It’s the holy grail of parenting young human beings, really. Throughout the first couple years of a child’s life, a mom simply can’t avoid it in conversation.
‘Six months old! Sleeping through the night yet?’
‘She’s just beautiful. Is she a good sleeper?’
‘Are you getting sleep, mama?’
My introduction to the world of sleep deprivation shook me to my core when I brought home my first baby. I was expecting to lose sleep, but there was truly no way to wrap my mind around how it would take its toll until it smacked me in the face. I spent many evenings riddled with anxiety over the night to come, the unknown just killing me.
But I made it. We made it.
At 3 months, like clockwork, my little guy decided he was ready to sleep 12 solid hours in his crib. And I mean not a peep. It was a dream. My husband and I high-fived triumphantly, secretly declaring our victory over parenting. We enjoyed quiet nights eating alone and watching Netflix, slept comfortably in our beds all night long. We woke up refreshed and ready to greet our little angel in his crib each morning at 7AM on the dot. You can guess where this story goes next.
Ten short months later, we got the news that our daughter was on the way. That we’d be hosting the coveted ‘two under two’ under our roof. We’ve totally got this we thought to ourselves. Three months of no sleep then we’re golden. We knew what was coming and we thought we had it down.
Baby #2 entered our world and laughed in our smug, 2nd time parent faces. She required 1-10 overnight visits for 12 months. TWELVE. I kept waiting for the arrival of the sleeping-through-the-night fairy, but she was in no hurry. Weeks melted into months, and it all began to blur into a sleepy, well-oiled machine. Every night in the 4 o’clock hour, my eyes would burn as I looked down at my not-so-tiny baby. But I knew it was temporary. I could feel the last time I would feed her a bottle coming. The last time I would hold her like a baby. Ugh. When her cries for a late night meal finally stopped, our big kid decided he was going to enter into his wander-during-the-night phase, accompanied by a struggle-for-hours-at-bedtime routine.
So I gave up.
I let go of the anger that comes with the 4th and 5th (and 12th) wake up in one hour. I stopped endlessly googling routines and products that would turn my kids into good sleepers. I decided I was done keeping tabs on how many times I woke up with the kids and whether or not it was my husband’s turn. Now let me be clear, this was a recent decision. I’m four years into parenting. I gave the quest for uninterrupted sleep a good hard try.
But when I gave up on it, something interesting happened.
I realized my body is kind of awesome, and I’m able to function on little sleep and still accomplish a lot. I saw my toddlers for what they are, tiny little humans. They’re not science experiments, nor are they machines that I can program to work the way I desire. They’re wild, complicated little beings. Sometimes they sleep through, sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay. I started to focus on the honor it is to be asked to hold hands through an entire night. To be loved so hard by someone, he’s comfortable asking me for an 8-hour long back scratch. That’s love. And last, but certainly not least, I realized the power of a hot shower and an even hotter cup of coffee.