Honest Motherhood: Dreaming of Sleep

A recent column for Wokingham Today:

It’s Monday afternoon and I’m snuggled up with a cup of tea and some chocolate cake. As a mother of two young children, this is not the norm. But in order to write anything at all today, I have shut myself away in my favourite place in the world; my bed. I am trying desperately hard not to fall asleep, (hence the cake) which makes one wonder why I positioned myself in such a convenient-sleeping-location. I don’t have an official desk yet, Leo is asleep downstairs and Maia is on “play time”, so this cosy spot ticks a lot of boxes in terms of noise-levels and space to think. I also just like hiding from my children. During lockdown it’s more of an urgent need than a casual desire. 
As I write this, my eyes indicate I am awake, but they would be misleading. I am most definitely half asleep. If you were to test my alertness/coordination/ability to drive; I would not score highly. (Thankfully, there is literally nowhere to drive to. – And I don’t propose a trip to Barnard Castle.) 

My current biggest challenge, besides missing my female friends and maintaining concentration on absolutely anything, would be getting my baby boy to fall asleep at a more desirable hour. It has become our household’s most frequent and frustrating topic of conversation. For everyone.

When the beautiful monster was born last August, I made it clear we shouldn’t try and push for a routine too early, as he was so little and it would end up being stressful. The midwives reiterated this. (How wrong I was, a disastrous move.)But then as the weeks went by we just sort of “did what worked”. I’d breastfeed him to sleep and continue to feed throughout the night whenever he needed. Months flew by and slowly the feeds decreased, but I was still waking multiple times a night. Whilst the waking was to be expected, what wasn’t so conventional was his bed-time. It dawned on us that our little boy had our exact bed-time: midnight. He’d then wake up around midday. (This is almost shameful to admit as I feel it signals a huge catastrophic failure on my part; our six month old has the sleep pattern of a University student. We, the adults, had let this happen.) 
“Doing what works” was no longer working. “Going with the flow” had really messed up his body clock. Of course no baby can stay up till midnight without napping. While most babies would have their last nap of the day around 3 or 4pm, our darling would drift off around 9pm for what we’ve learnt is his power nap. We were naive at first: “9pm! This has to be “it”. That’s not too bad, he’s in the crib! See, we’re not awful!”*He wakes at 10:30pm raring to go, just as we’re getting ready for bed. 
We are currently working on the “do not interact with him after 8pm, get him up earlier and earlier each morning and restrict his last nap so it’s not after 5pm” series of attempts. Fingers crossed by March we’ll be putting him down for the night at 7, like sensible parents. (Instead of embracing the ridiculousness of the routine and repeatedly making him laugh at 11pm, taking photos, then wondering why, on top of the ill-timed naps, he’s so awake). 

Therein lies our dilemma. What often quietly trumps the desire for our boy to have a more normal sleeping pattern, is the unstoppable impulse to enjoy every single little moment with him, knowing they won’t last forever. Even if that moment often arises way past “proper bedtime”. As exhausting as it is, despite the appalling routine, we have a weakness for our son. We don’t want to miss anything. (That, and we are just awfully inconsistent.) But we have agreed this cannot go on. Mainly because I can’t keep going through my days half-asleep. I yearn for a 9pm bedtime. It’s quite a fantasy. And I am committed to making that dream come true. 

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