As I write this I can hear little MiniRegz screaming from upstairs as her daddy tries to sing her to sleep. Unfortunately our baby seems to think sleep is for the weak, and there are far more interesting things she could be doing.
But, if I’d wanted peaceful nights of sleep, then I wouldn’t have chosen to have a baby. The fact that many of them don’t sleep well is not unknown. I love being a mother. It’s cracked me open and changed my life and my outlook in so many ways. However, there are aspects I find puzzling. Like this total obsession with how babies sleep. Now, I love sleep. I used to be the queen of naps. Working night shifts killed me. But really, if my baby wakes up in the night, she has her reasons. I didn’t bring her into the world to wish her away 50% of the time.
Of course eight hours of unbroken sleep sounds amazing right now, and part of me may be jealous of the smug mummies at Baby Massage class who took every chance they could to declare loudly exactly how many hours their ‘clever’ babies had slept the previous night. But at 3:30am, when it feels like it could just be me and her awake in the world, and I’m nursing her back to sleep and knowing I’m giving her the comfort she needs, or when she wakes up far too early and greets me with a gummy chuckle – those moments are precious.
I think part of the problem is how much pressure we feel under as mothers, from society and ourselves, to accomplish so much on top of the all-encompassing task of raising our children. As well as the myriad of baby classes we could be carting our little ones around to (and spending money on), we ‘should’ be keeping a perfect house, losing the baby weight, making ourselves presentable every day and jumping back into our old life and routine. And isn’t that what makes the elusive sleep so important? If we felt able to just go with the flow of focusing on mothering, and were supported by society to do that, we probably wouldn’t be so obsessed with the sleep we’re not getting!
Alas, the baby sleep industry is a lucrative one (check out these ‘15 great ways to help your baby sleep safe and sound’ – your baby will sleep as long as you have enough money to chuck at the problem), so I don’t think managing expectations is an approach that will be promoted too much any time soon.
‘Does she sleep through?’ is a question that’s usually preceded by ‘Is she good?’. And I know I must have asked these questions in the past, and probably will in the future, as really there’s only so much to say about a baby you don’t know. But ‘Is she good?’ really is a daft question. Good at what? The high jump? Quadratic equations? Or do you mean is she compliant and fits conveniently into my life without requiring too many changes from me?
Yes, she is good – at being a baby, at letting me know when her needs aren’t being met, at ensuring her own survival. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t cry, it doesn’t mean she STTN – sleeps through the night – a concept deemed so important that it has its own acronym on the forums I frequent during the wee hours with my free hand. (What did breastfeeding mums do before smart phones and Kindles? I’ve tried reading a hardback but was scared of dropping it on the poor baby’s head!)
And gosh, don’t think this means I don’t think sleep deprivation is a bitch, and ask me in a few more months (or even at 5:30am tomorrow morning) and I may not sound as laid back about it! Just some random thoughts that have been swirling around my tired brain in the small hours.