We were so smug. The precious one slept through from about 5 weeks. Obviously this was due to our fantastic parenting. After nine months of sleep deprivation with the second coming, we aren’t smug anymore.
With the precious one, when he had a slight blip at around 4 months we did “controlled crying” – aka leave him to despair himself back to sleep. After three nights of lying listening to the wailing of a lonely baby the night became quiet again as he decided sleep was a better option. When friends told me about their sleep horrors I’d smile and say things like “how awful” while thinking that in part it was their own fault. I still kind of think that even though I am now one of those people that spends more time moaning about lack of sleep then I do sleeping.
Like most things in life, you aren’t in the pit of despair on day 1. You slide there slowly after night after night after night of disturbed sleep. It grinds you down to the point where your brain functions as rationally as a UKIP supporter when some foreign sounding people move in next door. Our descent became a free fall once Christmas threw everything up in the air. Throw in the never ending cold and before I knew it I was getting poked in the eye between the hours of 2 and 4 by a very awake and smiling baby. Every night.
You try things. My God you try a new thing every other day. You’d happily buy any snake oil that guarantees a good night’s rest. And some of them work. The dream feed, an extra bottle at 2am. Take them into the spare room. Put them in the buggy. But here’s the thing. They are merely methodone solutions, as each fix compounds the others to create a whole new set of problems to solve. “We’ll fix that later. We just need some sleep.” Is the usual conclusion to the tired and grumpy discussion the morning after the eventful night before. Before you realise it your “get them back to sleep routine” takes hours to run through and weeks to unravel. She loves her 2am bottle. She loves her 2am bottle followed by cuddles. She loves her 2am bottle followed by cuddles in her room and then cuddles in the spare bed. And so on. Followed by a few hours of play. This is way more fun for her than lying alone in the dark. So her tears become for those things, rather than an existential rage against the night.
We had our justifications for plodding on through this. She was poorly, she was teething, we felt sorry for her. Most absurdly, we felt we were too tired from not sleeping properly to have a few nights of not sleeping. That pretty much sums up the frazzled mess we were in. So we resisted controlled crying, or as it’s been rebranded in a fit of PC gone mad, controlled self soothing. What the f*** is that? I can’t say to the neighbour, “Sorry her crying kept you awake for three hours in the night but she was controlled self soothing.” We even became “those people.” You know, the people who say “we’d love to come and do that fun thing but it’ll disturb the kids routine.” I vowed never to be those people. You become so tired your mind is on the blink. And at playgroup everyone is armed with their own hellish stories. “Oh you’re nine months of it sound terrible. I haven’t had a decent sleep in seven years.” followed by a ‘you’ve had it easy’ glare. “Cheers. Thanks. I feel much better. Yeah strong coffee please. Two sugars. And a family sized Dairy Milk.”
Finally, once everything had failed we were ready to go hardcore. We were ready to leave her to it. Some people are against controlled self soothing because of the stress it puts on the little person. Bless. Well the precious one can’t even remember that we used to live in Cameronshire, so I’m sure a couple of lonely tear filled nights won’t hamper the second coming in the long term. And so we’re doing it. We have our strategy in place – ie we both agree not to wilt under the intense teary pressure. One of us steps forward to be the “soother.” Which is really the person who pops in to her room every now and again to say “it’s alright, go back to sleep.” Before departing back to bed to listen to louder than before crying, while staring at the clock as it ticks on towards morning. No one feels overly soothed.
After two weeks she’s not totally cracked it yet, so now we spend our nights awake listening to her cry from a distance. Much better. Although now we feel we have a purpose, an aim in life. Before it was just the way it was. And on the odd night where by some fluke she sleeps through, it seems her natural wake up time is 5am – so that’s just terrific. On a good day I’ve had 6 hours sleep and am only facing fourteen hours to fill before the next bed time.