This one is for all the parents whose babies (and toddlers) still don’t sleep through the night. You’re in good (and sleepy) company.
When your kid is the one who constantly wakes during the night, you have some routine experiences. You get used to your kid waking up and learn to operate on six hours of broken sleep.
Usually you try to avoid the topic of baby sleep, but eventually it comes up. When other parents find out your kid still doesn’t sleep through the night, they generally pity you and probably say something about how they “couldn’t do it.”
You try to seem interested.
There’s always one mom in the group whose baby starting sleeping through the night at six weeks. You try to be happy for her, but you don’t really have the energy for that.
They give you some magic sleep-training tips, and you start to wonder if maybe you’re just a horrifically inadequate parent. You resolve to try these tips and stop being such a shit parent.
Nighttime comes and you give yourself a pep talk. Tonight you will stop being so soft. You will get seven hours of sleep. You will pick your kid up and set them back down in their bed a thousand times if that’s what it takes.
You put your kid in his bed and he starts to cry. You shush and rock him. You pick him up and set him back in his crib until your lower back starts spasming. You pat his back in a counter clockwise motion while chanting something you heard in a yoga class once. You play a lullaby on repeat for 76 minutes. You really have to pee and contemplate taking a bathroom break, but decide to carry on.
You hold your kid while jumping around the room like a mopey rabbit. This seems to please him. He slowly starts to wind down. This might be working. Maybe you’ve just been too lazy to enforce sleep habits. You start to feel a glimmer of hope. You lay him in bed and quietly tiptoe out of the room.
You reach your bed and start to feel some relief. It’s been months since you could stretch out without being spilled on by a leaky sippy cup. You drift into a pleasant slumber.
Two hours later, you hear the first sound of rustling. You try to ignore this like the other moms instructed you. The rustling turns into crying.
At first, you try to pretend it isn’t happening.
Maybe if you ignore the crying it will just stop on its own. Your thighs are still burning from the CrossFit routine you performed to get him to sleep the first time. You’re exhausted. The crying seems to lull. You think maybe he is actually putting himself to sleep! Maybe you’re actually getting the hang of this. You nestle deeper into your pillow.
Then the crying turns into a full-blown roar. You can’t ignore it. The kid is too powerful. You give up.
You go into his room and he starts laughing when he sees you. He knows he has broken you. You feel foolish for testing him.
He wants to play with you. You feel your willpower crumple.
You wonder where you’ve gone wrong. The other moms made it sound so easy. You come to the conclusion that you will probably never sleep well again. It’s not fair, and you hate the other moms.
You stay up playing with your kid for another 108 minutes. They need a bite of 12 different snacks and want to sample everything on the lower shelf of the fridge. You let them. You are so tired. You tell yourself that ketchup is an acceptable bedtime snack.
After what seems like half the night, your kid finally yawns. You’re filled with hope. Maybe he will finally go to bed. You carry him into your bed because he has marked it as his own. He stretches out onto your pillow, and you curl into a tiny ball around him. He lies down without a fight and closes his eyes. You can’t believe it. He is going to sleep!
You look at the clock and realize you have three hours before you need to get up. You resolve to avoid any mom who mentions sleep around you again. You promise yourself that when the kid is a teenager you will wake him early every morning. You make a mental note to research intravenous caffeine delivery in the morning. The kid snuggles himself onto your chest. His little hand rests on your face and you start to melt. You remember how cute he can be. And you fall into a crowded, but peaceful sleep.