*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on September 9, 2014.
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*
There are a lot of things that people don’t tell you about having kids. Whether it is because they forget (too much wine can do that to a person) or they want you to be as shocked and dismayed as they were, I guess we will never know. I try to be as honest as possible with my friends in order to perhaps prevent the perpetuation of parenting myths, but for some reason a lot of them haven’t had kids yet…
One of those things that other parents don’t tell you is that SLEEP TRAINING IS A LIE! Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration. A lot of people (I’ve heard) can get their kids to start sleeping at 6-weeks and then they never wake in the night again. Ever. This may not have been my experience. You know another thing that parents don’t warn you about? Once your kids are in real beds, THEY CAN GET OUT. Terrifying.
Throughout my long (4-year) career as a mom, we have tried many methods of sleep encouragement (that sounds nicer right?) including but not limited to: swaddles (welcomed), pacifiers (unwelcomed), nursing to sleep, rocking, bouncing, silly astronaut sleepwear (it worked!), and letting them fuss (mad cry but never sad cry because no one told me cry-it-out meant I would be the one crying). All of these methods worked with varying degrees of effectiveness and for varying amounts of time depending on the kid.
The thing is, my kids weren’t bad sleepers, I was. If one or both kids woke in the night, my husband or I could always get them back down fairly easily using one of the above-referenced tricks, but then they were asleep and I was not. I would lay awake, thinking I heard someone crying or walking down the hall to get me. My mind would race. I would start to fall asleep, realize I was falling asleep, and that realization would jolt me awake. Postpartum anxiety is a real thing, and now that I’m through it (mostly) I can see that I had it. I was aware enough at the time to ask my doctor about medication, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking anything while nursing so I let her recommendations slide.
As time went on, I became a zombie. My decaf lattes went out the window in favor of the real stuff (preferably by constant IV drip). I would get to work and not remember driving there, mind you it is a 45-minute drive so that should be more memorable. When I did get to work, I was so tired that I couldn’t focus my eyes on the screen. Something had to change before my bosses decided to put this zombie horse out to pasture (No, I’m pretty sure that is how the saying goes). Any mom is going to struggle on such a small amount of sleep, but when you work outside the home, your sleeping situation affects more than just your family.
Then one night, a miracle. My older daughter woke with a bad dream and I climbed into her bed to calm her down. The next thing I knew it was 7 am and I was waking from the best night of sleep that I’d had in years. We had never had the girls sleep in our bed and everyone I ever talked to said (tsk tsk), “Don’t start co-sleeping unless you want to do it forever.” Well, I have different advice and that is this: you need to do whatever gets everyone in your family the most sleep. Pardon my French, but screw what other people think. You are the one who has to live your life, so do what you’ve got to do, buddy.
Now both my girls are in (full-size) beds in the same room, they are a bit older (2 and 4) and are both much better sleepers than their infant selves. However, sometimes one or both still wake me up and do you know what I do then? I sleep in their room. Not every night, but some nights. It isn’t just for them, it is for me too. They are asleep and being near them is enough to lessen my anxiety. I sleep. We all sleep. I still have my job and I still have my sanity (mostly).
Do what you’ve got to do, buddy.