After my last post I had a friend comment how happy she was for us that our transition to two littles was going smoothly in the bedtime category. Oops! I guess my relative silence on the matter of the sleep transition followed by a glowing review of our dear daughter’s sleeping habits may have been a little misleading.
It’s so easy in the blog world to read all of those rosy details we bloggers like to announce on a regular basis and to slip into thinking that our favorite bloggers’ lives are full of shiny details complete with sunshine and a bouquet of fresh roses. (Not that I claim to be anyone’s favorite blogger… but maybe one day…)
But, truly, that is not the case. Alas, for every shiny detail there are hundreds of not-so-pretty ones I just happen to run out of time for at the end of my posts. So today (to be fair) I am going to dedicate an entire post to all of those nitty gritty details I would rather leave out…
The transition from one to two was easier than expected, with one glaring exception: bedtime.
Let me give you a bit of background…
After you have a baby the first thing everyone wants to know is “Are they sleeping through the night yet?” Well, this was a complicated question for me because I didn’t *think* my baby was sleeping through the night… but I was sleeping through the night! So… how do you tell a myriad of acquaintances “Oh I don’t know… I sleep all night, so I’m not sure. [awkward silence] Cause ya know… we’re co-sleeping so if she needs to nurse she just latches on herself.”
So instead I just always answered “yes” and left it at that.
And then I started nighttime elimination communication with Evie around 16 months old. And guess what? She was not sleeping through the night. She needed to wake up to go potty at least 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) times. And guess who got to wake up to take her? So, for the last year or so I have had a total of one… yes one… full night of uninterrupted sleep. We have had lots of dry nights, but in order to do that I just need to wake up and take her potty.
I have gotten used to not having 8 hours of continuous sleep, but it did become problematic when Stephen came along. See, Evangeline still nursed herself back to sleep, and Stephen (being a newborn) was unable to wait long between nursing sessions. On top of that, Evie was anxious with all the change and her nursing back to sleep in 5 minutes or less became 30… 60… 90 minutes or more. We ended up getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep – on a really good night. This went on for weeks.
Some nights I was so exhausted and so distraught over our predicament that even with both children asleep on either side of me all I could do was sit in bed and cry. What was I doing wrong??
For two years I firmly believed that we were doing the best thing for our daughter, and now she wasn’t sleeping. She was anxious and most nights consisted of plenty of tears for both of us. This was not good for her! I began second-guessing myself and retracing my steps to figure out exactly where we had gone wrong. But I couldn’t see it; unless my entire philosophy of mothering a baby was bankrupt (and I could not believe that) there was no way to make this work.
And then, I was blessed with a conversation with a very good friend. They have four children, and much the same parenting style. I explained to her what was going on and she let me in on a couple good secrets that I would like to share with all of you…
1. All children are different. One of their babies didn’t WANT to co-sleep. They happened to have a crib on hand and they finally tried that; he slept perfectly there. He just didn’t like being in bed with them! He wanted his own space! Go figure… so yeah, co-sleeping is wonderful, but it isn’t the goal, it’s just one way to care for your child.
2. All children have hard times. The mistake I was making wasn’t in my parenting style, it was in my expectations of what that style would do for my child. My good friend also told me the story of how their best sleeper since birth suddenly stopped sleeping – for an entire year. There was a lot of stress and outside anxieties that probably attributed, but even with attachment parenting techniques and a clear track record – he just stopped sleeping. And her sister who had the total opposite philosophy on sleep training? Eventually some of her kids stopped sleeping well at night too.
So why don’t children sleep through the night? Not because you’re a bad mom! But because we live in a fallen world, and despite all our efforts, our children are never going to be free from adversity.
Back to my mistake… I thought that by co-sleeping, nursing on demand, baby wearing and all of those wonderful practices (and they are wonderful) I could protect my baby from being introduced to the difficulties this life brings at too young an age.
And so, when her little brother was born, creating upheaval and adversity in her life that I couldn’t fix – I thought I must have done something wrong. Should I have protected her less? Should we have waited until she was older to have a baby? No and NO! I was asking the wrong questions, because I had the wrong presuppositions. We live in a fallen world, and it is impossible for us to protect even our babies from hard times. Adversity comes with the territory in this life, and we very rightly wish we could eliminate that from our lives and the lives of our children. But we can’t.
What we can do is love them a little more. Hold them a little tighter. Reassure them always that they are loved and that they will never be left alone in the hard times. Pray for them and point them away from this broken world and toward the things that are above. That is all you need to do and all you can do.
Sometimes nighttime does not equal sunshine (or roses), and no matter what your parenting philosophy is – it’s not going to change that. So, at 2am when all we want to do is sleep but we can’t seem to do anything but cry – we can let our crying children cling to us for comfort as we cling to Christ for strength. My daughter has cried herself to sleep. But she has never had to cry herself to sleep alone. Our family has trials and difficult times, but we walk through them together. My children are not independent, and I don’t ever want them to be. I want our entire family to always share a relationship of interdependence on one another. And eventually they will grow and have their own families and begin a new cycle of depending on their family for that unique fellowship of walking together in this life.
Likewise, as Christians, trials are a part of our existence until that Glorious Last Day. Jesus never promised us that carrying a cross would be easy, He only promised us that we would never have to carry it alone. And so, we come together once a week and receive His promise in God’s Word. We commune with Christ and the whole Church as we eat and drink forgiveness, life and salvation. And as the Body of Christ we always strive to bear one another’s burdens so that we never need be alone.