Just before my son turned three months old, I got two blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep. I distinctly remember this for two reasons: (1) I woke up with throbbing rocks for boobs, and (2) I didn't get another stretch of sleep longer than three hours for MONTHS.
Yep. I had a non-sleeper on my hands and I was a mess. The lack of sleep impacted everything in my life. I could barely keep my eyes open at work, developed mild postpartum depression, found doing things like cleaning my house and working out nearly impossible and felt super distant from my husband, family and friends.
Every evening I would countdown to bedtime like a convict going to the gallows. I dreaded it. I dreaded everything about it. Bedtime was when my amazing, happy, loving little baby turned into a clingy, hysterical, monster hell-bent on avoiding sleep at all costs. It was awful.
I read every baby-sleep related blog post I could find and became an pseudo-expert on every method out there. I followed every suggestion (bed time routine? check. disassociation with "sleep crutches"? check. swaddling? check. not swaddling? check. co-sleeping? crib sleeping? crying it out? breastsleeping? check, check, check, check!)
Through all of this trial and error, I got the occasional three hour stretch, but for the most part, I was up every 45 minutes. Here's what would happen:
When I was able to actually transfer my son to his crib, I would crawl into bed and hide under the covers until I was woken by the inevitable distressed cries. My husband, my wonderful husband, would help. He'd bounce, rock, sometimes try a bottle, but I found it nearly impossible to sleep if my baby was crying, so even if I wasn't physically trying to get my son to sleep, I still wasn't sleeping myself.
This was life, and amidst it all, I was working a full-time job, piecing together child-care and trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy in our family life. It was intense, trying and exhausting. I felt like I was failing at all of it, and I kind of was. I couldn't quite wrap my head around how I could be so overwhelmingly in love with this little, incredible human and also feel like he was slowly draining the life from my being.
It is a dichotomy that is incredibly difficult to describe, and even more difficult to live through. To be a mother to a sleepless baby is to feel an endless love and sense of gratitude, and a deep uncertainty and sadness, all emanating from the same thing. It's a circle that is nearly impossible to square. I just held on. For dear life. For months.
And then one day, he just slept. Through the entire night. And then he slept through the next night. And then next. The routine we had kept religiously (sometimes, in feeling all the effort was in vain) seemed to work. Our baby actually went down and stayed sleeping for the entire night! All of a sudden, I was getting a normal amount of sleep. And my husband and I had a few hours together (alone!) at night to drink a glass of wine and watch TV or just talk. I started wanting to exercise (because I finally had some damn energy). I wanted to do things like stick my son on my back and go for a hike. I felt better about myself, my relationship, my role as a mama.
Finding myself again, the thriving, complicated, happy, healthy version of myself was only possible once I fulfilled a necessity I had never been without before: sleep.
In other posts, I'll share the best tips and resources I found when I was in the heart of my sleepless nights. If you're there right now, just know that it doesn't last forever! You, too, will sleep again.
Hi! I'm Erin.
I'm a working mama, wife, writer and owner of a little red house. I'm trying to sort through the noise and live a life that is genuine, happy and grounded in simplicity.