Rose was self-settling by the time she was 3 months old. We’d put her down for naps and she would go to sleep. She was a natural. She was so flexible, too. She would sleep in her stroller, in a portacot, in an airline basinette, in someone’s spare room during the middle of a party. She would never sleep in our bed – she was independant from the start.
Tess has been a different story. The first five days of her life she refused to sleep in the little plastic basinette in the hospital. We had to hold her all night. I came home from hospital feeling more tired than I’ve ever felt before. I couldn’t wait to get home because I thought I could take her to bed with me and we’d both get some sleep. I was right. We started trying to train her to nap in her bed soon after our New Zealand holiday. Efforts were mixed, but we made progress. Then we got the diagnosis. She had surgery, and a succession of invasive procedures. She got poked and prodded. Eye drops, speculum, contact lenses in and out. Then there was the blindness for two hours a day. She was scared and needed comfort, and we gave it to her. We started holding her until she was asleep, then gently placing her in her cot. We held her for hours. I watched her every nap time and night time, her little chest subsiding with sighs, drifting off to sleep. It was a hassle, she wouldn’t sleep at other people’s places. She would also often wake up when you put her down and have to start all over again. I wanted to scream with frustration! And on the days I was looking after her and Rose on my own it was a nightmare. I would be sitting in our room, holding Tess, hearing Rose cry out from the living room, “Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!” But that wasn’t the complete story. I also loved it. I loved cuddling my baby, feeling her safe and warm. In those moments my fears dissolved. She is safe. Nothing can hurt her.
She was never a good sleeper, but started sleeping really badly. Woke seven, eight times a night. I knew what the problem was. She was waking up after her sleep cycles expecting to still be in our arms. She wanted to be rescued. But it was time. Time for her to learn how to soothe herself. Time to be a bit more independent. I was afraid, I knew it would involve crying to some degree. I read a lot about the different approaches. We agreed we would be at the responsive end of the spectrum. We wouldn’t listen to her distress for hours. But it was time to test the waters.
Three days on and what a difference! On Wednesday night she went to sleep after 15 minutes of groaning and slept until 4.40am. Thursday night was a similar story except she slept until 6am. Last night she slept until 6.40am. I can’t tell you how much bliss it is to wake up after 7 hours of unterrupted sleep. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m so happy to be sleeping on a mattress in the living room.
The day time sleeps have been trickier. One afternoon she took an hour and a half to go to sleep. She was distressed. Chris patted her until she went to sleep. We still saw it as a victory because we didn’t get her up. But it hasn’t been all hard work, some times we’ve timed everything right and she’s napped well. I don’t mind so much. No more battles. It’s her choice whether to sleep or not.
And that, my friends, is the thing I’ve enjoyed most about the last three days: The relief from the pressure of putting her to sleep. No longer am I responsible for getting her to sleep. No longer do I anguish about why I can’t. Now it’s up to her. She’s still my baby and I’ll always be there for her. But she’s also a big and brave little girl.
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