It’s on the mind of every mom. Even when we don’t talk about it – we’re often thinking about it. You know what it is. Sleep. Or, more often, lack thereof. We generally don’t think much about sleep if we’re actually getting it.
Here’s the deal: my kid sucks at sleeping. She’s an excellent napper but her nights are inconsistent and sporadic. When she was a newborn, she slept great at night. Aside from the first 3-4 nights of her life when she had days and nights a bit mixed up, she started sleeping 4, 5, and sometimes 6 hour stretches within the first few weeks/months. When she was 3 months old, things were great – she’d go to bed around 8ish, wake up once around 3 am, and then sleep until 9 am. She rarely was up for more than 5-10 minutes. Just a quick nursing session and back down. I could handle that.
The only problem? She didn’t progressively get better as time went on. In fact, she progressively got worse. From 4-6 months, sleeping went down hill. We would have nights where we were up more times than I could keep track of. Sometimes, we’d be up for 2-3 hours at a time. This was unheard of for us. And then, even her best nights? Were crappy. By the time she was 6 months old, I would go to bed praying for just 4 hours. If she slept 5 or 6? I was in heaven. Four hours at 2 weeks postpartum feels great. Four hours at six months? Not so great. Those people I knew whose babies were sleeping 8, 10, even 12 (gasp) hours at night? I wanted to throat punch them. Okay, not really, but I was a little jealous.
She is just now starting to get better. But, I say that with a grain of salt. Because another thing I’ve learned? When they are sleeping good? DO NOT TELL ANYONE. Because the minute you do? They will prove you wrong. Just before Evalyn turned 8 months, she started sleeping 10-12 hours for a week straight. Then two weeks. Aside from 1-2 nights with a little interruption, she was sleeping good. Going to bed around 7, sleeping until 5 or 6, nursing and going back to bed until 7:30-8. She even had a few teeth pop through during this time. But then I made a mistake. I told people. And then, BAM. We were up 4 times that night. So now? I shall keep my lips sealed.
The thing is: I was the (naive) kind of mom who believed what the books and websites say. I believed that by 3 months babies will start to sleep longer stretches and that they will mostly likely be sleeping through the night by 6. Ha! Joke’s on me, I guess. Because, here we are at almost 9 months, and I can basically remember every single night that she has slept through the night because there are so few of them.
I’ve discovered that the books are wrong. I don’t know where they’re finding these babies, because from most of the discussions I’ve had with other moms? Babies aren’t sleeping through the night by 6 months. It’s not just me. And while I don’t find enjoyment in other people's misery, it does help to know that I’m not alone.
If you’re a new mom, or an expecting mom – I don’t mean to burst your bubble, and I sure do hope you’re one of the lucky ones – but I write this for the sake of honesty, and so you don’t feel discouraged if your baby isn’t sleeping. As illogical and irrational as it may be, I certainly know what it’s like to spend your nights beating yourself up, wondering what in the world you did wrong?
The answer is nothing. Although, that’s easy for me to say here in the daylight after one of our good nights, easily forgetting that I spent a good part of Saturday night in tears, asking myself the same questions. You are not alone. There are a bunch (and I mean, a bunch) of other Mamas out there who are struggling with the same things.
I’ve tried the sleep training thing. I’ve tried everything, in fact. I’m not looking for advice. While I do believe that are many things that we can do to set our kids up for good sleep habits, I have also come to believe that sometimes, sleep training is for the birds. Some kids just don’t want to do it. And? There’s only so much we, as moms, can handle. We have to do what works for us and sometimes, it’s just not worth the battle. I figure she’ll get there when she’s ready. And for now? We will do what we need to do to survive, even if that means (gasp) nursing my almost 9 month old through the night. I’ll enjoy the nights she does sleep all night. And I’ll manage to get through the ones she doesn’t. Just like I have been. Because the truth is? I’ve adjusted. On the nights she sleeps all night, I tend to wake up a few times myself or be wide awake at 5 am, because I’m used to not sleeping all night anymore. And trust me, I was a girl who needed her sleep.
Of course, there are some mornings after particularly rough nights, where I really feel like I can’t even stand up. But for the most part? It’s okay. I survive. I am still alive when daybreaks. There is a particular scripture that has become close to my heart through this season of life: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lam 3: 22-23. In particular, the version that words it, “God’s mercies are new every morning” has drifted through my mind many, many times when I peel myself out of bed after a night of little sleep.
Of course, I’m sure the idea of the Lord’s mercies being new every morning wasn’t meant to relate to baby’s sleep patterns, but for me, it does. Because somehow, in the midst of the lack of sleep, I am still able to wake up every morning, wake into that baby’s room, and smile at her. And that in itself is the miracle of God’s mercy.