Our first daughter was such a good sleeper that upon hearing how she slept through the night at six weeks, a stranger warned us not to repeat that to other new parents; we would be hated and resented. Like youth, sleep is also wasted on those who cannot appreciate it.
Our twins, born 19 months later, didn’t both sleep through the night until they were about eight and one-half months old and we let them “cry it out.” At that point, my husband and I had given up our bedroom to them and were camping out on the couch nightly, desperate to find a way to get some uninterrupted sleep for ourselves. Two infants waking up all night long felt like punishment, and there were many days and nights that I truly thought I could not, would not make it out. The first months of the twins’ lives sit in my memory like dark pockets of screaming, fighting, begging and sobbing. If I were to disturb those memories, I could easily be overwhelmed once again with that raw misery.
As most things child-related do, our sleep situation improved. Sticking to strict schedules and comforting routines provided the structure–and sleep–we had fought so hard for.
Oh wait. No, it was just the cribs that were doing that. Once my twins were in toddler beds, and their big sister in a twin-size bed, all in the same room, hell, again broke loose.
Here is what our nights are like now that M is four and one-half and the twins are turning three in April.
I begin our routine of story reading, teeth brushing and, as my husband calls it, “sips, hugs and kisses” before sleep, in H and E’s room.
H gathers his five teddy bears, 18 trains and Cranky the Crank into his bed. E has a bunny and several demands regarding objects that can or cannot stay in the room this night.
The lights go off. The white noise machine goes on. I close the door, hold the knob and pray they will not get up, just this once.
M is crying all this time in the living room that she wants me to come sit with her. And watch “Dora.”
H and E run to their bedroom door and begin their battle cries. I fight it out for 30 minutes or so, watching on the video monitor as they continue this game each time I leave the room. I end up lying in H’s bed with him, five teddy bears, 18 trains and Cranky the Crank until he falls asleep. This takes a very long time because M runs into the room, stands over their beds and sings to E so that she wakes up and is really, really pissed.
Eventually, M will fall asleep on the couch as I type on the laptop, Dora screeching about baby foxes and giant potatoes. My husband or I will take her into the kids’ room once we know everyone is asleep.
Some time after midnight, the parade into our bed starts. Usually with M, then E. I hear their bedroom door open, the white noise get louder and my heart goes a little cold. Each competes for a spot next to MOMMY!MOMMY!MOMMY! At 3:30 a.m., H will come in and drag me into the living room so we can sleep on the couch together.
I do not love this arrangement. I blame myself for it. I moan and complain and snap at everyone the next day. Yet, I know, because I have been warned by prescient strangers about many things, that these days will be soon be gone. One day I will have three children who do not want me to cuddle them, scratch their backs, caress their heads, give them sips of water as they go to sleep. No one will seek me out in the freezing night to sit on the couch in a dark living room and watch “Thomas’ Christmas Special.”
We are promised nothing with regard our children’s sleeping habits. Other than that eventually they will sleep in beds we have not made warm and safe for them, in rooms into which we cannot see, have dreams from which we cannot comfort. All far from the reach of any baby monitor.
I linked up with Things I Can’t Say this week. My children, even when awake, are often delightful.