When Ruth was a baby, my husband and I would wonder what all the fuss about sleep deprivation and babies was about. She was already sleeping five hours a night when we brought her home from the hospital. She was sleeping eight hours by two months, and twelve by four months. “We are the best parents ever!”, we congratulated ourselves. “All of those parents that don’t sleep at night must be doing something wrong,” we smugly opined.
Then, Rose was born. She wouldn’t sleep for more than three hours at a time until she was four months old. Our faith in our parenting abilities was shaken. That was the longest four months of my life. Until Wren was born.
Wren is now five months old. She does not sleep through the night. And I am a suboptimal mother when I am sleep deprived. I feel crazy and desperate. Like any crazy and desperate mother, I have stormed Google and Pinterest searching for answers. I have even crazily considered spending a fortune on some “sleep expert” to come train our baby to sleep at night. I have tried everything. I have coslept, I have used a bassinet, I have used a crib, I have cluster fed, I have bottle fed, I have fed her cereal, I have eaten gallons of oats, I have put her on a strict daytime schedule, I have fed her on demand, I have let her cry it out, I have nursed her to sleep, I have rocked and patted her to sleep, I have let her roll onto her stomach, I have let her roll onto her side, I have a sound machine, I have a paci, I have a strict bed time routine, I have driven myself crazy trying all the conflicting and contradictory advice from other moms and on the internet.
But she won’t sleep for a stretch longer than six hours at night, and six hours is a really good night. One or two nights, she has teased me with a eight to nine hour stretch, so I know she can do it. I know some of you moms go years without having more than a five hour night, and my hat is off to you. I have no idea how you do it. I’m guessing it involves lots of coffee. But my girls and I need our rest. We are very cranky and get sick easily when we are deprived of sleep. And I don’t really like drinking a ton of coffee while I am nursing. I don’t like accidentally passing out while I’m supposed to be taking care of the girls, either. (I kid, but it is a tempting thought).
To be honest, I really don’t blame babies for not wanting to sleep through the night. Due to the SIDS risk, dogs have more comfortable sleeping arrangements than babies. They have to sleep flat on their backs, with nothing at all that could possibly be construed as comfortable in their cribs, on a firm mattress. I mean, even prisoners get a small pillow and thin blanket for their pallets. But what are we as responsible parents going to do? The experts say if you try and make them more comfortable with cushiness and lovies, your precious child can die suddenly in her sleep! So, putting her to “sleep” on a gated, empty rock it is!
For now, I have thrown up the white flag. Whenever she gets up, I stagger to her crib and nurse her back to sleep. I keep a jug of water by my bed to keep from getting dehydrated. I feel like a complete failure.
So I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all of you bleary eyed mamas out there. I was once that bright eyed and bushy tailed mother with the one well rested child, who was rolling my eyes at you and your sleep training folly. Never again, my friend. Never again. The next mom I see at the grocery store clutching her coffee thermos like it is her life’s essence and her children are all still in their pajamas, I am giving her a freaking fist bump. Because some things you will only understand if you’ve been there. I will pass along the words of wisdom my mother (who spent years of sleepless nights herself) gave to me: “this too shall pass.” Looking forward to when they are all teenagers. And I’m staying up all night making sure they don’t miss curfew. Is it time for grandchildren yet?