Coming into parenthood, I think I had a fairly average idea of what a child would need to learn in the first few years of life. As such, I had a general outline of what this would mean for me, an accompanying list of beginner parenting responsibilities:
1. Establish a routine that involves baby and family sleeping through the night.
2. Potty train (this implies teaching the skill of putting a toilet seat down)
3. Teach the quadratic formula (real number solutions, only because I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations for the little guy!)
So, when Brayden finally started sleeping through the night at about five months of age, I was a proud and relieved mama. I’d figured my baby out! Better late than never! Where were all the “My Baby Sleeps Through the Night” bumper stickers? Happy baby, happy, well-rested, mom. And so it continued for a couple of months. It was GLORIOUS! But as it often happens when you are at the peak of overconfidence, BAM!! a setback. One second you feel like an Olympic speedskater racing around the pond in your double-bladed figure skates. The next, you are on the couch in your long-johns with an ice bag on your head, concussed. (Let’s just say that if Brayden inherits my skating ability, hockey is not in his future.)
So, there I was…feeling great in my role as a mother, practically prepping to write my own parenting book, gathering materials to start teaching Brayden about square roots… when out of the blue, he learned to stand. I thought this would be nothing more than an exciting advancement in his mobility. I was wrong. As I now know, reaching new developmental milestones can come at a price. In this case, as soon as he was standing, he wasn’t sleeping through the night anymore. Little blips in his nighttime sleep had been easily remedied by a small back rub and pacifier replacement before. Suddenly, his wake-ups were all-out stand-offs. Literally.
Brayden has played evil tricks on me before like pooping in a clean diaper immediately upon being re-dressed and holding a sneeze back until he has a mouthful of sweet potatoes to spew on my white shirt. But this reversal in his sleep habits was the evilest trick of all. Being sleep-deprived when he was a newborn wasn’t ideal. But this was far worse. He’d let me get a taste of what it was like to get adequate sleep so that I would remember how wonderful it felt to NOT be exhausted and then BAM!!! he reverted to his former-non-sleeping-through-the-night self.
And so began the treacherous cycle of self-doubt that is an unfortunate side effect of parenting. What did I do wrong? I wondered. In my distress, I turned to google where I found some consolation that I might not be at fault for this change in circumstance. Apparently, according to my extensive online research, 7-10 month olds are in a stage of such rapid social, emotional, and physical development that they simply have trouble sleeping. They have so much going on, that it’s hard for them to settle back down. They go through a “sleep regression”.
Well, that explains it, I thought optimistically. My trusty baby-mama forums and plethora of baby sleep books assured me we should be back to sound sleeping in a couple of weeks. But two weeks quickly turned into two months and there we were. Still. Not. Sleeping. Through. The. Night. Far from it, in fact. Brayden was up almost hourly after midnight, crying. And Kevin and I were right there, wanting to do the same thing. So we started rotating night duties with the early morning shift. Whoever got up through the night could sleep in a little the next day. But it still wasn’t enough sleep. And cumulative sleep loss over several weeks took its toll. We had ventured beyond the realm of tiredness into a dark, sleepless place where the simplest components of a daily routine seemed like impossible feats. Brushing my teeth, changing Brayden’s diaper, or placing a bowl into the dishwasher sapped up whatever energy was miraculously available. When it came to any minutely stressful situation, forget it. I was incapacitated.
Then, a few evenings ago, I had a small headache and so I laid down for “five minutes” just to “rest my eyes”. Well, five minutes of resting my eyes turned into 12 hours of REM-cycle sleeping. (Thank goodness I have an awesome husband!) Awake the next morning, I was tired. But tired was a vast improvement from what I was before. And with a somewhat refreshed mental state, I had the good judgment to acknowledge that this wasn’t working. This was not the type of mother, wife, or human that I want to be!
And so Kevin and I devised a final plan to making our happy-by-day baby just as happy-by-night. One week. Two college-educated parents vs. one nine-month old baby. It’s going to be a long week, but if it works, we will have our sanity back! Wish us luck, and I hope that in my next report, I have some good news to share. And I hope that when I share it, I am tired. Tired would be wonderful.