One Mom’s journey to finally winning a full night’s rest.
Sleep is no joke. Did you know that in places around the world sleep deprivation is used as a kind of torture?
In college I averaged 2-4 hours of sleep each night for a whole year. I was known as the girl who only ever ran to class because I was always running late due to also being the girl that could be found asleep all over campus. The most common places I could be found passed out were face first on a piano, on the floor in the practice rooms, in my studio (fortunately not face first in a painting), or in any one of the common rooms… but rarely in my bed. It was interesting.
After Maisy was born I entered two years of a sleep torture cycle. She refused to go to sleep, making me ferociously bounce her 30-45 minutes each sleep time. She refused to stay asleep, waking every 30-60 minutes all night long. And she refused to sleep past 5am. All of this fell on me, even when Josh was home she would take no one else. Try with all my might my body and mind refused to peaceably get on board with this regimen. I was drained every moment of every day and we both paid for it with my chronically short fuse and lack of problem solving skills due a state of constant brain-deadness.
What was so much harder about this childbearing season of sleep deprivation compared to my earlier college experience? In college I only interacted with peers and professors on a daily basis. In order to be on my best behavior in that sphere the couple of hours I got was enough, especially at age 18. In order to be on my best behavior as a mom I needed a full night’s rest. It’s much harder to maintain a jovial outlook on life and a kind temperament when you’re addressing the demands of a baby every moment of every day.
What finally changed? First, I fell into a couple wonderful realizations due to a couple trips we took.
When she was just over 1.5 years old we tagged along with Josh on the 2016 KLOVE Cruise. Going into the cruise I wisely abandoned any predilection that sleep would be remotely normal. Instead, I largely abandoned her nap routine and stretched her as much as I could with bed time. The result, she caught naps on me when she could, she slept longer stretches at night than I’d seen in her whole life, and she was wicked grumpy by the last day. But hey, I got more sleep at night, she got more sleep at night, and I didn’t have to miss all the onshore fun nor many of Josh’s concerts.
Next we, again, hitched a ride with Josh down to Nashville to keep him company during a songwriting trip. Our accommodations consisted of one bedroom with one queen bed and a twin mattress on the floor. The ferocious mother spirit of sleep took a vacation that week. I found myself entirely unwilling to exhaust myself with the bouncing routine off the home front, especially now that our second child was zapping me of all kinds of energy as she grew rapidly inside me, so at nap and bed time I simply squished onto the twin mattress with her until she, or the both of us, fell asleep. I was in mommy heaven. The minute we got home we hoisted a twin mattress out of storage, plopped it in her bedroom, and I never looked back.
Lastly, around the time she turned two she grew communicative enough for me to start coaching her through the rules of sleep – and, also, I grew fed up enough to push hard to end the night wakings and early mornings. I started small. When she would come in at night I would walk her back to her room and snuggle with her until she fell asleep and then I would crawl back into bed.
Then I transitioned slightly. When she would come in at night I would walk her back to her room and snuggle her for a little bit then sit at the end of the bed until she was sleeping. She usually cried some but I reassured her with a little touch and/or some words throughout the process. When she kind of got the hang of that I would walk her back to her room and only simply sit at the end of her bed each time she came in.
After forever, I simply got tired of the charade and would walk her back to her room, tuck her back in, walk to the door, reassure her verbally there for a minute, then crawl back into my own bed. “Maisy. I love you. You’re a big girl. You can do this. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Then one day I was done. So even though she would still whine and carry on in her room each time I brought her back I faithfully did so each time, I’d tuck her back in, tell her I loved her and that she could do it, then carry myself back out of that room as swiftly as I could. She’d scream sometimes and other times she’d whine, but I came to slowly realize that though her feelings were real they also weren’t from the pit of sadness I always thought they were. They really were more of a stubborn and fierce attempt to get her way. After a handful of nights of walking her straight back to her room and then walking me straight back to mine, those night wakings stopped. Party was over so why bother coming into our room at all if she was just going to get sent back?
Now-a-days, when I tuck her in for naps I simply state the rules:
- Close your eyes
- Be still
- Be quiet
Sometimes she still struggles to chill out but I try my darndest to be the model of patience in those moments as I repeatedly pop into her room and list of the rules for the hundredth time. Eventually she goes to sleep. Then at night all I have to do is listen to her briefly express her excitement for the morning and then we’re good to go. “Mommy, when my sun clock wakes up, then I can drink all my water and eat emmeal (oatmeal).”
Can’t forget the sun clock. You have to get one of these! The last (ok, for real this time) step to teaching her to sleep like a big girl was introducing the sun clock. This beautiful little device lights up at whatever time you program it to. Maisy natrually wakes at 5/5:30 no matter how hard we try to get her to go back to sleep. But, with the help of this clock, I was able to teach her to wait to come into my room until 6:30 because that’s when “my sun comes up.” Now I feel double blessed because I don’t have to wake up at 5:30 and, instead of setting an alarm clock I get the sweetest hug and kiss from my toddler as my wake up call. God is so good! He created some inventor that gave me the OK to Wake! clock and He created my sweet Maisy.
We’re still working on getting completely independent when it comes to sleep, nah who am I kidding. I’m done trying. Know why? Sure, sometimes Maisy tries to get a little sneaky and get out of nap time or at least delay the crap out of sleep times. But really, we get what we both want out of the deal. Some book reading time, then some snuggle time, then kisses and “I love yous” goodnight. Perhaps it’s a far fetched dream, but I literally picture us snuggling at bed time when she’s a teenager. Sure, the snuggle might look a little different and the duration will likely be shorter but it can happen, I know it can!