Once upon a time, just under nine years ago now, on my way out of our home on our first evening away from our first child, I explained to the kindly, grandmotherly babysitter from the nanny service that my daughter was a horrible sleeper.
Impossible to get her to sleep. And any tiny noise would wake her once you did. Generally colicky from 9pm to midnight. Every. Single. Night.
I told her I was sorry and that I hoped it wasn’t too dreadful and that I had no expectations that she would be asleep when we got home so she needn’t fret about it.
She told me in a kind (though slightly condescending way) that she had been doing this for 40 years and she could put any baby to sleep.
Fast forward to 1am. We arrived home to find both the baby and the nanny in tears. She said that she had never, in all her years, experienced anything quite like it.
It made me feel pretty smug. “HA! Told ya she’s IMPOSSIBLE! I KNEW it wasn’t me. It’s HER. She's a bad sleeper! HA!”
I mean, I didn’t SAY that out loud to the teary and exhausted granny. I just smiled serenely and thought it to myself.
But then, at age 13 months, she slept through the night. And she never had another issue again. And when she was five, our building’s fire alarm accidentally went off and my husband and I and our 2-yr-old son leapt about 10 feet into the air. And that little girl snored through it. And then the fire trucks arrived with sirens blaring and our little girl slept right through it. At which point we began to worry that if there were ever a REAL emergency, our daughter might, very dangerously, sleep through it.
All to say this: Nothing is permanent. The bad stuff. The good stuff. None of it stays, Pony Boy.
This is both a blessing and a curse, of course, but it is an important thing to know.
You cannot make accurate blanket statements about your child, or, really, anything at all in the universe, without adding the qualifying “right now.”
Because while there were times when these statements would have been true:
*My daughter is an impossible sleeper.
*My son is dying from liver disease.
*My son is completely non-verbal.
*My daughter is too terrified to enter the room for ballet class.
*My son refuses to get into the swimming pool at his swim lesson.
*My son is academically behind.
The current reality is now this:
*My daughter sleeps like a champ, can sleep through almost any disturbance, and will sometimes insist upon being put to bed if she feels she is not going to get adequate sleep if she stays up any longer.
*My son’s liver is working beautifully.
*My son will not stop talking – especially about poop, butts and penises. (I’m told this is also a phase. I think it generally begins to end around age 35...for some).
*My daughter requests arts and swimming classes all the time and does well in all of them.
*My son will march into swim lessons and fearlessly jump into the deep end of the pool even if there is a possibility he will then need to be rescued (not a good thing, but it’s a big change).
*My son has caught up with his classmates academically in almost every area.
So this is what it is right now. And I know enough now to recognize that these same sentences may not hold true for them six months from now. And it is my job to try not to pidgeon-hole them or make them self-fulfilling prophesies by labeling them as a bad sleeper or scared of the dark or behind in school or a bed-wetter or whatever.
Because it is all so blissfully, tragically temporary.
This is all to say, New Mama, that your non-sleeper will sleep, and your sleeper may very well stop that nicety for a bit. Phases will come and phases will go and the best thing to do on this roller coaster is to simultaneously hold tight and relax (which is a little like patting your head and rubbing your tummy) and know that whether you choose to panic about it or whether you choose to shrug and embrace it for a while, it’s probably going to be a bleary memory in a couple years (or months) anyway.
It is also to say that your own situation is temporary. If you are staying home and you find yourself lamenting the loss of career or your inability to spend time with adults or the fact that you smell like sour milk ALL THE TIME. It’s temporary. They grow up. You’ll get out of the house with your hair brushed eventually. You might even be wearing a clean shirt. People will ask your opinion about things that are not child-related. I promise.
If you are lamenting the heartbreak of leaving a baby behind and going back to work, it will be OK. It will feel normal eventually. And the baby will grow up and will go to school and have friends and clubs and sports. And your work situation may very well change – in good ways and in bad.
Wherever you are right now? That’s just right now. And you are strong. (I mean, you carried a human in your belly and either pushed it out through your vagina or allowed someone to open your tummy and pull it out. You're a badass, my friend.) You can handle anything in the short-term and, since almost nothing in life is as long-term as you think it is, the short-term is all you have to handle. So you’ve got this.
You’ve totally got this.
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