Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Really?


by Erin Atkins, guest blogger

Image from Shutterstock.com
My daughter is eleven months old and doesn't sleep at night.  Well, she doesn't sleep in one long stretch anyway.  We still probably get about ten hours of sleep, but it’s usually not for more than about two hours in a row.  And I say “we” because baby E sleeps with me since it’s the only way I can manage shut-eye with her frequent stirrings.  I've mastered the art of side-lying nursing, so when she awakens throughout the night, I immediately offer my secret weapon.  I like to refer to this process as my snooze button.

Up until about a month or two ago, I was embarrassed, annoyed, and frustrated by the whole situation.  My husband and I have spent months trying to figure out ways to get her to stay asleep.  We tried various techniques and sleeping arrangements.  We tried decreasing her stimulation throughout the day.  We tried wearing her.  We tried wearing her out.  We encouraged more naps, fewer naps, earlier naps, later naps.  I read several books on nighttime parenting and tried to play with every different variable to coax her to a long night of slumber.  We've done the noise machines, music, silence, darkness, night lights, pacifiers, blankets, “lovies,”… the list is seemingly endless.  I finally came to the conclusion: this is just how she is.
Getting eight hours of consecutive sleep is not the line at which I draw my parenting limit.
With this final revelation has come confidence and empowerment.  I have spent many sleepless nights pleading with God that I get a good night’s sleep, but over time, I am starting to understand that God has chosen me out of all the moms in the world to be this non-sleeper’s parent, and it’s a role I should take seriously and gracefully.
Photo from Motherhoodthetruth.com

As a result of this new-found revelation, I have altered my approach with other moms who inquire into the sleeping habits of my child.  I was recently asked by a well-meaning mom, “So, is she sleeping through the night?”  Now, for those of us with kids who don’t sleep ten hours in a stretch, it conjures up feelings of inadequacy and shame, as if I have failed as a parent.  And normally when someone asks me this question, I find myself making all sorts of excuses: “Well… she’s a high-needs baby;” “Well… I didn't sleep through the night until I was a five, so she was destined to be a non-sleeper;” “Well… she’s teething.”  I then usually get into how it’s not so bad because she sleeps next to me, and I can nurse her to sleep blah blah blah.  Regardless of my explanation, it’s almost invariably met with the same response, “Oh wow.  I could never do that.”

Most of the time, I would let the conversation end there or move on to a different topic, but this last time, I had a sudden revelation about parenting.  This time, when this particular mother informed me she could never get up more than once a night with her little one, I simply asked, “Really?” 
Photo from Neuroanthropolgy.net

Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Heck, I would LOVE three hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I don’t exactly look forward to being woken up multiple times a night by my active baby girl, and there’s certainly a big part of me that wishes, hopes, dreams of one day getting a full night’s sleep.  But is waking up throughout the night something I’m unwilling to do for my daughter?  Absolutely not.

It was at this moment that I thought, there is nothing I wouldn't do to meet my daughter’s needs, and instead of being embarrassed or worried about admitting my child doesn't sleep through the night, I should be honored that God knew I could handle it.  Getting eight hours of consecutive sleep is not the line at which I draw my parenting limit.  I am baby E’s mom 24 hours a day, so if she needs me at night, so be it.  It’s my job, and I love her.

Erin Atkins is a stay at home attorney who is enjoying time with her first baby. She is blessed to be able to work from home, and loves watching baby E develop, going on play dates, and traveling with her family.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad to hear such a refreshing attitude about children who don't sleep well. I am going to try to adopt this attitude myself for my 4 and 6 year old who STILL wake me up frequently at night! Both of their parents are chronic insomniacs, so I should've expected it, but I, like you, have felt defensive when people ask me about their sleeping habits. I hope to look at it with YOUR attitude now! Thank you for opening my eyes!

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