My sons infancy is a blur. Now that he is nearly two, I remember those first months as a haze of baby groups, cups of tea (the only time in my life I drank tea), breastfeeding and daytime TV. One of the only crystal clear memories from those first couple of months the obssesive, reoccuring, pressing question. "Why won't this child sleep?"
Photo: This is the middle of the night. Why are you awake?
From my sofa or from bed the middle of an endless night, I was glued to my iphone, begging the internet to answer my question. I had to believe there was a solution - I was certain I wouldn't survive unless there was a solution. Someone, somewhere, somehow must have the answer.
I read all the blogs and bought all the books. I was an expert on babies sleep. A 45 minute sleep cycle that needs to be linked together to achieve a full nights sleep. Brain waves, deep sleep, light sleep, waking hours, melatonin, hormones, I read about it all. The advice was contradictory, conflicting and confusing. Don't let a baby sleep to long during the day, but let sleeping babies lie. A baby should never cry they are afraid and need to be comforted, but sleeping is a learnt skill and crying doesn't always mean fear it's expression. Babies settle eventually, my baby is 2 and still doesn't sleep. What to believe?
At about 6 months, I felt like the walls of my sanity were about to turn to sand and melt away. I had to do something, so stopped breastfeeding between the dream feed at 10ish and the early morning feed at about 5. I wasn't a method or a choice really --- it was gets some sleep or loose my mind. He was eating loads in the day, was healthy growing and gaining weight as expected. The only thing wrong was his aversion to sleeping. But as soon as I got consistent, he adapted really quickly. Really quickly.
A lightbulb lit over my head and I remember something my mom said to me. She said, "Honey, this is really more about you than it is about him. He's ready to sleep, you just need to give him the chance."
In my case she was right - I was so afraid that I was leaving him, that he needed me, that I wasn't doing it right. Everytime he cried, I jumped...sometimes LEPT out of bed to go over to him. Even if he slept, often times I couldn't for fear of being woken. I was more unsettled than he was.
Becoming a mother has been the hardest, most joyful thing I have done, without a shadow of comparison. It has been a crash course in self realisation and humility I have ever had. If I made a list of all the things I have learnt in the past two years, it would be infinite. But through this particular challenge I learned two important things.
1. It's not about me. He is growing and changing so quickly -- I need to make his transition into the next stage as easy for him as possible. I needed to let go of my comforts and securities and give him permission to evolve. He needed and wanted to sleep, I just needed to teach him how to do it without me. I had to be a parent and lead the way.
2. I can't be afraid to be the kind of parent I am. I was aware that other parents, other mothers would disapprove of how I dealt with my child's sleeping. I thought about the mothers I admired that were successfully co-sleeping and following attachment parenting techniques. But, that wasn't right for me and I had to be okay with that.
Okay, enough from me for now. He's going to wake up from his nap now and I still need to quickly unload the dishwasher. Reality strikes again.