Who Needs Sleep (The Misadventures of a Sleep Deprived Mom).
Once upon a time there was a Mom. And she had a beautiful little baby girl.
At the tender age of six weeks, the baby girl began to sleep through the night every other night. By two months of age the baby girl slept through the night ever single night. There were occasional bedtime struggles and the little girl had to cry it out for two nights when she was nine months old, but she graduated from that short unpleasantness and become a wonderful sleeper.
She would go to bed without complaint and sleep until the sun came up. If she got up early, she was happy to to make a little bed on the floor and watch t.v. in her parents room until they were ready to get up (but she lost her pleasantness once eight o’clock rolled around, because 8 a.m. was the time you got up! Chop! Chop!)
After a few years, another beautiful baby girl was born. Her first night on earth, she slept well, but after that her ability to sleep began to wane. She hardly ever slept at all. She napped very little. She would lay awake all day with her beautiful, muddy eyes watching her Mom.
When her Mom would tell people that the baby did not sleep all day, people told her that she was just underestimating how much time her baby’s cat naps added up to. One day, the Mom wrote it down. The baby only slept an hour or two in short snatches from the time she “woke up” until the time she “went to sleep”.
Those phrases were, of course, arbitrary, because the baby slept similarly over night. She would only sleep in her mother’s arms and then fitfully and in short bursts. A few times her Mother was so tired she was unsure if she should actually be driving. She wondered if she’d leave the house half dressed or wearing different shoes. The haze of sleep deprivation made the mother tired and withdrawn. It was hard. Very, very hard.
The mother and the father followed all of the experts advice. The swaddled. The let the baby girl cry. They employed bedtime routines. Nothing ever helped. They turned off the t.v. that the Mother used to fall asleep in hopes that the t.v.s light was actually keeping the baby awake. It wasn’t. They moved the baby’s bedroom, hoping that maybe her mother’s presence was keeping her away. It didn’t help. The baby slept rarely. She was never ill tempered or lacking energy. She wasn’t fussy or sad. She just never slept.
When the mother got pregnant when the second baby girl was two, she worried. She wasn’t sure she’d survive with a non-sleeping toddler and non-sleeping infant. All she could do was pray for the best and prepare for the worst, but magically before the third little girl was born, the second little girl began to sleep better. It still took singing for twenty minutes, but the second little girl began to sleep MOSTLY through the night.
When her sister was born in June, things were looking up for the second little girl, but after some early successes the third little girl stopped sleeping well as well and the mother was back in the dance of sleep deprivation all over again.
I tell people it’s been four years since I’ve slept through the night. That’s not entirely true, but the number of times I’ve gotten more than two or three consecutive hours of sleep since Littlebit was born in 2006 can probably be counted on my two hands. I am now to the point where I can go two nights on fightful, small amounts of broken sleep. After the third night, I get a stomach ache and feel like crying all day. On the third night after not sleeping, I can;t really get much done around the house. I leave the t.v. on and we watch it a lot because I really have a problem with functioning beyond that.
When I say we’ve tried everything with both girls, it’s not totally true. My Peditrician at one point suggested leaving Littlebit to cry. And not go back to check. And if she fainted or vomited, well, that’s what she did. Big Daddy and I couldn’t do that. So we didn’t. That is the only thing we haven’t tried with either girl, but we’ve tried everything else. Crying it out, routines, singing, rocking, co-sleeping, independent sleeping, night lights, no night lights, music, silence. Really, everything. All we can do, really, is be patient with Baby Bee as we wait it out and hope that it doesn’t take her nearly three years to sleep for the majority of the night.
Baby Bee is one step ahead, though. She can, most of the time, put herself to sleep. It’s the staying asleep that’s so hard. As I type this, Baby Bee has been asleep around two hours. She is currently fussing in her bed upstairs. The debate begins as to when I go in, what I do when I go and whether or not this will be a “good” night or a “bad” night. It is hard to be consistent at 2 a.m. when it’s the third time you’ve been awake since 11 and your alarm will go off at 6 (both the real alarm and the alarm that is Littlebit who, while sleeping through the night, rarely sleeps after the sun rises).
I only hope that it doesn’t take Baby Bee two more years of sleeping struggles to begin to sleep with consistency.