A few months back, Sam said something that stopped me in my tracks.
We were discussing, for the umpeenth time no doubt, our older children’s appalling sleep habits, and the fact that Otto is so reliant on me at night time. And then Sam uttered the words,
“But you do enjoy it, though”.
“Oh, do I?”, I thought. “DO I REALLY??”
The idea seemed completely and utterly preposterous. Tell me, which part of having a baby who wakes every couple of hours, needs me, and me only, to settle him, and likes to sleep SO CLOSE to me that I no longer have any say over my own sleeping position – which part of this, exactly, would I possibly find enjoyable?
Tell me, which part of juggling the older children who STILL wake at night, with the baby who wakes when I leave his side, is the part that I’m meant to be happy about?
Tell me, which part about constantly having my evenings interrupted could I class as fun? A bit of a laugh?
Am I enjoying the amount of sleep I get? Or the hours upon hours that I have spent walking my babies around their rooms because they / we / just can’t ever get the hang of that miraculous thing they call “self settling”.
Do I do it with all the patience and grace of a saint and never ever once think about how I’d be spending those spare hours if I didn’t have to do these things?
How could anyone possibly think that I actually ENJOY this aspect of my life??
But… a small part of me wondered whether Sam was, in fact, right. Could it be that I do actually enjoy these things, and I just don’t know it? There was some revelation in there somewhere that I just couldn’t quite grasp, and so Sam’s words stayed niggling inside my head for months, until I reached the lightbulb moment.
It’s not that I actively enjoy all of the disruption, all of the time. But I am bloody good at it.
Broken sleep has been a way of life for me for over six years. It’s no longer the main focus of my life as a parent. It’s something that has slowly dulled to merely background noise over time.
On an average night, I’ll get no more than two hours sleep unbroken. My own bedtime is always dictated by Otto’s first (or second, or third) wake-up. A lot of the time, we have nights that I suspect other people would deem totally unacceptable.
But, I don’t focus on all of this now. You’ll find it rarely gets a mention on my instagram posts, and even less than that on my blog. Because I am used to it. This is my life. I am GOOD at dealing with the sleep stuff. So, to me, it just isn’t noteworthy any more.
When Arlo was young, I had a whole section of my blog dedicated to sleep. I think it was actually titled “sleep obsessed”. And I was. Because I just could not get my head around this drastic fundamental change to my life. It was exhausting, it was all-encompassing, and I just didn’t know why it hadn’t gotten any better yet – weren’t older babies meant to be sleeping through the night by now??
These days? I guess you could say that I’ve moved on from caring. I have built up such an incredible stamina for lack of sleep, that I just couldn’t imagine what I would do with MORE sleep. The thought of a full night’s sleep is no longer the distant dream that I once wished for. It’s a concept that I now actually find a little bit scary – if I get used to sleep, how will I cope on the occasions when we have a one-off really bad night? Could I handle that shock to the system? Is it worth it?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not actively trying to discourage my children from sleeping well. If someone offered me the magical prospect of Otto self settling and sleeping through the night, I would grab it with both hands, no hesitation. I would relish the extra space in my bed. But I would get misty eyed for the times when he shared that space with me. I’ve been through that transition with Rory, so I know the conflicting emotions that come with it.
At the grand old age of six, Arlo has finally become a competent sleeper. Like a normal person. So I know there is an end point. And that makes me less bothered about everything that comes before that point. It’s a far nicer, less stressful way to be.
Interestingly, Sam has said that the one overriding factor that stops him from wanting more children is not finances, or space. It’s the sleep thing. He’s done. He’s had enough. He can feel the toll it’s taken.
I, on the other hand, am totally cool with my current sleep-evading existence. I’ve become so accustomed to it that I could easily see me doing it for another couple of years at least. I could easily go another round with another dependent baby. When I think about NOT doing that, I feel a bit lost – what’s next for me once I have three children who fall asleep on their own and sleep all night long? That point has become almost mythical for me.
So, no, I don’t enjoy it. But I am pretty damn good at this lack of sleep thing.