The History of Sleep

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.  

This entry was posted in Family Life, It's All About Me, New York City Living and Coping, Writing Prompts. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The History of Sleep

  1. emily says:

    Love this! I always have random people on the street telling me to enjoy every moment before it’s gone.

  2. Shell says:

    My kids used to be such good sleepers. Not right away as babies, but after that. And lately? It’s become a nightmare.

  3. Kristen says:

    Our twins are just 3. We took everything … I mean everything out of their rooms. They have to be seperated to nap (one goes in a pack and play in Alexander’s room) or all hell broke loose. I totally hear you.

    On a side note… I think we used to be friends on TMMB? Kristen

  4. Serena says:

    I can completely relate – this is same exact circus I am going through with now. The precious time is between 9-12 but after than 1 or both of them makes our way to our bed. Part of me loves seeing there faces in the morning with full energy and ready to start the day while another just wants them to sleep through the night in their rooms! Like you said – there will be a time when they don’t want to cuddle with us like this (gasp!).

    • I am relieved I am not alone Serena but not happy for you. 😦 it seems part of their normal development but I feel like I need extra help during the day to make up for my lack of sleep again!

  5. Liz says:

    I don’t always get to read your blogs but when I saw the word “sleep”…I had to take the time because it is such an issue for me still! Jack is 8 and Drew is 7 and they still want to sleep with me (totally my fault…I’m aware). Last night, I was having a rare, deep sleep when Drew came into my bed at 3 a.m. It took a nice hour before I fell back asleep. I just kept a 6 month old for my friend the other night due to her desperate, tired eyes that were screaming, “I need sleep!” I’m not sure if after having children, women ever sleep the same as to when they did before. However, I love how you ended your blog with the sweet message behind the frustration. On the mornings of a sleepless night due to a child’s illness or just jumping in bed in the middle of the night…I try to remind myself that these children are young for a short while and I don’t want any regrets of not hugging, cuddling or laying with them while they still want me to;) Plus, I’m too lazy to put them back into bed and fight it…but more the first reason;)

    Did I mention I take ambien every night and still wake up?!! I love you and always appreciate that you are keeping it real! Don’t call me!

  6. Liz says:

    So funny…I just read “give me coffee or give me wine”…When I kept that baby the other night…I drank a bottle of wine with his mother first! Is that bad?? ha ha. Then woke up for coffee the next morning and needed the entire pot.

  7. KLZ says:

    While I resent not having more adult time, I love the four of us sleeping in one room. Which is why our situation does not change.

    • I think accepting and embracing is the only solution if I can’t muster the energy or the technique to keep them all in their own beds. glad it is working out for you! I hope all is going very well!

  8. Shannon says:

    In the same boat. I have a five-year-old girl and twin boys who are two and a half. Bedtime is a nightmare. We have started putting Baby A in our bed and Baby B in his bed to get them to sleep, because if not, it is utter mayhem. Once they are asleep, we move Baby A back to his bed. More often than not, at some point, in the night, one twin will wake up and come into bed with us so the other can keep sleeping. Coffee has been my best friend since they were born! Good luck!

  9. Ali says:

    Cribs until they’re teenagers and want to sleep all the time and definitely not hang out with their parents?? Just kidding. Sort of.

  10. Eva Gallant says:

    What adorable children! I can’t imagine the night-time craziness. Hope everyone settles down soon. I just stopped by from SITS to say Hi; hope you find time to do the same.

  11. Wendy… I want to give you a hug after reading this. You are a brave soul, lady. LOL. Seriously though, I thought I had it hard with just putting my ONE son to sleep every night. I cannot imagine doing all that I do… times three. Send. Wine. Now.

    • send wine–I will text you my address. 🙂 we all have our tough moments… I just hate that my day usually ends on a stressful note, and then begins again a few hours later… loving your posts on the new year btw.

