The sleep thieves
Don’t worry. I’m not going to say it. I know you feel as though you might lose your mind if you hear one more well-intentioned suggestion to sleep when the baby sleeps. It didn’t make much sense to you when you brought number one son home and those first few sleepy days quickly gave way to an exhausting and seemingly endless era of hourly feeds at night and cat naps throughout the day. Half an hour might have given you enough respite to have a wee in peace and fold some washing but the thought of attempting your own power nap only to be woken up within minutes was unbearable.
Two years on and that baby is now a toddler and has started to get the hang of the whole sleep thing BUT now you have another newborn in the house. So the ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ shizzle is completely nonsensical now because not only is your second son as wakeful as your first but on the rare occasion he submits to sleep the toddler is most definitely awake. Sometimes you suspect that they are in cahoots; a tiny tag team trying to break you.
It’s not just the lack of sleep though is it? The nature of your waking hours are wearing you down too. Although your eldest was a little sleep-thief he was a super easy baby when he was awake; the sweetest, happiest little soul who contentedly accompanied you while you pottered around the house or mooched in town or caught up with friends over restorative coffee.
Not this one. This baby seems to be furious about something doesn’t he? His frustrated grumbles and groans escalate throughout the day and with a sense of impending doom you await the evening knowing you will spend hours pacing the room, trying and failing to relieve the colicky pain which causes him to arch his back and clench his little fists and cry so intensely. I know you are in tears by the end of every evening too and I know that there is no relief from this because your husband is working away in the week. You shouldn’t hide how hard it is from him for fear of making him feel guilty for being away. He knows it is hard. He can’t be with you physically but he wants to be there for you emotionally. Ring him this evening. Put the baby down in his basket where he is safe and call your husband. Let him tell you what an amazing job you’re doing – because you are – you’re doing an incredible job. Please stop feeling guilty about being sad and stop wondering what you are doing wrong. You aren’t doing anything wrong. None of this is of your making and it’s really ok to feel a bit rubbish about it. You’re not ungrateful or horrible, just human.
I know the sleep deprivation has gone a bit bonkers this week. Last night as you were feeding the baby in bed you saw lots of tiny orange spiders climbing the wall and today when the little man finally stopped resisting his nap and fell heavy with sleep you laid him on your bed and, realising your arm was stuck underneath him, you wondered for the merest of moments if there was any way you could walk away and leave your arm there. This might have made you laugh if you weren’t so utterly exhausted.
I wish I could offer you some practical advice. I wish I could tell you the magic formula that will make your boys sleep and save you from the endless desperate googling and all the money you’re going to spend on white noise machines, dream sheep and expensive supplements. There is no one thing that’s going to work – and as you’ll soon discover there is never one thing that works with both these boys. They are so wildly different in nature that you will need two different approaches for everything; for mealtimes, getting them to sleep, handling tantrums. That probably sounds gruelling to you right now but you’ll be pretty proud of yourself in a few years for working out the best way to get through things with both your little guys (and I can give you a steer here – it feels contradictory but the sweet sensitive eldest boy needs a firm response otherwise you’ll enter back and forth negotiations for hours and the wild and fierce youngest child needs a gentle explanation because tackling fire with fire creates explosions that it takes some time to recover from).
What I can try and give you is hope. I know you feel like you’re at your lowest ebb but the tide is about to turn and things ARE going to get better. The love you’re showing your boys, even when you are totally shattered, is going to come right back to you. The pause you leave before going to their cries and the gentle, individual, reassurances you give to them when you go to them are exactly what they need. They are about to start sleeping a little more each day and not too far away will come the night they BOTH SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. Not just one night but over and over again. It will be difficult for you to believe this right now but you will become the envy of your friends when, aged 3 and 5, your boys (who despite, or perhaps because of, their differences are heart-meltingly the BEST of friends) read stories together at bedtime, go straight to sleep without any fuss and sleep for at least 12 hours. No really – that IS going to happen. Your friends will think you’re lucky but I think it’s because of the awesome job you are doing right now despite how tired you are – and hey if it is luck you’ll deserve it by then!
So I just want to end by saying THANK YOU.
I know it’s not easy right now but you are giving our boys such an amazing start and everything you’re doing is helping them become the bright, brilliant, beautiful boys they are. Your cross little bubba will always be a force to be reckoned with but he is hilarious and happy and loving – and hanging out with him and his big brother will be your favourite thing to do. They are so kind and so much fun and they REALLY love their mama. I can’t wait for you to see them. You will be so very proud of them.
Hang in there mama - it’s about to get really good xxx