The Highest Highs, The Lowest Lows and Less Sleep Than Humanly Possible
My journey with Hawksley’s sleep started early. This is because I was determined to try to work from home starting just a few months after he was born. I thought I had it down. I thought I would have a sleeping baby just like all of those wonderful sleep books promise. I thought that the sleep deprivation would fade away and I would be snoozing for 6, 8, 10 hour stretches by 6 months. Fast forward to today. One week after Hawksley’s first birthday I was celebrating with my sleep consultant after he woke just once in the night. For the first time ever.
At 3 months Hawksley would happily sleep from his 7:30pm bedtime all the way through until 3am. I would complain that his next wake up, around 4:45 was torture. I had no fucking clue. Through the first year, transitions, milestones, learning and adapting, a babies sleep changes and in turn, mamas and papas apparently have to change their idea of what “good sleep” truly is. By 7 months we felt well rested if Hawskley had woken just 2-3 times in the night. By 10 months and a brutal illness, I felt lucky if Hawksley wasn’t awake for a 2-3 hour stretch in the middle of the night PLUS 2-3 extra wake ups.
So what do you when your highest highs are watching your baby laugh and learn, wiggle and explore through tired, bloodshot eyes, a brutal headache, nausea, and a total incapacity to accomplish anything. When your lowest lows are sobbing into a pillow next to your baby because you are shaking from anxiety and exhaustion and praying that he will let you sleep for at least a one hour stretch. In my case, you keep searching for answers, keep seeking insight and keep figuring out how the fuck you can make this baby sleep without making him cry it out.
And so it begins, the slow (and in our case I mean really slow) progression of baby led sleep, trademarked by the lovely Lauren Heffernan, sleep consultant. She also has an awesome name. Our little family is unique in a lot of ways. Having a baby who sucks at sleeping is not one of the ways we are unique. We travel a LOT. We live in Panama and spend only a few months a year in Canada. I host wellness retreats at beautiful beach front locations across this tropical paradise. All of which require our little person to adapt to a new space, smell, environment very often. So while our situation with a not sleeping baby is not unique, our life style is. I point this out as a source of motivation for any mamas reading this. Because if we can do this. YOU can do this.
Lauren was thorough and encouraging from the get go (see my article about listening to your instincts), and has been patient through our travels, delays and regressions. She also happens to be something of a child development guru and seriously knows her shit. She was previously a teacher, holds a certification with the International Maternity and Parenting Institute's Maternity and Child Sleep Consulting Program, has completed Bebo Mia's Infant Sleep Educator Program and Mohawk College's Breastfeeding Program. She has two littles of her own and is also currently studying child development. Even better, she has taught me so much. So much that I can actually understand why the hell Hawksley might have had a brutal split night or the reason that he decided that 4:30am was a great time to wake up. She has taught me to begin to comprehend the patterns and experiences of my baby. That alone is priceless. But the biggest thing has been learning that it doesn’t need to be a quick fix. Like all things sustainable, a quick fix isn’t a long term solution. By celebrating the tiny wins and little by little, being able to see the world through less blood shot, more vivid eyes, I am motivated to move forward.
I am no longer crying next to Hawksley in bed or swearing into the mattress. I’m also not expecting things to be simple and perfect from here on out. I am not reading books on “the go to” methods for solving sleep problems. I am embracing our unique family, Hawksleys unique sleep (or lack thereof) and am learning about him, about me and about getting those zzzz’s.
Our highest highs are a lot higher. Our lowest lows are so brutal and our daily lives are feeling more and more like living and less and less like a struggle to survive. As parents we expect a great deal from the tiny people who are just starting to understand the world around them. It is our jobs to take some time and learn about how to make their world the best one possible. For their sleep, their happiness and your entire family’s sanity.