Sleepless in Seattle

Here are the things I’m tired of:

I’m tired of not getting to sleep more than an hour at once.

I’m tired of singing The Wheels on the Bus over and over because for some reason that is soothing to my son.

I’m tired of bags under my eyes.

I’m tired of being asked how I’m sleeping.

I’m tired of being told how my son should be sleeping. Oh, your kid slept at six weeks? Well BULLY FOR YOU.

Look, there is nothing novel in what I am writing. Do a google search for “my () month old isn’t sleeping” and the responses that pop up are prolific. Lots of babies don’t sleep at this age and yet we are told over and over that they should be sleeping, that we must teach them to sleep by leaving them to their own devices, and that a few tears are worth it in the end. Well…

We “sleep trained” Quinn when she was about six months old. Quinn was just a fussy, challenging infant in general, so it’s no surprise that her sleep wasn’t “good.” (“Good” according to what some men who wrote some sleep books had to say.) So, we let her cry and it was awful and it worked … until it didn’t. Quinn’s sleep has been difficult her whole life. Sure, she sleeps through the night now, but getting her to sleep is often a challenge. She likes a snuggle. She doesn’t like being alone. Can you blame her? I don’t like sleeping alone either. I like a snuggle. My anxiety is the worst at night. My mind can race. It can be hard to fall asleep, and I am 34. Why do I expect my four-year old – let alone my 8 month old – to do something better than me?

I don’t know what it says about parenting in this country (and I’m sure other countries) that we are expected to have perfect slumbering independent angels before they can even walk or talk. I co-slept with my babies because they were tiny and it just felt wrong to put them in a bed alone. I had a visceral need for them to be with me – our skin touching, our breath syncing. And while it would be nice for me, certainly, for Joe to sleep better, he is still a little baby. He wants to nurse, he wants to be comforted, he wants to feel safe, and I’m his mom, and isn’t that my most fundamental job at this stage – to nurse him and comfort him and make him feel safe?

Here is what I want: I want people to stop talking about how babies sleep and just accept that they sleep like babies. They wake up, they cry, they need a cuddle, because that’s what babies do. Not all, certainly. But a lot. I’d find it a hell of a lot more helpful and supportive if people just stopped asking how we were sleeping and instead gave me a Starbucks card. Because, I promise you, I need it.

Someday, my kids are going to sleep on their own, feed themselves, dress themselves, live by themselves. For the majority of their lives, my kids won’t really need me. So, why oh why, do we diminish these precious years when we can snuggle them up, feel their chests rising and falling, smell their sweet baby smells, and enjoy (as much as possible) those late night moments? I have a very real sense that if we embraced this, I’d feel a lot less grief about how my kid sleeps and a lot more joy that I’m the kind of mother who is doing exactly what my baby needs at this moment in his life.

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