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