my youngest, being woke every 30-60 minutes and the older two either side sleeping. It was tortuous but what do I really remember about it all these years later…. that it all sorted itself out they needed me at that time. Beautiful memories which at the time I probably would have looked at you oddly yet we made it!!!!!

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:28 pm

      Woop you made it ! & love knowing that all these years later of course you don’t remember a thing. And wow, 3 under 4 using cloth and that scenario of the breastfeeding in bed. You freakin’ rock Deb! x

  9. Suzie
    March 11, 2020 / 8:41 am

    I typed a whole story about me and my experience, but deleted it by accident.
    When trying to re-type I thought, you know what, I think all I actually wanted to say was thank you.
    A big gratefull thank you for being such a kind person, for showing such positivity and helping others see how we’re not alone. This goes for me, and by the look of the comment section, I think for many others as well.
    I’m keeping your blog close, as I’m expecting my second one and find such a relief and so much strength in your writing, I honestly feel understood and so much more confident as a parent.
    I wish you enough.
    Xoxo

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:29 pm

      Ah Suzie, this comment is really so so lovely and much appreciated. It brings me a lot of joy and solace knowing sharing my experiences can help others. All the love and thank you so much for being part of this community. Hope you are feeling well in your pregnancy xxx

  10. Anya
    March 11, 2020 / 7:56 am

    Wow, thank you for this Emma. It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one, even though I really feel for your chronic sleep deprivation. It’s a shame that society places so much importance on infant sleep and it’s often the first question that anyone asks even before “how are you feeling?”. It really can make you feel ashamed and a failure for not ‘getting’ your baby to sleep through, as if we really have that much influence.

    I found a lot of solace in reading The Gentle Sleep Book with my first baby. With my second I totally despaired with the hourly wakings by 17 months and I fully handed over the night reins to my husband. Now at 22 months, I feel like a real human and less psychotic. Seriously desperate for a third baby but scared about the insanity that another round of sleep deprivation will bring.

    Good luck with Abe, and as you say the best you can do really is take one day at a time and it will all work itself out eventually. Patience, a lot of deep breathing, and a lot of coffee 😊

    • Sib
      March 11, 2020 / 8:17 am

      I’m not a Mum. But it strikes me there is a helluva lot of competitive parenting as in all other aspects of life. We are wise inside when the chatter, internal and external goes. You’ve got it nailed!!!

      • Emma Ross
        Author
        March 12, 2020 / 2:31 pm

        Ah thank you Sib! Thanks for reading the post x

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:31 pm

      Oh my gosh, so true re the questions. Why don’t people just ask the mama how she is doing rather than focusing on the baby’s sleep?!I have heard good things about that book, will take a closer look.. And so glad you’re getting some proper sleep now and feeling more normal. Lots of love to you Anya xx

  11. Emma Meier-Ross
    March 11, 2020 / 7:42 am

    I get it…. The nights are so long… I have a 4 month old and a 2 year 4 month old. I feed them both in the night. Last night was one of the worst. I slept less than 3 hours. My husband also helps from 5.30/6 but then I feel like I play catch up for the rest of the day… Cry it out was not for me with my first child, nor will I do it with my second. But I feel that my second doesn’t even have a proper chance to sleep with the first waking her up… I hear you Emma (my name is also Emma Ross!) these days will be over and then we will want them back! Though I can’t wait to have more sleep!

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:32 pm

      Hello Emma Ross – love that ! Yes totally re the catch up but then it gets to the evening and I seem to always perk up when I *know* I should be sleeping.. Sending love and zzz your way! x

  12. March 11, 2020 / 7:33 am

    I’m struggling so much with my twins at the moment. They’ve just turned 1 and society says they ‘should’ be able to sleep through by now. Jamin will scream so loudly the moment he wakes up that to begin with I was worried he was in pain. All he needed was a cuddle. Not food, or a nappy change but me 💙. The trouble is he will wake his sister so he never gets all of me. And if he doesn’t then I know that as soon as i get him settled and my eyes close again it will be her turn and so the night continues with none of us getting much sleep. But lots of cuddles.

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:32 pm

      Oh gosh Vicky, I feel your pain and can only imagine how full on the nights must be with twins. Ignore society and keep following that powerful mama gut of yours. You sound like a freakin’ amazing mama to those two xx

  13. Sarah
    March 11, 2020 / 7:17 am

    Eden is my worst sleeper yet which I didn’t think possible. She was actually a better newborn sleeper than now. We are 16 months in and I’m pretty sure I’ve never slept longer than 3/4 hours in a row. She’s never slept through or even woken just once, always multiple times. I try and cope, make light of the subject when strangers ask. I’m knackered if I’m honest, and look forward to the weekend when my husband can help and let me lie in. We are thinking we need to ‘tackle’ it soon, although I’ve said this so many times already and never have. My way of tackling it seems to be letting her sleep in bed with me, husband on the sofa bed every night. We will get there, my other two sleep really well now….so there’s hope!

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:34 pm

      Absolutely yes re trying to make light of it when others ask… it’s awkward and as I wrote, I find it almost strangely embarrassing. Thank gosh for helpful husbands and weekends – FOR SURE. And I hear you re the ‘tackle’ – I guess all I’d say is just do whatever feels right for you all. Lots of love to you as always Sarah! x

  14. Viki
    March 10, 2020 / 12:02 pm

    I totally get this. My son was a terrible sleeper for what felt like forever and, being nearly 41 when he was born, I felt far too old to be getting through the day on such a small amount of sleep.
    For us, when we co-slept with the wee fella in a side by side crib, things started to get better. He hated the confines of a crib, craved the security of his mamma being close by but wanted his own space too.
    As you know, there is no right or wrong way, all babies like all adults are different and we just have to find a way for everyone to get as much sleep as is feasible…whichever way works best for us as families.
    Like you, we were advised to let him ‘cry it out’ and this is something that we just couldn’t do. It felt instinctively wrong, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is far from the best thing to do for our little ones.
    I wish you peaceful sleep…and soon!
    Love and light.
    Viki x

    • Emma Ross
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 2:35 pm

      HI Viki, I absolutely love what you write about all babies, like all adults, are different. I too can not let him cry it out… Sending love and light right back at ya and thanks so much for reading x

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