If anyone has seen our previously sweet sleeping baby, could you please return her? No questions asked. There may even be a small reward for her safe return. The baby left in her place has now decided that night waking will be her new M.O. for the foreseeable future. This has gone on for the past month with no end in sight. I have reached for all the excuses and reasons I can manage: teething (three teeth almost simultaneously), developmental milestones, getting over her first cold, hunger, boredom, and whatever else I think of that day.
Let’s talk about sleep, shall we?
As a NOC shift nurse, I am used to getting less than the ideal 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and while these latest nighttime shenanigans by our beautiful daughter have left me sleepy, it is absolutely no match for the immediate postpartum newborn days and nights. This is nothing. That was a fucking nightmare.
If there is one piece of advice I would give to pregnant women, it’s this: be ready for the bone-crushing, soul-stealing lack of sleep. If you breastfeed, it will be even more magnified. You will wonder how you don’t fall asleep standing up or you don’t kill your baby from lack of rest. It is an amazing Darwinian development. I am still in awe of it. Seriously, though. Lack of sleep is one of those topics that nobody seems to talk about. It is quite possibly more potentially damaging than any physical postpartum change I can recall.
Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I just had a more rough time than others? Who knows. What I DO know is that lack of sleep will fuck with you in the most subtle of ways. Your relationship with your partner will suffer. Your relationship with your baby will suffer. Your relationship with friends and family will suffer. Until you sleep uninterrupted for at least a few hours, buckle yourself in. Lack of sleep is a bumpy ride. I’m convinced that a lack of sleep contributed negatively to my PPD. I am absolutely convinced that a lack of sleep contributes to many mamas developing a touch of PPD/PPA. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to treat it. Hell, if we don’t treat it, the alternative is beyond comprehension.
Sleep is a beautiful, delicious, life-giving thing. Once our babies achieve some semblance of sleeping, we all rejoice. We all sleep!
Then, a regression happens.
Suddenly, our beautiful daughter, who turns 8 months old today, as a matter of fact, has decided for the past month that her wonderful 10-12 hour stretches of uninterrupted slumber were just plain boring. She is choosing to mix it up a bit. She wakes anywhere from once per night now to six. No rhyme. No reason. No clue. No sleep. She has had needs that were met with the breast, or a diaper change, but the vast majority of wakeful periods, she is simply awake.
And sometimes, she’s ready to party.
I know, I know. She’s at a point in her little life where the whole world is new and exciting and wonderful. She is learning so many new things almost daily, and I can almost see the synapses firing in her brain, watching those connections as she discovers something today she didn’t know about yesterday. I have to believe that this is a huge part of our nighttime woes.
Now, you’re probably asking me, “Well, why not sleep train?”
That’s another post. Suffice it to say, I’m not in the sleep train fan club. I simply don’t believe that babies have the capacity to ‘manipulate’ us adults or to be ‘bad’ babies. It simply makes no sense. Since they can’t talk, they cry. How many nights as an adult have you had difficulty sleeping? It happens. And I think it probably happens to children and babies as well. Until they gain the ability to truly self-soothe, they cry. Is it inconvenient? Well, sure. Are they doing it on purpose? No. I can cite study after study to bolster my position, but I won’t. It’s as simple as typing ‘sleep training’ into Google, and I trust you can all do that yourselves. This isn’t meant as debate, because I am certain there are others reading this on the other side of the sleep fence who swear by it. Hell, I did sleep training with my son 15 years ago. Did it work? Yep. Do I feel good about it? Nope.
Here’s my philosophy: this too shall pass. I am also lucky to have the gift of hindsight. I remember this phase all too well. I went through it with my son to an extent, and you know what? He eventually got older, time passed, and yes, he slept all night and continues to do so at the ripe old age of 15. Babies don’t stay babies forever. They grow. They evolve. And I know you sleepless mommies are cursing me right now, thinking, “Well, fuck, that’s great and all, but I want to sleep right now!”
My answer? You can’t right now. You will sleep again someday, but that day wasn’t last night, and it might not be tonight. You signed up for parenthood, all the ups, and all the downs, and everything in between. Sleep is a gift, and sometimes, sleep is a luxury. And sleep is just one aspect of parenting. I wonder if people were forced to sign a contract during attempts to conceive that listed all the shitty things you’ll go through in the first few years if people would actually sign on the dotted line. I’m sure they would. Then when all these things happen, they’ll still complain. Get what sleep you can when you can, and know that it WILL get better.
And buy a fuckton of coffee in the meantime.
I remember the conversation with my husband that led to two lines on a pregnancy test. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we wanted it so bad. And after a night of waking six times, I see this face, and I get happy tears.
I’m typing this during J’s beautiful 90-minute nap, and guess what?
She’s still sleeping.