Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Difference Between Your First Baby Not Sleeping at Night and Your Fifth Baby Not Sleeping at Night

 First child, the thumb-sucker. Pretty sure she was about 4 months old at this point, and had a radical conversion to sleep.

Spoiler Alert! In reality, not much.

But in my mind there is a slight bit of difference between what used to rage through my brain when my first baby wouldn't sleep at night and now when my fifth baby doesn't sleep at night.

My first dear child didn't sleep much at all in her first three or so months due to some vicious, evil, malicious colic. She wouldn't sleep in the daylight, in the darkness, while moving, swaddled,  or nursing; no sleeping ever. I do remember some nights where we would drive up and down our bumpy country roads and after about 45 minutes she'd fall asleep, but then wake up minutes after we got home. I remember staying up at all hours, rocking, nursing, shushing her and completely believing this was how the rest of my life was going to play out. I would never sleep again. Ever. And I believed that with my whole being.

Because it was my first baby and I had no concept of a baby's insanely fast growth and the heightened speed of time once you have children, and thus could not fathom a time where my child could ever function, let alone sleep at all, without my constant attention. Sure, I was completely exhausted and irrational, but the thought of ever sleeping again seemed to be at similar odds as a alien landing on my lawn.

It was an almost hopeless state of mind. This state of mind, as I'm sure you know, doesn't do much to  create a cheerful disposition. It actually crushes all happiness and prospects of ever feeling anything other than akin to a flattened coffee cup on a busy highway.

Fifth child, the newborn-sleeping champ.

The difference when you have your fifth baby and they don't sleep at night is that you simultaneously can't believe you've done this and survived four previous times, and also believe that in reality it's probably going to pass in a couple weeks, maybe months, and surprisingly, you're ok with that idea. Sure, you still feel like as if you've been smashed into the pavement by heavy machinery, but somehow you feel as if this is your natural environment. There's also that glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, you'll make it through the first year of the child's life and once again maybe string together a couple solid hours of sleep. It becomes a more natural mindset. You adapt.

That being said, I can also attest to their being no magic that comes from being a mom to many. I think I had been misinformed in the past because I had this strange belief that mothers of a gaggle of children somehow only had children who slept through the night. How else could they possibly handle a sleepless baby and other people to care for?! But alas, no magic. There is also no "Mom-of-Many" magic that keeps you from still getting frustrated, exhausted, insane, and a little hopeless feeling when you go a few nights of little to no sleep. As much as I hope I deal with sleeplessness a little better than my past only-a-mom-to-one-baby self who acted as if the world was coming to a swift and dramatic end, I'm pretty sure I'm still a royal pain to live with the next day, who becomes more than a little bit of a yelly-mummy, a slight ogre in regards to noise levels, who ends up despising whoever created so much laundry in the house.

At the very least when I deal with a baby who's not sleeping I have a veritable arsenal of sleep training techniques. Because of the success I've had in the past of combatting almost any sleep issue in babies, I've come to have a little more confidence that sleep training does work and pays off in spades. I also know that sleep training's success rate works in direct relation with how much effort I put in with consistency and sometimes that requires sacrificing sleep at night. In addition to this knowledge, I know that I don't have to follow everything the book says if I'm really tired and just want to get through the night squeezing as much sleep as I can get. I take all these things a little easier with my fifth baby. I know that sometimes I'm just going to have to do what I can to survive, but that I can always return to sleep techniques that will help a baby learn to sleep. And maybe one blessed day they'll sleep. Through the night. And I'll be able to enjoy it.

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  1. Dealing with my own first baby sleep issues. Somehow, despite the fact that things don't get "better" this is encouraging. If you want to share your sleep training tips, I'd eat that up.

  2. Isn't it crazy how different babies can sleep?!? I'm always amazed that all my boys aren't more similar. Sometimes it amazes me that they all came from the same parents. It's always a surprise what you get with each new newborn :)

  3. Holding/nursing baby #3, who is a middle-of-the-road baby so far -- not as good as my sleepy, happy second baby, but not the colicky, sleepless nightmare my first was. My pattern seems to be 'good birth = tough baby,' and vice versa -- and I truly thanked God last time that when I needed 8 solid weeks to heal from my 2nd daughter's birth He gave me a baby who slept six hours straight from her first night home and could be put down awake with no fussing. I needed that then, whereas this time I can physically handle a little bouncing and pacing! Thanks for your insights and honesty :-)

  4. Girl I tell you, it's a little sad to known I'll still be a grumpy ogre as more babies come, but, alas, we are sleeping great a few nights of the week and I'm just treasuring, TREASURING!!!, each one. Thanks for this post. We used the ferber method with our second because nursing every 90 minutes alllllnight long and then every two hours during the day at 11 months old (!!!) was insanity. and I couldnt. do. it. anymore!

  5. I know this post is super old but thank you thank you thank you. I am not sure if what I am feeling is normal or ppd and this post just helped me realize that I'm not the only feeling rage at my baby in the middle of the night.


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