I'd estimate that about half of the questions I get over at Ye Olde Advice Smackdown these days are about sleep. Sleep and babies, that is, as in how to get them to go the fuck to it.
I'm (obviously) no expert here — I've read maybe two whole books on the subject and probably not all the way through because they have hardly any zombies in them — but I guess people figure that after three babies who were all over the sleep map I MUST have done something right in order to get them all to the point we're at now: Three mostly non-damaged children who sleep through the night. In their own beds! At a regular bedtime, even!
It is a glorious thing, to no longer feel so singularly consumed by the Pursuit Of More Sleep, or to worry that you're doing something wrong and not instilling the right boundaries or self-soothing skills. The sense that you COULD be getting more sleep than you are if you just did CIO or co-slept or breastfed or formula-fed or added solids or listened to whatever crackpot theory your mother-in-law is talking about.
I read those long, detailed emails from new parents and remember what that feels like: an ever-darkening, non-linear tunnel of brain fog, one that you KNOW is supposed to end at some point but every time you take a few steps forward you smack facefirst into a wall. Sleep regressions! Growth spurts! Teething! Weaning! Night terrors! Confusional arousals! STOP CHANGING ALL THE RULES, YOU DUMB BABY.
And so I do my very best to diagnose what's going on with their baby (which is quite often nothing more than a baby being a goddamn baby, I'm sorry), and take very extra special care to not tell them the real actual truth: IT. NEVER. ENDS.
Oh, it gets better. Worlds better! Believe me, I do not take my children's sleep habits for granted. Ike's self-soothing skills are now so advanced that our "pre-nap routine" basically consists of me dumping him into his crib at some vague afternoonish point and being like, "Welp. This was fun. We'll talk later." And then I leave him to sort the rest out. Everybody heads to their room around 8 p.m. for bedtime and I frankly have little to no idea what happens after that. They go to sleep at some point and...I dunno. Conspire. Plot. Recharge.
But it's not like "uninterrupted sleep" is a badge you unlock once and then get to move on to the next mission without ever thinking about it again. (NEXT UP: THE POOP ON POTTY ACHIEVEMENT.) For the rest of your life, your sleep can be fucked with, at any point, on any night.
In a way, this can feel even WORSE, because you're not expecting it. Because you've become soft and spoiled, because you're now like, I DGAF that I have to work tomorrow, Imma stay up late and watch the shit out of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas because I am the boss of me. And then you drag your ass to bed at one in the morning only to be woken an hour later because:
- Someone had a bad dream.
- Someone's ear hurts.
- Someone's tummy hurts.
- Someone threw up.
- Someone's diaper leaked.
- Someone has a very important question about where weather comes from.
- Someone's scared of the thunder.
- Someone's scared of their closet.
- Someone's foot is stuck in the crib slats.
- Someone's thirsty.
- Someone's hungry.
- Someone can't find their blankie.
- Someone can't find their other blankie.
- Someone can feel their bones.
- Someone cannot feel their bones.
- Can your brain leak out of your ears, Mom?
- Can it, Mom?
(I'm sure down the road this list will change and expand to include all manner of super-fun teenage hijinks, like "oh hey I just remembered I have a project due in five hours, do we have any posterboard?" and "oh hey I burned down the Christmas tree with a comically oversized joint and have to embark on a magical 3D quest to replace it, can I borrow the car?")
And sometimes Mercury goes retrograde and you get a string of wakings a few nights in a row. We're currently on night NUMBER FOUR.
On Friday, Ezra showed up at my bedside around two in the morning (clutching his blankie, his other blankie and a framed photo of Noah's first grade class), claiming to be "scared of the scary things." He climbed into bed and proceeded to thrash around and spoon with a neck-gripping vengeance for the rest of the night.
On Saturday, Ike's diaper leaked. And then he continued to loudly protest even after I changed him and the crib sheet, because everyone knows that once a diaper hits capacity you're totally done sleeping for the night. FACT.
On Sunday, Noah decided that 1 a.m. was the perfect time to have a discussion about how much he dislikes his current summer camp and how he planned to refuse to go the next day, just a heads up, something to look forward to in a couple hours.
Last night, it was Ike's turn again. This time there wasn't really a reason; he seemed just as annoyed to be awake as I was. But whereas he settled back down within 10 minutes, I spent the next four or five hours wide awake, brain fully engaged in the art of Finding New Things To Worry About. I eventually gave up and went downstairs to sit on the couch and play with my phone. (So to everybody woke up this morning with a lot of new lives from me in Candy Crush Saga: YOU'RE WELCOME.)
In other words, I am so tired right now I can't even see straight. I don't know how you people with little babies do this every night. Someone give me my Sleeping Through The Night badge back; I'm too old for this shit.