  12. I get your blog posts by email and always read them but don’t always comment. Then I saw this one was about (lack of) sleep and I just had to comment! We are so tired. All. The. Time. My 5yo, my husband, and I are all woken up almost every night, multiple times a night, by my 3yo. She cries and/or screams in her sleep. It’s dreadful. Yes, we’ve seen specialists and docs and whatnot. Nothing changes. She is simply a bad sleeper. I am so tired of being tired. And to be honest, I find it hard to appreciate my kids’ cute moments because I’m so miserable and sleep deprived. But I know, someday, sometime, it will get better. Just when, I don’t know. Sigh.

  13. Kristen says:

    Oh my goodness! I’m exhausted for you but that last paragraph of yours had in me in tears. It is so true. The time where they won’t want/need you to tuck them in will come sooner than we want. Beautiful children!

  14. Ugh! I have twin boys, they are now 7 so sleeping is a breeze, but before? Ay vay!! LOL! Keep at it, if nothing else you have fun memories to tell them about when they get older…and some nice bags under your eyes! Once again, I adore your photos. xo

  15. My son was a terrible sleeper from the start – we co-slept from the time he was 2 months to when he was 18, and he was waking up VERY frequently. He was breastfeeding the whole time, and I had a hard time weaning him. We finally decided to wean and transition him to his own bed, own room, at the same time. My husband had to take a huge role in bedtime (which I was VERY happy with).

    Surprisingly, within a week, he could fall asleep on his own (it’d take about 30 minutes) and now, he will go to bed easily and sleep through the night. I hope it lasts!

    And good luck with your ongoing bedtime battles. As you say, they won’t want to cuddle with mommy forever 🙂

  16. Oh I hope it lasts forever for you! Happy, sleeping children are such a blessing, on so many levels! 🙂

  17. OK, well at least if mine isn’t sleeping, she’s still staying in her room. So basically, your post was really helpful. It made me realize I should keep her in her crib until she’s at least 11. Right?!?
    In all seriousness… OUCH. I don’t even know what to begin to suggest. It sounds like you have quite a handful and as hard as it must be, I love your approach and your way of keeping in mind that it’ll all be over soon enough and that you might even miss it (a little!)

  18. Jessica says:

    Oh I feel your pain. Our nights are exactly the same and include a stomping teenager who stalks in and out of her room just as finally get someone to sleep. I used to have it all together to but once the toddler beds start it all falls apart. I always say, it’s like having a toddler sleepover in our house, every. single. night.

  19. Rachael says:

    Reading your story I was hearing
    Myself in your words and also my nights. It was refreshing to hear someone else goes through the same thing and at times looses their composure. It certainly very hard at times parenting and you are so very right they won’t always want us to lay in bed with them and cuddle while they fall asleep….. X

  20. caryneffron says:

    Love this post, don’t ask my kids are now grown and past most of this but i can vividly remember how stressed and exhausted i was night after night when my daughter Alexa was younger 80-12 or so. She had really bad anxiety and it seemed to manifest itself at bedtime – she simple could not sleep. Finally by age 14 her sleep patterns are amazing and the anxiety has subsided. Not really sure how I ever got thru all of those nights – we tried acupunture, a hypnotist and lots of homeopathic remedies. Like most things she finally grew out of it and moved on. i adore the amazing young women she has become.

  21. farrah says:

    How are things going? I feel for you so so so much in what you are going through. I hope that in the past couple of weeks it’s a little better? Man. I hate sleep deprivation more than anything. It makes me batty.

  22. I can relate so much to this, at least at the beginning. I can’t forget those first few months, it was sheer agony. I pray that my son keeps sleeping well. And hope yours all start!

  23. Julia says:

    My son is 14 months and I’m quickly learning that sleep will always be a struggle. Every morning when I wake up and it’s 6 am and I haven’t been woken up by him I thank god.

    I really enjoyed this post. You are so right that someday they will sleep somewhere that we can’t protect them, I need to remind myself of that more often.

  24. monsaenz says:

    It’s 412 AM and both my kids are in my bed with hubby, while I’m on the couch… hahahaha. I’m glad I’m not the only one who seeks refuge on the sofa! Thanks for reminding us that these moments are limited and in an odd way… sweet!

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