Last night, Rory woke at 11pm, just as I was going to bed. I fed him, and waited for him to settle in his cot, before hitting the hay myself at 12am. At 2am, Rory was up again, and this time would not settle for being settled in his own bed.
I brought him into my bed and he spent the next hour wriggling at my breast, pulling my hair, tugging at my ears, and stroking my face with his hands (this sounds endearing, but when this is every single night, it gets damn tedious, let me tell you). After that, we both slept for an unconfirmed amount of time. I can’t check the time on my phone during this point of the night as it automatically makes Rory think it’s time to get up.
Then I woke with my back seized in pain from being locked in the same position for too long, and it took several attempts to unlock my back and prize myself away from Rory before I could successfully turn in the bed. Turning away from Rory disturbed him of course, and after a minute, I find myself turning back to him, hoping I can feed him back to sleep.
But it fails, and Rory is now sitting up in bed, chatting away, clapping, and climbing over my head as I pretend to sleep (sticking diligently to the ‘don’t talk to them or let them know you are awake’ tactic that never works). Rory breaches my man-made barrier and starts bashing Sam over the head, laughing because he’s spotted ‘fun dada’. Sam is pushed so far towards the edge of the mattress, he’s barely clinging on.
Eventually, Rory decides that he IS tired and he DOES want to feed. He settles back to sleep just as it’s getting light. And just as Arlo is waking up at 6am. Sam quickly intercepts and takes Arlo downstairs, at which point I get a glorious THIRTY MINUTES in the bed. Rory asleep, me dozing, more room for both of us.
Sam has to leave for work at 7am, so my lie-in doesn’t last long. But two things occur to me. 1. How is it that my quality of sleep is so poor that a mere thirty minutes can make a real difference to how tired I feel when I get up? (My 21-year-old self is crying for me). And 2. This twenty-minute GODSEND has only become possible recently, and what a difference that makes.
Before Arlo was weaned, he always had to come and see me in the morning. And that, of course, would lead to EVERYONE being wide awake, rather quickly. It’s so easy now – Sam can take him downstairs swiftly and with no fuss. It’s such a simple and small change, but I’m still getting used to this little bonus.
Week by week, the sleep thing is getting (a bit) easier.
We moved Rory’s cot into Arlo’s room over the summer, which has had the knock on effect of stopping Arlo pissing about in the evenings for hours on end. Gone are the noisy protests of “I’M NOT TIRED” “I’M HUNGRY”, “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED”, etc. Gone are the repeated episodes of him sneaking out of his room at bedtime. His 9.30pm bedtimes have crept back to 8pm.
Arlo actually seems to have some kind of consideration for Rory being there at bedtime, and so he stays quiet and relaxed in his bed, which naturally leads to ACTUALLY FALLING ASLEEP a lot faster than it does when he consistently fights sleep by refusing to be still for longer than a second.
It seems that Arlo has come out of his horrendous sleep phase FINALLY. It was about six months of dramatic night wakings, nightmares, wailing and writhing around, not settling again without considerable effort. He is MOSTLY going all night quite peacefully at the moment.
The change has really been quite remarkable. Arlo obviously feels massively reassured by the presence of someone else sharing his room. And on top of that, he is comforted by the increased presence of Sam and I in his room during the night, as we pace the floor trying to settle Rory.
Having our room free of children in the evenings has been a big change for me, too. I can turn the lights on in our bedroom and do my face cleansing routine before bed. I can read a book in bed.
Rory has (for the most part) cut out his 9.30pm wake up, which means I generally get an evening and he wakes just as I’m going to bed. The other day he slept right through from bedtime until 2am – that felt like a crazy amount of time to have so much space in my bed. Pure luxury.
I say “It’s fine”, “I’ve learnt to adapt, to live with it”, and “I’m managing”. And I am. But I’ve realised that I’m doing myself a disservice to play down the sleep thing in my own head. I’ve recently realised that it’s OK to accept that years of broken, unpredictable sleep has had some effect on my mental health. That light bulb moment really shouldn’t have even been a light bulb moment, because NO WONDER. Certain anxieties that are closely linked to sleep, and it makes perfect sense, and it’s OK to feel that way.
I’m not saying that my experience has been any better or worse than anyone else’s. It’s an aspect of parenting that we all have to deal with. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get hard. Or that we have to play it down.
Give yourself a break from beating yourself up because you feel that you should be stronger. It’s OK to be kind to yourself.