You’ll be twenty months old next Friday (which will be Friday the 13th just like the one on which you were born.) It’s about time to write another update on your sleep.
For the first half of the night you aren’t sleeping too badly. From around 8:30 until when we fall asleep at 11 you tend to wake up once to nurse (usually just as we shut off the lights) and then you’re zonked out until around 3AM. From 3AM until I finally give up and get out of bed you’re
torturing me exploring independent sleep and self soothing. The way those things look for an almost twenty month old child with canines trying to poke their way through their gums… Is not exactly what one might think of when one hears the terms “independent sleep” and “self soothing”.
You ask to nurse. I nurse you and remind you that when you’re done I’d really like it if you’d pop off and roll over because mama needs sleep and mama can’t sleep when you’re nursing. You listen to this and nibble frantically away for a short moment and then pop off and roll over onto your back. You lay there. You lay there. You lay there. Sometimes you fall back to sleep. Sometimes you whine and flop yourself over back towards me, crawl up onto my shoulder and fall asleep there. Sometimes you form the mid-line of an H between your daddy and I, kicking me restlessly before you fall asleep and your daddy wakes up in a stupor and moves you while I hold my breath and think “I’d be happy to just sleep curled up at the bottom of the bed like a cat as long as she stays asleep.” Sometimes you pop up like a little whackamole and smile a sleepy smile and crawl over to me and hug me and fall asleep with your hair in my face. Sometimes you squirm around and scratch your hands at your diaper and whine to let me know you want a change. And as soon as your wet diaper is off (but before your dry one is on) you are fast asleep.
I’ve possibly just turned everyone in the world off of the idea of Waiting it Out. Shouldn’t I see more progress here?
Oh but I am seeing progress. I see a child who will be sleeping through the night soon. I see a child who is self soothing and resettling.
When you were first born you had zero ability to sleep. You never had that sleepy phase as a newborn where I could put you down or prop you up cutely to take pictures of you. You were a constant contact carry mammal who could not nap independently for a very long while, and who gradually learned to do so around eleven months.
Between then and now you have learned countless things about sleep. You have learned that sleep is safe. You have learned that your needs will be met and responded to. You’ve learned that you can settle yourself without needing to nurse back to sleep. You’ve learned that you like different positions to sleep in. You’ve learned all the awesome sleep skills that you need to go to sleep and stay asleep and resettle between sleep cycles.
So why aren’t you sleeping?
Oh dear. Silly adults and their ridiculous expectations of small children.
Adults struggle enough with sleep. When they have something on their mind that they’re trying to figure out. When they have a headache or when they have had dental work. When they pulled a muscle. When they have PMS and cramping.
Your mouth is full of sharp things that are trying to cut their way through your gums. Sometimes they bleed. They itch and burn and ache. They press painfully. I’m amazed you can sleep through that at all. I remember when my wisdom teeth were coming through and Tylenol killed the pain but the pressure was still there and the rawness was still there and my gums itched like mad. I was twenty years old and some nights all my adult-sized sleep skills were not enough to keep me asleep with those things in my mouth.
You’re twenty MONTHS old. You’ve learned a lot about sleep, but I can’t expect you to have sleep skills that are better than what I had at twenty years. I can’t expect you to sleep through the itching and burning and aching and hurting of the teeth that you are cutting one after the other after the other, when I couldn’t even sleep through four wisdom teeth some of the time. I can’t expect you to sleep through the dramatic leaps in language that you are making every day when I sometimes struggle to sleep while I’m learning something new and challenging.
Yes. I want sleep. Yes. I need sleep. Yes. I sometimes have irrational annoyance at the fact that your father manages to sleep a couple of feet away and I sometimes wake him up to bounce you for ten minutes while you complain and yell because you don’t want to be bounced anymore you want to figure it out yourself. Next to me. And I want ten minutes alone to try and get back to that place where I could possibly fall back to sleep if you fall back to sleep too.
But I do understand. I see your progress. I see how hard it is for you and how hard you’re trying. I’m amazed at the things you have learned since you were first born. How comfortable you are in your body. I’m amazed at how you try not to nurse at night and how when I say the word “please” you pop off and roll away and try so hard to go to sleep.
You probably won’t remember, but I whisper to you how proud I am of you, how much I love you, how much everyone loves you. Your little hand comes up to pat my face. (And sometimes to hit it because you’re still a bit spastic like that.)
Take your time, love. You’re learning.