Sleep through the night: A parent’s prayer

Parenting is either painful or funny. Sometimes it’s both. I prefer to address the hard things with demure side-long glances, rather than the head-in stare of a predator. That way, if I fail to bring the problem down, I can deny that I ever noticed it in the first place.

Sleep, for example, is not something I talk about very often. Mostly because I don’t think there’s any hope for me at this point, and I don’t care to hear what I’ve done wrong from all of you who did it better.

What time should a one-year-old go to bed? How might someone night-wean? Sleep problems continue to unfold like a not-so-fun house of mirrors. Just when you think you’ve got it, a new twist reveals itself (curses canines!).

I recently read that only 5% of two-year-olds wake their parents multiple times a night. My daughter goes to sleep at 9 and wakes me at 11:00, 12:30, 2:30, and 5:30. The words slept through the night have never passed my lips. The worst part is I find it damn near impossible to fall asleep again once I’ve been woken up three times so insomnia usually has me by the throat from 2:30 to 5:30.

I don’t know why most kids persist in night waking (It is maladaptive to kill your parents!), but my daughter has a bad case of the mamas. She wakes me every couple of hours just to make sure I’m still there.

The good news is, she wont be two for another couple of weeks; so we are not like you, you zombified suckers.

At this point you should ask if my child sleeps in a crib and anticipate that she doesn’t. Baby A came into our bed during her first sleep regression and has been there ever since. I had reasons: It was October and she seemed cold in her little bed. An old shoulder injury meant I often dropped her in the last inch as I put her back in and it woke her up. I was exhausted and she just slept better in our bed.

Co-sleeping has its advantages. For many months she never cried at night and I barely woke up to nurse. Travel was a breeze, and all was well for a long time. I arranged her such that I was not worried about rolling over onto her, still, my husband and I never intended to share our bed, and it’s taken me a long time to get behind this thing. Now, I’ll admit, she wakes up more than I’d like, and I’m poking my eyeballs out a little bit.

I can see the look on your face that says, “Ooh, i had no idea… you really have to do something about that.” Like what? A is well past the luggage phase of babyhood. She has words. Since escaping the pack-n-play at 20 months she has been an exclusive bed sleeper; I can’t lock her in bed and throw away the key.

Parenting feels a lot like wandering down a dirt road through thick fog. There are many forks in this road, and you don’t see opportunities to turn until they are right on top of you. Choices must be made, almost constantly, but without any information about what lies ahead. If there is one option that makes any sense at all then you take it. Most days we are all just trying to put one foot in front of the other and stay on the path. In a way, there is very little choice at all.

Nobody knows where any of these roads lead. Like a choose your own adventure novel, every moment in parenting is tied to some previous nutty decision; tho which it was is impossible to say. Only when you are very far from the fork in the road do you understand anything about the benefits or consequences of the path you chose.

So we take the bad with the good and tell ourselves that none of the other forks would have been better; just different. Or maybe there was a better path, but which? And when? And why wasn’t it indicated by a glittery, be-dazzled sign? At times you will fear that you made a mistake; but the only thing to do is dig in your heels, re-commit to your former self, and carry on. There is definitely no turning back.

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