I used to sleep so well. I was never one of those people who would lie awake for hours at night staring at the ceiling of a darkened room. But now, although sleep has improved markedly from the early days of parenting a newborn, there are still times I find myself awake for no discernable reason in the middle of the night.
Of course, part of that is because I’m breastfeed a ten month old who insists on having an all hours access pass to the boob buffet. My husband and I have decided that the “Cry-It-Out” methods of sleep training aren’t right for us, but the gentler method we’re trying is a long-term work-in-progress that means that our baby is still waking up anywhere from four or five or six times a night to a kajillion times a night. And yes, that is the precise and correct mathematical term for when your baby wakes up so many times that you are reduced to tears and repeatedly crying out “This is unacceptable!” in utterly exhausted frustration.
I sometimes wonder if we could have done things differently in the beginning. Maybe if we had put her down drowsy but awake when she was a newborn, she would be sleeping through the night now. Of course, that’s looking back at that time through rose-tinted lenses. I can’t remember a point where she was drowsy and peaceful; she was either happy and awake or tired and cranky. She resisted sleep with every fiber of her tiny body and the only way we could get her to sleep was to bounce her on an exercise ball. My husband would bounce her for hours at night while I caught a couple hours of sleep and then it would be my turn to put her on my boob so that we could both get some rest. It seemed natural when she was so little and we barely knew what we were doing with breastfeeding to let her fall asleep at the breast. And I was content to let her snooze there, both of us comforted by the closeness and attachment. I was so worried about her slow weight gain in those first few months that I figured the more time she spent breastfeeding the better. Now that I can’t get her to detach, I’m still not sure I would have done it any differently, even if she has learnt “bad” sleep associations.
So here I lie, sandwiched between my husband and my daughter, as night becomes morning. I haven’t slept for more than three hours at a time in ten months. Being awake at night and tired during the day feels routine. And although I don’t love the insomnia or nightly wakings, I’ve adjusted somewhat. I’ve found that if I just accept the night wakefulness and let myself enjoy the quiet time with the two people I love most in the world peacefully slumbering beside me, I have an easier time. I know that I will eventually get back to sleep and, right now, this time is all my own–no demands for my attention, no cleaning to be done, no schedules to meet. And hey, if I’m tired in the morning, there’s a magical elixir which can lift even the droopiest eyelids and stimulate even the most sleep-fogged minds–coffee.