09 February 2011

Ummmm....this is not what I ordered

When I was pregnant I remember reading the books about sleep and routines. I 'knew' that babies are renowned for not sleeping at night and that I'd be tired as a result. As such, I wanted to make sure I was prepared, equipped and confidently trained to tackle the issue of sleep. It was my job to train my child in how to sleep from the earliest age. I got into my head that if I did all the right things, was strict and stuck to a routine from day 1, I'd have a baby who slept through the night from 12 weeks. You could say I put in my order for one of these babies......the sleeping kind.

Layla asleep in her Mini Monkey Sling with me - 12 weeks
Despite all my planning, preparation, training and confidence, it seems my order got mixed up. Sleeping has always been, and in many ways continues, to be a struggle. I have to preface this statement by saying that Layla does sleep pretty well compared to many babies I know. My approach has delivered some results with nights that do deliver large stretches of uninterrupted sleep (even if it's not a full 12 hour period). I wanted to give Layla (and me!) the gift of sleep from an early age. Unlike any other challenge life has set me, this one defies logic and will. No matter how much I want her to sleep, no matter the techniques I use, Layla is her own person who comes to things at her own time.

Sleep deprivation has been my curse. I used to be a great sleeper. I could sleep just about anywhere for short periods and feel refreshed. What I had not counted on was the effect of ongoing sleep deprivation. Days, weeks and months of not sleeping sent me mad. My tears and frustration were linked primarily with not having slept. It made me feel sick, crazed, hurt and possessed. Even when I did go to lie down, I could not sleep. If anything took away my enjoyment of having a new child, it was the lack of sleep. Nothing can adequately prepare you for it. 3am is a lonely time when you crave sleep. All you want is for the night to end just so you can press the reset button, start again and hope for a better day. Even now, at 9 months, when Layla doesn't sleep well during the day I feel cheated. I feel like I have failed. I feel frustrated and angry.

No one told me that it would be two steps forward, one step back. Illness, heat, strange locations and developmental leaps all lead to disrupted sleep. I thought that once Layla knew how to sleep through the night or knew the daily routine, she would adhere to the rules and sleep. Apparently I was wrong!

I was inspired to write this post after reading a blog post and accompanying YouTube video by Mia Freedman on her blog Mamamia where she talks with her baby whisperer about giving the gift of sleep. Sleep truly is a gift. It is a gift I had always taken for granted. Teaching Layla to sleep has been a focus, an obsession, a challenge and a frustration. If I had my time over, I'd do it all again. We have made real progress but this challenge is not one that is achieved and overcome. Everyday delivers wins and set backs. These days I'm a lot less tired, we're making progress.

For new and expectant parents, I want you to realise just how hard dealing with sleep issues really are. It is recommended that sleep training doesn't commence until your baby is 6 months old. As such, there is half a year of days and nights where sleep may become a project and an obsession. Some parents don't dwell on sleep like I have. They let their baby sleep when it wants to. Personally, I couldn't do that. I wanted some certainty. I wanted to give Layla the opportunity to learn how to put herself to sleep before she was overtired and dropped from exhaustion. At times this has meant I had less freedom, was stuck at home and endured feelings of frustration. While the frustration will be short lived, the gift should be life long. It is important to know that there is help available to deal with sleep issues beyond just reading books. You are not alone with these challenges. Nowadays I see the exhausted parents walking the streets and shopping centre that I previously never saw. People will ask you "Is she a good baby? Does she sleep?". It is the obsession of most new parents. Realise that whether a baby sleeps or not does not make them bad and is not a reflection on you. I too have to remind myself of this every time I have a sleepless night or a day of no sleeping. It may not have been what I ordered but I'm not sending this one back!

No comments:

Post a Comment