I used to be an expert in sleep.
I would go to bed at 10pm and wake up refreshed the following morning at 6.50am. I would sleep soundly and my dreams would often be pleasant, sometimes bizarre and always vivid.
I haven’t slept a full night since the 30th October 2011.
Now my sleep is fitful, broken and filled with night terrors that jolt me awake in the night. Plus, upon waking with a sudden start, I disturb the snoozing little dude next to me.
Oh, I failed to mention that didn’t I? We’re co-sleepers.
I am no longer an expert in sleep.
Let me take you back; let’s regress. Are you feeling sleepy yet?
My daughter turns four next week, and she is yet to put herself to bed. She knows when it is bed time and she sleeps well now, but only if we read to her and lie with her until she falls asleep.
My partner was a stickler for the rules when my daughter was tiny. He insisted that she remain in our bedroom until she was six months old. She grew out of her Moses Basket very quickly and when I suggested moving her into her cot, he agreed. I arrived home that evening to find that the cot had been dismantled and rebuilt in our tiny bedroom. There it would remain for five more months. When the magical six months arrived, true to his word, the cot was rebuilt in her room. Only then she wouldn’t go in the damn thing. When I suggested controlled crying, I was shot down instantly and was not allowed to do it. I don’t know how I feel about controlled crying as I know it works for some and not others. All I know was that I was willing to give it a go, was but never given the opportunity to do so. There were times that I did leave her crying for ten minutes or so, but to add to the stress, arguments followed and tears (usually mine) were shed. Before long we found a routine that worked for us; I gave my daughter a bottle on my bed, she fell asleep drinking it, I would move her to her cot where she would settle and sleep. Anytime between the hours of 12 midnight and 3am she would wake, I would collect her from her cot (and bed from being aged two), she would play with her Daddy’s hair and fall back to sleep until the morning. That worked for us.
Then the Dude was born.
Like his sister before him, his cot resided in our, now bigger, bedroom, but I was to suddenly sleep alone. The Other Half decided to take the spare room as he was working and I was breast feeding. My little man would wake every two or three hours, feed and go back to sleep in his cot (most of the time.) ‘This one is a doddle!’ I thought. Breast feeding was easy (I struggled, but persevered the first time round), bed time was okay and I was getting about six or seven hours sleep a night. Sure it was broken sleep, but who cared? It was SEVEN hours!
Six months passed and once again, the cot was reassembled in my son’s newly painted bedroom. Also, I was ready to stop breast feeding at six months and wanted to move onto a night bottle. I thought it was going to be perfect. I was wrong. Very wrong.
Firstly, he refused the bottle and I ended up feeding him to sleep. When he finally did take a bottle, he often threw it up all in an Exorcist style way all over my bed (I haven’t referred to it as ‘our’ bed for a while now), his clothes and my spotty purple M&S Pyjamas. Being told to ‘keep it down’ while changing the sheets, myself and my son only added to my stress. No help was offered from my partner as he had to lie with the girl until she fell asleep… You’re rolling your eyes at me, aren’t you?
Eventually, the formula started to stay down and after rolling, flipping and crawling the length and breadth of my bed every night, my little dude falls asleep on my covers and I move him into his cot. Sometimes (most times – damn you Twitter) I get the timing wrong and just as I place him into his cot, he cries and thrashes around. Reluctantly, I return to my bed, feed him back to sleep (oh yes, breast feeding didn’t end as planned), and there he remains surrounded by pillows that act as barriers and the baby monitor. My partner and I take it in turns to dash up the stairs at lightning speed every time we hear a rustle, burp or fart! More often that not, it reaches 9.30pm and the boy wakes. That is usually the signal that my night has come to a close; I run upstairs and feed him back to sleep and fitfully snooze myself.
If only that was it for the night.
I can almost set my clock by him.
Every two hours he wakes and uses me as his human dummy. Now, I can see you rolling your eyes at me again. Yes, I will admit that I am lazy by not getting up and for doing the good old tried and tested lay down night feed, but I am exhausted as I work full time in a demanding job. I also don’t want to wake the girl or find myself in another midnight argument with my Other Half. Heaven forbid I disturb his snoozing in the spare room. I’ll admit I love the bond between me and my little man, but I miss my evenings, I miss waking up feeling refreshed, I miss my bizarre but pleasant dreams, I miss not sharing my bed with my partner, but most of all, I miss sleep. According to Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, Sleep heels. And I don’t feel heeled at the moment and I don’t feel quite whole.
So that’s why the ‘sleep experts’ are visiting us next week during half term. Having already spoken to one of the ladies, she told me that before they visited I had to set the ball rolling as it were. I had to allow my son to fall asleep his own room (fail – check the picture) and then no matter what, I was not to remove him from his cot and feed him back to sleep. As I am typing this, I am IN his cot having fed him back to sleep (half-fail? He was distraught!)
When they call next week and tell both my partner and I to expect a few sleepless nights as we sleep train our son, we will nod and we will agree, but deep down we will know what we, in truth, will probably end up doing. (Arguing and caving in, if you didn’t already guess.)
As I write this now, I am laying in a cot next to my sleeping boy. I started writing this post at 7.30pm and he was awake at 7.50pm. I let him cry himself back to sleep and he subsequently woke up three more times. Finally, at 9pm I broke and went upstairs. My partner and I had begun to watch the latest episode of ‘The Walking Dead’, but have had to abandon it. I feel myself that I am beginning to resemble a zombie extra from the series – you know, one of the ones that have been going since Rick’s coma days. The ones that have their jaws exposed, their eyes protruding and no longer have noses. Only my fringe has grown out and I have unnecessary milk in my boobs.
As soon as I hit ‘publish’ on this post and climb from the cot, the boy is going to wake. You and I both know that I’ll lift him crying and place him in my bed where stops sobbing and where he falls asleep for two hour periods.
I may be a failure when it comes to getting my children to sleep.
I may no longer be an expert in sleep.
But, I strive to do the best for my family and, for now, it is this.
This is what makes me sleep easy at night, even if it is only for two hours.
I wrote this on the 24th October and it first appeared on Meet Other Mums