Thursday, 21 May 2015

Having hope when you don't have sleep...or as much sleep as you would like anyway

Until I became a mother, I had never thought much about the description "your heart drops" yet it is something I have now contemplated often. It is amazing how accurate a description it is. I've woken more times than I would have liked in the morning to the sound of an awake baby and my heart drops when I realise it's only 5 am.  I've sat down to enjoy a few moments peace with Miss A down for a nap when after only a couple of minutes my heart has dropped as I hear her stir. I could give numerous examples of my heart dropping and they all relate to sleep! Each time, my body flinches and it literally feels like my heart drops within me as I contemplate another early morning, another night waking, another short nap. 

I never thought I'd write a post on baby sleep. I was quite determined not too really, simply because there are so many posts out there on this particular topic. Yet here I am, doing just that. When I stop to think about it, the reason there are so many posts on baby sleep is because unless you happen to be one of the lucky few who has an amazing sleeper, it is something that pretty much dominates your life as a new mother. 

I had a pretty good sleeper, for the first week anyway! Now she goes through phases.  We are definitely not one of the lucky ones with a baby who has slept through the night from 6 weeks old and then has amazing day sleeps too. In fact we don't get either of those. I know it's all relative and there are mums with babies whose sleep is far worse than my own so I do acknowledge that. At the same time, my experience with sleep, or lack of, is an ongoing frustration. 

I didn't want to be a mother that obsessed with sleep. I try not to but sometimes it just seems impossible to avoid. Particularly over the past month or so...basically since we transitioned to two sleeps. At first things went ok, Miss A transitioned well, she was coping with two sleeps and we had ourselves into a routine. I thrive on routine so this was good! Then the sleeps started getting shorter and shorter. At first it was two lots of 45 minutes. The dreaded 45 minute one sleep cycle. No resettling possible. It was driving me insane. I tried keeping her up longer and feeding her more, but nothing worked. She was wearing me out. 

Then it got worse!

45 minutes reduced to 30 minutes. Only 2 half hour naps a day. OH MY GOODNESS!!! Suddenly 45 minutes looked great! I was worried too as from what I head heard, 30 minutes equaled overtired, yet no matter how long or short I kept her up for, apart from the very odd occasion, 30 minutes is all we got and definitely no resettles. I headed to Google in an attempt to solve the problem. I didn't like what I found. Lots of people said this catnapping phase was something that you just had to put up with. PUT UP WITH!? I don't think so. 

I continued my search and luckily came across a couple of people who said that that the problem was that their babies just weren't tired enough. I had tried keeping Miss A up for longer with little result but it wasn't until someone mentioned that their baby had slept better since they began crawling that I realised that potentially, Miss A was simply not physically tired enough to sleep well. While she happily rolls around on the carpet and exerts some energy (not so happily) in an attempt to crawl, this clearly wasn't cutting the mustard. What could I do? Out came the jolly jumper.  In she goes every awake time now and thankfully it's something she enjoys. It seems to be working. The sleeps have generally gotten longer, even hitting, and occasionally surpassing, the one hour mark. Finally I get a chance to do a few other things, even enjoy a cup of tea occasionally, and finally we have some routine back...until the next sleep challenge anyway (perhaps sleeping through the night?).

It's interesting how babies wear you down. This lack of time to do anything was definitely wearing me down. The lack of sleeping through the night is also definitely wearing me down. I meet with a small group for bible study most weeks and the first thing that us mums generally talk about is our children and the challenges we are facing. We all face different issues but the reality is that regardless of the issue, we are worn out and this business of raising little people is hard work! And this is coming from mums who have other children too, not just first time mums. However we all have babies and it seems that these first couple of years are exhausting, largely because of sleep, or lack thereof. 

In one of our recent studies we were challenged by these words:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. - Viktor E. Frankl (survivor of the Holocaust) 

I have to admit I struggle to have a good attitude, particularly when I'm tired, which is most of the time. I like the above quote because it gives me some perspective. I might feel trapped in whatever the latest challenge is but I do still have some control (and with me being a control freak this is pretty important). I could say that I have made an amazing attitude shift since reading this and now embrace each challenge as I look forward to it developing character within me. That would be a complete LIE! In reality, the energy required to change my attitude is sometimes more energy than I have available. So instead of having a complete attitude makeover, I have tried to make a small shift instead. Rather than dwelling on the negative now, I am trying to remind myself of the phrase often quoted by mums around the world, "this too shall pass." It might not pass in the next day, the next week, the next month or even the next year, but it will pass. I look back and it is true of so many experiences...those early days when a night feed always meant at least 2 hours up, the four month regression when she just wouldn't settle, the nights when she thought 3am meant play time for some odd reason...there are many more times and there will continue to be many more. 

While I'm glad that we have progressed past some of these challenges, with each new one I will have to try and remind myself to check my attitude and dwell on the fact that the latest challenge will pass. 

This idea gives me hope. 

So I might not have as much sleep as I would like, either during the day or the night, but I have hope that it will pass, that one day Miss A will have really good day sleeps and will sleep through the night and that one day I too will once again sleep through the night...let's just hope it's sooner rather than later!

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