I have a hilarious, chubby blonde cherub of a son, who is 19 months old.
Being that little boy's mama has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Motherhood has made me more patient, more understanding, exponentially more grateful, and it has simply made life more meaningful.
It has also made me really, REALLY TIRED.
The constant tiredness of motherhood surprised me--even though I had been warned! I thought Hank's daddy and I would be such a great team for this whole parenting thing, that we would just take it all in stride. In marrying him, I had married a boy-dad extraordinaire, who already three amazingly-well-behaved sons on his resume. And while I was new to mamahood, I wasn't totally clueless--I mean, I do hold a Masters in Elementary Ed so that had to count as somewhat of a prerequisite for parenting, right? I can teach, therefore I can certainly parent. Right? Ha. Not exactly! Teaching taught me a lot about kids, but it definitely didn't teach me anything about how to get them to sleep well!
For the first year and a half, we had a very sweet, very well-behaved baby who slept well-enough, but not great. I was good with it; I mostly chalked it up to nursing him for over a year, even in the night. Was he using me as a pacifier? Probably. But I loved that middle of the night cuddle time, so I didn't mind those wake-ups! Once I finally night weaned him, I still got up once or twice with him every night, and cuddled him til he zonked out again, because it worked. It didn't take too long, and he didn't cry that way. It worked for him and it worked for us, so that's what we did. The path of least resistance.
Even though I was constantly tired from all the interrupted sleep, the hubs often reminded me how much worse things could be, since Hank always did go back to sleep pretty easily in the night. He had plenty of memories of almost NEVER sleeping with his first-born (who had acid reflux issues) so I figured he was right. We were simply dealing with normal parenting tiredness, and I just needed to drink more coffee! Suck it up, buttercup!
AND THEN. . . CHAOS
Enter holidays, 2016. Between his big brothers bouncing back and forth every other day to accommodate two households' holiday/work schedules, discovering the magic of SANTA, and being cooped up inside thanks to two feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures--let's just say our "normal" schedule went a bit haywire.
Sleep became pretty nonexistent in our household, from before Christmas right on up into 2017. The snuggles in the chair that normally put our little boy right to sleep (or almost to sleep) just quit working. He slept in fitful stretches and only wanted to snuggle, but wouldn't even fall asleep on us anymore. Getting him in the crib meant a major fight every single time. We tried letting him cry after we were sure all his other needs were met and he had no fever, but without a firm plan we weren't getting anywhere except more frustrated. I finally broke down and told the hubs I wanted to--at very least--look into some sleep consulting.
Thankfully, he agreed. (He was tired, too!)
CUE THE EXPERT
Well, lucky for me, I have a dear friend from high school who just happens to be a sleep consultant. AND-she happens to be a mama herself, to little ones who SLEEP WELL.
I wanted to get me some of that! So I swallowed my pride and asked for help. And only one week later, I can tell you that it was by far, the BEST parenting decision I have ever made. If you are reading this, and if you are even somewhat considering sleep training your child/children/future children, please keep reading. I want to share some of the most surprising things I discovered when we sleep trained Hank.
- My biggest surprise of all: Even after our worst night which included some serious crying, he did not hate me in the morning! Not even a little bit! On the contrary, my morning cuddle-time with Hank has become my very favorite time of day. He wakes up happy, rested, and proud of himself for sleeping well. We definitely make up for those late night snuggles in the daytime now, and I enjoy them so much more now than I did zombie-style at 3 a.m. (Wishing I was asleep in my bed, and then feeling guilty about that!)
- I didn't have to let him "Cry-It-Out" nearly as long as I thought I would. (Or as many times throughout the night as I thought it would take, either.) I think it is somewhat like ripping off a band-aid; once you decide to do it, it hurts most right when you start, but if you just get it over with it is not as bad as you thought it would be! The anxiety I had about letting him Cry-It-Out was worse than actually letting him do it. Once that first difficult night was over, it got much easier, (on all of us) much faster than I expected it would.
- His overall mood has improved! I thought I had a pretty well-rested, happy toddler before; but now that I have seen Hank-on-Sleep, I almost don't even recognize him! Hello, happy Hank!
- I still can't believe how simple bedtime has become. I never dreamed I would be able to lay him down in his crib--completely awake--and cover him up with a blanket, tell him I love him and goodnight, and walk out, without so much as a peep. He actually goes TO SLEEP. Within minutes. *Amazing*
- And lastly: Today, for the first time ever, Hank actually told me he wanted to get in his crib and lie down. During our pre-nap snuggles in the lazy-boy, he pointed at his crib and sighed a sleepy, adorable sound. "You want to lie down in your crib now?" I asked him, and he nodded his head. So? I carried him over, tucked him in, and he napped for over an hour, with NO CRYING. Yep. It was pretty much his idea. For the first time ever. Mind = Blown.
So--I am thrilled to recount our experience and brag up my amazingly helpful sleep consultant, because I know there are so many tired mamas just like me out there, who are too stubborn (sheepishly raising my own hand here) or too scared or too paranoid or too embarrassed or too whatever to give sleep training a try. I know. I read all those scary articles too. I googled everything I heard on the subject, too. I read both sides, and we chose to stay firmly planted on what-we-knew-worked-well-enough, until it just didn't work any longer. Now that we finally gave it an honest chance, I am kicking myself for not doing it sooner!
I now have my evenings back, for me-time, or hang with the hubs-time, or bubble bath with a good book and a glass of wine-time. Anything but collapse into bed exhausted (because I know he will be up soon) time.
Thank goodness we finally consulted with an expert on sleep. And to any of you other tired mamas out there--I hope you do too, if you need some guidance. Don't go down with the sinking ship. There isn't enough coffee in the world, when your kid just won't sleep, believe me. I know firsthand.
Oh and that amazing sleep consultant I keep talking about? You can find her here:
Jenni is simply amazing. Like change your life amazing. She is my sleep savior, and my entire family is functioning better than we ever have, thanks to her wisdom and guidance.
(BTW--It doesn't matter where you live, either, she got us lined out entirely by email! Awesome, right? And amazingly do-able. She found a plan that worked for us and it truly did work for us!)
Sweet dreams, Tired Mamas!
I can sleep 11 hours straight, can you do that?