Being pregnant was a long and uncomfortable process. Bringing home a newborn was scary and overwhelming. Learning how to care for that newborn and adjusting to a newborn schedule was exhausting. But almost right away Emmalee fell into a pattern of sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. For someone without children, that might not sound so great. But I’ve been in a place where 2-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep would sound like heaven.
By two months old Emmalee was sleeping from 9 pm to 7 am pretty consistently. At the time I didn’t know any better, so I took the sleep I was suddenly getting for granted. When she stopped sleeping through the night at around six months old, I felt completely unprepared to handle the situation. As I chronicled in a previous blog, “Compromise,” what followed were months of sleep deprivation and fatigue that left me feeling lost, desperate, and more like a zombie than a mom. There is something about sleeping for twenty to thirty minutes at a time, being awake for 60-90 minutes or more between each interval, and being lucky if those brief sleep periods add up to 3-4 hours total for weeks on end that changes you in a fundamental way. This may sound dramatic, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve been through far worse, but for me this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever lived through. I don’t remember ever being more miserable or hopeless.
When I wrote my last blog on this topic, I was at a place where I thought I’d successfully “won” the sleep battle. At that point I was still rocking Emma to sleep and was up with her at least once most nights, sometimes for an hour or more, and I truly thought that was as good as it was going to get. I’d resigned myself to this less interrupted version of sleep and decided that I could live with it. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than what I’d been faced with previously. Cry it out sleep training methods played a role in getting me through the worst of this sleep crisis, and I do not regret using them even though the outcome was not exactly what I would have hoped for. If I ever meet Jodi Mindell, the author of Sleeping Through the Night, I am still likely to fall before her and worship at her feet. I would recommend her book to anyone. She helped me see the light at the end of the bleakest tunnel I’ve ever been through.
The point of this blog is to say that while I once saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I now feel as if I have emerged from that tunnel victoriously. For a little more than a month now, Emmalee has slept through the night uninterrupted. Ok, yes, I still rock her to sleep. So maybe I’ve still got one foot stuck in the shadows. But once I lay her down I’m done. No more than an occasional whimper or grunt for the next eleven hours. I’ve been getting so much sleep that I feel like an actual human being again, with thoughts and everything. Emma goes to bed and I not only have down time but I have the energy to enjoy it. It took almost a year, but for the first time I feel like this whole being a mom thing is something I might be able to handle after all. And though “mother” is the most important metaphorical hat I’ll ever wear, I no longer feel like an empty shell walking around in a costume that doesn’t fit. I feel like me again. Getting back that sense of self allows me to be all the things I need to be, mother, teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, with much more confidence and strength. I say all this with a little reservation, hoping fervently that I’m not speaking too soon. Part of me fears that by posting this I am dooming myself to an awful night with Emmalee. I’m pretty sure she has a sixth sense for these things and will cry all night just to spite me.
No, I’m kidding. Sort of.
I realize I cannot rock Emmalee to sleep forever. It might get kind of awkward by the time she’s eleven. This is still an obstacle to overcome, the goal being that someday I will be able to lie Emma down in her crib awake and she will fall asleep on her own and will still sleep through the night. I am considering giving “cry it out” another try. Perhaps now that she is older it will work more effectively. But that is a subject for another time and blog. For now I will try to be content with the success Emmalee and I have achieved, and I will try not to think too much about all the obstacles that still lie before me. Pleasant dreams. (Yes, dreams. I sleep long enough to have those again, too!)