maandag 12 november 2012

Lessons learned: Sleeping through the night

Today's lesson is applicable in many more instances than just parenting. Actually, it's applicable to life, although many people (myself definitely included) tend to forget it on a regular basis. The lesson is: make sure you know what you're talking about.

For those who like to complicate things (or get the nuance right, depending on which way you're looking at it) this is called "hermeneutics" or the art of understanding text. As a student I have been subjected to many hours of analyzing texts and understanding words and the context in which those words were used and how that influenced the meaning. As a journalist too, it was my job to put news, facts and opinions into such a format that readers actually understood what was going on. So I know the importance of knowing what you're talking about and understanding what is being said. And still I forget and assume I know what's going on without making sure I am really reading from the same script as the other people involved. It's a human failing.

So, what does this have to do with sleeping babies?

I was getting worried that E. was turning into a bad sleeper. She was waking nightly, sometimes multiple times in a row if I went back to my own bed instead of staying with her (think: ten to twenty minute intervals, four or five times). It persisted, even after the baby jet lag left. That's when I really got worried, given that in two months' time there'll be a second night reveller in the house.

Talking to friends, I have always proclaimed E. to be a good sleeper, while friends complained about their interrupted nights. But during my last visit, a friend back home was jubilant, as she told me both her children finally have turned into good sleepers after they turned two. I congratulated her, as we do, since a joy shared is a joy doubled according to Dutch lore.

Then I started questioning her. 

And it turns out her two slept much the same as E.

They'd all generally sleep through the night, but wake up once or twice a week and having to be settled back. I thought sleeping well the majority of the nights signalled a good sleeper (glass half full), my friend thought that having to get up on a weekly basis signalled light and troubled sleepers (glass half empty).

Of course, there are some crucial differences, such as that her youngest woke up at an ungodly early hour and that I have never really minded being woken at night as long as I can get back to sleep afterwards (notoriously, drunk housemates would barge into my room to tell me of the night's exploits and I would let them). 

Then I understood why E. has turned into a rotten sleeper the last couple of months. Because, actually, she hasn't.

I have. 

My pregnancy predisposes to wake up at the slightest sound*. Which means that all the fussing I would usually sleep soundly through (there have been mornings when S. informed me that E. had cried out during the night and I hadn't heard a thing), now wakes me. So I go in to check on her, thereby waking her up properly, after which she won't fall asleep again without me holding her. For hours. See, now that is rotten sleeping. 

It crept up on us. First it was weekly, then it turned bi-weekly and then it was nightly. S. didn't enjoy months of two cranky women and decided to leave well enough alone. After baby jet lag hit, I broke down. I just couldn't take it anymore. So we've done what S. had been advocating all along: we finally turned off the baby monitor. 

This means I can't hear E. unless she's screaming her head off. She's fairly vocal, so I don't doubt she'll let us know if she really needs us. The thing is: waking her up from her night's crying doesn't make things better. On the contrary, it'll take her hours to fall back asleep while lying silently in my arms, she'll wake up tired and cranky in the morning and needs huge naps during the afternoon, meaning that her night bedtime gets pushed back too. Since we've turned off the monitor, she's been waking happily and timely, she's eating like a horse, naps for an hour and a half and afterwards is ready to do stuff in the afternoon, she's been social, outgoing and generally a joy to be around. 

And the fact I need to sum all of that up for you, signals the amount of guilt I feel for shutting her out during the night. But at least I'm sleeping again.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

* Of all the things to change with pregnancy, the light sleeping is by far my MOST HATED trait. It's the most nasty, because sleep deprivation makes all the other rotten stuff (nausea, achs, hormonal imbalances) seem so much worse. 

1 opmerking:

  1. Ik leef met je mee! Dat hele zwanger zijn is een noodzakelijk kwaad met een paar mooie kantjes, maar vooral veel ongemak en gedoe!! Godzijdank hebben we geen olifantendraagtijden...Sterkte met de laatste loodjes!