The Sleep Post

27 Aug

It had to come eventually, didn’t it?

So the Little Berry turns six months old this week. It seems she is a bit of a shit sleeper. Or, that her sleeping habits make me feel like shit. It’s the way our culture works, right? Good babies sleep like the dead. Bad babies are the ones that continue to call for you at night, to drag on your breast, arch their backs, to wail at an ungodly frequency. But we pretend (is it pretend?) that we love the closeness. The intimacy of those moments in the deep dark, just you and your baby. But it’s not intimate. It’s exhausting and messy and wet and heavy and did I mention exhausting. But the alternative is just admitting you hate it. Which just makes you feel more miserable. And the next step after that is that you have to ‘change’.

“Just stop feeding at night. She’s old enough to go six or seven hours without a feed,” says the sleep expert.

Except the sleep expert doesn’t hear that wail. After six months of crappy, interrupted sleep, it’s simply unfathomable to let that cry go on when it rings out in the dead of night, inches from my head. My bed feels poisoned by that cry. I can’t make love to my husband in that bed. It is a place for crying and feeding and wet nappies and scrambling for lights (but not too much light, shit, wrong button, shit, shit).

No, I am wired to respond and so it feels, that like a puppet on a string I rise to vainly pat and shoosh against the flood of angry sobs before giving in and again, feeding, with the quiet monologue still playing “just change it, ” as I have a little cry, quietly because maybe after this she’ll sleep.

Every time, it feels like giving in. Although it isn’t supposed to, is it? Aren’t I just responding the needs of my baby? Isn’t this a good thing? Schedules and routines are a Western construct! Babies have such tiny tummies, they need to feed at night! The thought flutters by, that surely the tummy is in proportion to the rest of the body? It’s not like the tiny tummy has to hold food for a giant?

In my twenties, girlfriends clocked insane hours at their top tier law firms and merchant banks. The lack of sleep was part of the glamour. But there ain’t no five figure bonuses in this job. Just a feeling of being sleepless, a failure and alone.

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5 Responses to “The Sleep Post”

  1. Kate August 27, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    You may be sleepless but you are not a failure or alone. Man o man I was exactly where you are now when B was 5.5 months and it sucked. It’s really f**king tough to enjoy those intimate moments in the deep dark night when your eyeballs are hanging from your head and you think you’re not going to catch up on sleep EVER because the little one needs feeding and because you value breastfeeding so highly you continue to be the ONLY source of nourishment day in day out day in day out day in day out and you know you shouldn’t complain about it because the minute you do someone suggests whacking a bottle of formula in the kid’s mouth … which misses the point entirely. You ask yourself, ‘when will sleep come?’ It will it will it will.

    • Hannah Collins August 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      It doesn’t matter how old your children are, and mine are adults and me a grandmother 5 times over, mother’s remember that waking from the dead in that cold dark middle of the night. I still have a certain time in the early morning that can bring back the smell, taste and memory of climbing out of a warm bed to feed a crying baby!

  2. Roar Sweetly August 27, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Sleep deprivation is bloody awful and no-one really understands it unless they are living it. Remember you are still squarely in the ‘zone of hardness’ and it doesn’t get any harder than where you’re at right now. I think 6-months old is still really little, and at that age a lot of babies still love having a feed during the night. Won’t be long before she’s blowing out the candles on her first birthday cake and you can start to lay down the law in Sleepy Town. I recommend Pinky McKay’s books for more gentle (non-controlled crying) methods of sleep training. Hang in there…it really does get easier.

  3. Bee August 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    You are doing a great job. I don’t think it’s “giving in”. But it is effing hard work.
    Sending sleep fairies your way (if only that shit worked!!!).

  4. Rosalind Thomas August 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Thank you so much for the comments lovely interwebbers – I know it will get better eventually, I have the toddler to prove it! Just gets on top of me sometimes. Onwards ho.

    Ps I often wonder how different it would be if we didn’t know what babies “should” be doing. Desert Island parenting…

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