5.45 this morning. I’m lying in bed, weeping.
So far, so standard for the parent of a shitty sleeper.
For the last 14 months, I’ve been woken up several times a night by my wailing child. On many of those nights I’ve found myself crying too. Desperation, sheer exhausted misery, and – of course – burning torturous maternal guilt.
Why can’t I make this baby sleep; I’m a useless mother; shit I can’t believe I actually just contemplated throwing her across the room; I’m doing this all wrong.
The motherhood manuals lied to me. My baby didn’t sleep ‘like a baby’. I want to scrawl ‘FUCK YOU’ in jagged red pen on the pics of tots blissfully asleep in their cots. My reality was altogether different.
Daytimes presented their own particular challenges. Maya REFUSED to sleep unaided or in a horizontal position. ‘Nap when the baby naps’ is NO FUCKING GOOD when your baby won’t let you put them down.
For half a year our naptime routine involved a gym ball, a sling, and a YouTube video of hairdryer white noise. Bouncing dog-tired for hours on a sphere of rubber was far preferable to vigorous step-ups (noooooooooo), our only other nap technique.
Some people raised eyebrows but it worked, yo. Plus, the bouncing sorted out my leaky pelvic floor.
And I obsessed. OH MY FUCKNESS I obsessed. I maintained intricate sleep records for months in hope we’d crack the code of baby slumber (we didn’t).
I lurked on a thousand forums, confused by the conflicting advice, judging myself and all the other mothers in the world; feeling bad for not being tough enough for hardcore sleep training, feeling bad for even considering hardcore sleep training, feeling bad for occasionally limply attempting hardcore sleep training and then giving up because I just. wanted. to. fucking. sleep. and it tore my hippy heart to shreds hearing my child cry out for me.
Whatever I did or didn’t do, it wasn’t right.
And I was SO. TIRED.
And then, at seven months, apropos of nothing, Maya agreed to nap in a cot.
But nonetheless by eleven months I was spent. I called a strike on getting out of bed, and lovely husband instead brought the babe to me for night-time boob feeds. I felt stupid for starting to co-sleep (danger! creating a rod for your back! yadayaya) and simultaneously felt stupid for not having tried co-sleeping before (cozylovey and so much comfier than wrenching neck snoozing tits out in a chair).
By her first birthday, I was entirely inconsistent in my reactions to her wakings – cry it out one day, earth mother the next – and I resigned myself to fact I was DEFINITELY doing it all wrong. I was a pathetic parent, but too angsed-out to care.
And I paid my dues. The thirteen month sleep regression saw her quit naps and wake up to TEN TIMES A FUCKING NIGHT.
I looked wearily at motherhood manuals again.
But then, but then, last night.
I put her down at seven, and myself down at half ten.
Seven hours later I wake, birds chirping dawn streaking sweating confused rock-hard tits. No baby breathing next to me.
Baby must still be in cot.
Baby must have SLEPT THROUGH! At last!!!!!!!
Baby could be dead.
I mean. She could be dead…
A little pallid corpse waiting for me next door.
I wonder how I could survive without her.
And I realise just how much I love her (inestimable amounts).
And the tears come.
And I WILL her to wake up.
And, eventually she does. All by herself.