Slurp Derperration

What can make a woman lose her keys four times in a row in the same effing place? Sleep deprivation.
What can make a woman want to ring-hand-punch a noisy dump truck driver who looks like he might be an ex-con? Sleep deprivation.
What can make a woman forget why the hell she went to the grocery store for the third time that day? Sleep deprivation.
What can make a woman’s brain fall out her butt during a simple conversation? Slurp derperration.

When I first got pregnant, one of the most popular phrases that people threw at me was “get your sleep while you can because once the baby comes” dot, dot, dot. Such an innocent phrase that seemed to roll off my back as I rolled my eyes, but by God if they weren’t speaking the truth! However, let me retort now that sleeping while you’re pregnant, nor banking it while you’re young will do nothing to prepare you for the sleep deprivation that having a baby will give to you. So, just forget about it and stock up on wine instead.

It seems like a faded comic book memory now… my son was not even three months old and I confidently, naively thought I could get him to sleep (ha, ha) through (ha, ha) the night (sigh.) I downloaded scads of “sounds of nature” tracks on the iPod, hunkered down in the dark bedroom with lullabies on my mind. How quaint of me. The only thing I had to show for it the next day was an overtired and somewhat hoarse baby, aubergine-tinted bags under my eyes, a strong desire for whiskey and a near urinary startle response any time Rainforest Thunderstorm randomly popped into the iPod playlist while I dozed on the streetcar.

Now, as the wee man has passed his six-month milestone, I (and eventually the hubby) have decided to get serious about sleep.

When it comes to babies and sleep, there are endless opposing schools of thought on the subject. Two such schools of thought are to “cry it out” or not to “cry it out.” My understanding is that those against “crying it out” (or allowing a baby to cry themselves to sleep safely but without intervention) believe that we are damaging our children and instilling in them a sense of fear and abandonment. Having listened to your baby wail for any length of time from his/her crib, calling out your name in a heart wrenching cry of betrayal, I’m sure that any parent can agree that it certainly feels like you’re abandoning and damaging your baby. But the “cry it outers” will tell you that you’re just helping your child learn to self-soothe - an important part of emotional development and independence - and that your baby will not remember being so upset when they are older, after all, do you? (If you answered ‘yes, I do remember and thanks for bringing it up, jerk’ to that, stop reading and find yourself a Groupon for therapy.)

The most hellish few weeks of (for lack of a better term) “sleep-training” began at Christmas time. After a day of extremely overwhelming fun and family and in a strange bed, my son refused to sleep, expressing his exhaustion in peels of bloodcurdling shrieks. My sister urged me to let him cry and learn to self-soothe (her children were “trained” the same way and consequently sleep very well.) This was the first time my husband and I would attempt the “cry-it-out” method. Had I been hiding military secrets, they would’ve been divulged and I, executed for treason as listening to my kid wail was pure torture.

The weeks that followed were all over the map as our boy caught another cold disrupting his sleep even more. My husband and I couldn’t seem to commit to one sleep-training method or another as nothing seemed to illicit a positive result and we simply couldn’t stand to hear our boy cry. In my burned-out brain, I wrestled with all the advice I’d received from other moms and the blasted internet. To cry or not to cry. My heart began to feel heavy with it all.

The sleeplessness and frustration built and built until I found myself sitting on the floor outside the baby’s bedroom at three in the afternoon, weeping and rocking, trying to remember if we had any china I could smash in the back yard or whether there was an inconspicuous place that I could punch a hole in the drywall. And as I cried an ugly, hideous, loathly cry, unable to pull it together enough to settle my baby, he went to sleep. In that moment it dawned on me that he was starting to learn sleep and the more I interfered with his process the more his frustration would escalate.

My uneducated conclusions:

1. If you’re lucky, your baby will be born a sleeper and will sleep through the night from the start. Congratulations, you lucky, lucky bastards. But from what I’ve read, babies aren’t really built to sleep through the night until they’re a little older, for various reasons…. it’s very complicated… uh, you wouldn’t understand… So anyway, don’t expect it right off the bat or you’ll soon be riding the crazy train to BeatYourselfUpville.

2. Naps are pretty important for my boy. If he doesn’t get a couple of good hour-and-a-half to two hour naps in the day, he’s Orson Welles by bedtime and will pretty much shout himself to sleep while I climb the walls and try to convince myself that I’m not a terrible mother.

3. Sleep/Bedtime routine really is key for us. We’ve committed to a routine and we’re consistent… as much as we can be. There are as many differing routines as there are parents and children. Our bedtime routine does not include a “soothing” bath as it does for many; our boy gets hilariously hyper at bath time and it leans more toward wet T-shirt contest than spa and candles. What works for us is I nurse the baby in a quiet, dimly-lit room, I turn out the lights, put on a quiet song (same one every night), we have a little rock in the rocking chair, I turn on his little light aquarium – and I have to show him - I put him in his crib awake, and chatting contentedly he eventually goes to sleep on his own. But as is life, sometimes it all goes to shit and I have to dump the routine and totally improvise to suit the situation.

4. THERE IS NO MAGIC SOLUTION so patience is key. You will be tired and you will be frustrated and you will be waaaay stupider than usual, so patience and brain power will be hard to come by. In the end, you have to figure out what works for you and your baby. And it won’t be the same as your neighbour’s baby or your sister’s kids or how you slept or didn’t sleep as a baby. So, look for patterns in the way your baby sleeps and reacts to different times of day and stimuli. You’ll start to see what works and what doesn’t if you take the time and energy to take note.

What I've learned from this: There are definitely days when I can’t tell my arse from a hole in the ground and this morning I put orange juice on my Cheerios, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and now that I’ve established that it’s not the impending light of death from lack of sleep, I have more good days than bad. As time goes on, we’re all getting used to the routine and my son is progressively sleeping better and consequently so are we. It’s just another of the challenges that I’ve faced and laboured on as an evolving parent. But I admit, I’ve got my eye on a pair of teacups that are destined for destruction comes the next week of sleepless nights.



Sleep is for suckers.

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