This is a hard post to publish. I feel like there is a risk here that some of my opinions about sleep may be taken wrong or people won’t agree or won’t like what I have to say. My intention is not to offend, but to share. This is simply my experience and I want to share it for those out there experiencing sleep struggles and for myself. xoxo, Jessica
Even with an almost 3-year-old, I am obsessed with sleep. Those newborn nights nearly three years ago are to blame. I would go to bed fearing how bad the nights would be. I would pray that I could get any sleep at all. I would try to “solve” our “sleep issues” rather than embrace them as just a part of this season of our lives.
I spent the short hour or two hours that B was actually sleeping in those early days, weeks and months, filled with anxiety about when he’d wake up rather than drifting off into a bit of much-needed sleep. Every sound would make my body tense as I wondered if he would wake before I even got a moment of sleep or worse, he would wake the moment I actually did fall asleep.
I read every baby sleep book and article out there from Dr. Sears to the most extreme cry it out options and after a lot of thought and soul-searching and quite a bit of trial and error, finally realized something.
Acceptance was the best thing for us.
It took me more than a year to simply accept that our son wasn’t a good sleeper. His first birthday was the mental turning point for me. I enjoyed that day so much! I loved being his mommy. He was doing so many things that just amazed me.
But sleep wasn’t one of them and I was spending most of my energy and effort on the one thing he just wasn’t into. Why waste all that energy (and there wasn’t much) on the negative, the hard thing?
My husband and I realized that maybe all the things we’d been obsessing over weren’t the solution. It wasn’t his pajamas that night. It wasn’t his mattress. It wasn’t what he ate or didn’t eat. It wasn’t because he was breastfed. He didn’t have food allergies. It wasn’t the white noise we had on or the lack of white noise. It wasn’t that he needed even darker shades in the room. It wasn’t that he needed a night-light. The list could go on and on (and did-click to read another post with some of the things I heard). I read it all. I heard it all from well-meaning friends and family.
Now, if you had a “good sleeper” this may not resonate with you at all. You may still think we did something wrong or our doctor missed something or you maybe just didn’t have to think much about sleep at all. I am honestly so happy for you. A well-rested parent is the best thing. I truly believe, after researching sleep in every way possible, that some babies sleep much better than other babies. What works for one baby does not work for every baby.
But friends, even with the wisdom I’ve gained after years of waking up at least once a night with our son, I am still obsessed with sleep. I’m obsessed with bedtimes and naps and wondering when to cut off naps. I still somehow think there might be a “magic sleep button” if I just shorten naps, lengthen naps, cut naps, start bedtime earlier, start bedtime later, give him milk before bed…
I’m obsessed with my own sleep too.
My pregnancy has brought back those anxious nights. I am feeling the pressure to get B to a better place at bedtime and sleeping through the night on his own before the baby arrives. I am having a hard time sleeping from all the pregnancy hormones and night-time restroom breaks. I’ve been a light sleeper for a long time, but getting up to use the restroom means I have to try to fall asleep up to four times a night. It’s such a reminder of those difficult yet beautiful newborn nights, weeks, months. And it scares me.
Have I learned from parenting B? Can I let go a bit and realize I am not in control? Can I learn to rest when the baby rests? Will I get any sleep or will I spend endless nights wishing for sleep and yet the moment the baby really does sleep, will I just lie there awake?
I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. I do know I’m not in control. I do know it really does get better with time. I do know that there will be some really hard nights and there will also be some incredibly great nights—even the sleepless ones can be filled with sweet moments. I do know that it will end much too quickly.
“They” all say I’ll miss these days with my babies and in my heart of hearts, I know that is 100 percent true. This baby boy will more than likely be our last baby and embracing sleepless nights may just make the days wonderful instead of dreadful.
We will enter a new season of our lives in June. I think I’m in a place where I can accept that with the wonderful joy-filled, beautiful, sweet-smelling newborn baby moments comes exhaustion beyond anything most people (other than parents) have ever experienced and that it will end. It will end much too soon. I’ll miss those moments. I’ll miss those sleepless nights. I’ll miss waking up before the sun rises and I’ll most definitely miss those early morning walks with my babies.
Even knowing that, it won’t be easy. But we will get through.
Note to friends, family and supporters of parents dealing with sleep issues
Please, well-meaning lovely people, don’t tell us to relax and that it will all work itself out or to relax because the baby can sense our frustrations. I’ve been told this many times and I truly know this but it doesn’t make it easier. And giving us your advice is usually just frustrating and even more exhausting, because, trust me, we’ve tried or researched anything and everything that could possibly get us just one extra hour a night. Now that I’m out of this time in my life, I do know that you all mean well. You do, but when I was in that darker place, it didn’t feel that way.
Instead, maybe just say “I’m so sorry you are exhausted. Is there anything I can do to help?” or “That sounds really tough (and add a hug).”
Just support. Don’t solve. This will make a huge difference for us. Thank you for caring about us and doing what you can to help us through a time that we all know should be some of our most joy-filled, but that in reality are some of our hardest. We appreciate it more than we will ever be able to express (especially in our sleep-deprived states).