If there is one worry new parents have, it’s will we ever sleep again? Everyone thinks about it. Some people sugar-coat it. Some people dramatize it. It’s just one of those things that you can’t truly prepare for until you’re in the thick of it, and then all you can do is react, try to adjust and move forward.
Claire was an awesome sleeper from the very beginning. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so exhausted. Having a newborn in the house is overwhelming. Trying to piece together a “good night’s sleep” a couple hours at a time is just not the same as sleeping straight through. There is something very non-mathematical about how sleep adds up. The sum of the parts do not equal the whole. Funny how that works…
I have a note written in her baby book that she “slept through the night” when she was just over a month old. And, by “sleeping through the night” I mean 7.5 hours. She’d usually sleep for a four-hour chunk at night from the day she was born. Even then I remember wondering how the women who have cranky babies do it? How do you not just keel over from the lack of sleep? I was at least getting a couple hours here and there. I can’t imagine getting less.
Of course, if you ask my hubby about that time in our lives, he turns pale and mutters something unintelligible about nightmares, horrific traumas, and the years that have been shaved off his life. He never had younger siblings. He never had to baby-sit a colicky baby. He doesn’t know how good we really had it.
So, we were blessed with this child that sleeps when she’s supposed to, where she’s supposed to. By three months, she was sleeping 12-hours at night. Did Claire sleep through the night so early because she has an easy-going personality? Maybe. Did the “eat, play, sleep” routine we use help? Possibly. Either way, we considered ourselves very lucky.
And a good night’s sleep was had by all…
Until about three weeks before her 2nd birthday.
All of a sudden, there was a shift. My precious sleeper started waking up in the middle of the night and calling for me. It didn’t happen every night, so I wasn’t too concerned. Still…this just wasn’t like her. She’d stand in her crib and call for me, “I don’t wanna go nighty-night, Momma. Not right now, Momma. Come pick me up.” Over and over and over. “I neeeeeeeeed you Momma. I neeeeeeeeeeeed Daddy.”
So, I was bad. In a fit of “I’ll never get it all done tomorrow if I don’t sleep right now” panic, I brought her in to our bed. She snuggled with us and fell fast asleep. Usually, I could transfer her back into her crib. Problem solved. Right? Wrong. Problem made worse…and I knew it. I knew it was a bad habit to start. I remembered the horror stories of my friends who innocently started out doing this and unwittingly created a huge monster.
This went on for a couple of weeks. It didn’t happen every night, but it was happening more than I’d like to admit. Every two days or so, we’d be awakened by her cries, and we’d reward her behavior by snuggling with her. She’s so cute when she sleeps. She’s so big now that the odds of squishing her are so slim. It’s so cold at night, and snuggling feels so good. She’s like a little heater. Still…this was bad. This had to stop.
I decided to not make any changes until we got to her 2-yr appointment. Maybe this was just a phase and it would work itself out. If it was still happening by the time we reached her appointment, I’d talk to the pediatrician. I’d be honest. I’d confess. Deep down, I knew he’d set me straight. He’d give me the courage to do what I needed to do. He’d tell me what I needed to hear.
So, we’re in the exam room and our pediatrician asks if I have any questions. I actually have a list of random things I’d been keeping to ask him. After discussing those things, I took a deep breath and confessed what had been happening with her sleep habits. I told him about how she’d been sleeping through the night since she was a month old and 12-hrs a night since she was 3 months old. I told him how we’d never really had to do anything drastic because she was so good about sleeping. I told him about how things had changed and how she’d been getting up at night. Not every night, but every two nights or so, and how this had been going on for about three weeks.
I was completely honest with him when he asked how I’d been handling it. He could tell by the look on my face that I knew what I needed to do. He gently and firmly told me it had to stop. He asked me when it had happened last, and I told him, “the night before last.”
“Well, that was the last time it’s going to happen,” he told me calmly. And, I knew he was right.
He told me that when it happened again, I was to go into her room and not pick her up. I was to explain to her that it was dark outside and everyone was asleep where they were supposed to be asleep. Tell her how much we love her, give her a kiss and tell her to lie down. And, then you leave the room. You repeat this until it works. The first night will not be fun. The second night will not be enjoyable. But, this will work. Your child will not hate you. She won’t grow up to have a complex or be a serial killer. It will be painful, but worth it. She just needed a nudge to get back to where she’d been.
So, I was determined. I went home and told my hubby that what we’d feared was correct. A stop had to come to this nocturnal game. No excuses. We’ll get past this rough patch and have our precious sleeper back.
So, that night, we went to bed wondering what would happen. Would she get up, or will that happen tomorrow? If she gets up at an ungodly hour, how prepared am I to stay up all night? I told my hubby that because I work from home, I was willing to “take one for the team.” I’d shut our door so that he could sleep, and I’d make it work.
Sure enough, 1am rolled around, and Claire was up and hollering for me. I went in and explained that it was dark outside and Momma and Daddy were sleeping and that she needed to sleep in her bed. She begged and pleaded to come to our room. I was strong. She got really mad, and I told her we loved her, kissed her cheek and left her room. She screamed at me for about 7 minutes, and then she fell asleep.
I went back to bed, wondering if this was it? Was it really this easy?
Then, she was up again at 2:30am with the same pleadings and beggings. I held my resolve and repeated my script. I rubbed her back, gave her a kiss and left her room. This time, she only screamed at me for 5 minutes.
The clock read 4:00am the third time she was up. Again, I went to her and talked to her. It took every ounce of my being to not pick her up. What if we never sleep again? The mind is a terrible trickster at such hours. But, I was strong. I went through the motions again, and this time, she only cried for 3 minutes.
She slept until morning and woke up, happy as can be.
That morning, as I sat in my office, trying to focus on the files, I was reminded of life with a newborn. I had lived through that, and I would live through this. Last night was brutal, but you couldn’t tell by looking at Claire. She was happy and playing as though nothing had happened. Surely, it won’t be as bad tonight, I hoped. I really felt as though we were making progress, and I knew that a relapse on my part would put us back at square one, a place I was determined to avoid.
That night, she woke up at 2am. Here we go again, I thought. This time, by the time I went to her room, she was already sitting down in her crib. Hmm…this is new. She looked at me and said, “I need-ta go nighty-night. I need a kiss, Momma.” I kissed her cheek, and that was it. She rolled over, and we didn’t hear another peep out of her.
I’m pleased to report that we’ve moved past this hurdle. Through all of this, I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned that this whole sleeping through the night thing is an ever-evolving thing. Just because she’s always slept through the night doesn’t mean she always will, and it’s important for me to be vigilant in my reactions to these changes. I’ve also learned that I can be strong and react in a way that will help all three of us get a good night’s sleep.