OK, here is the sleep post. It may be slightly hysterical, as we are in the middle of a crap-sleep phase, but I need something to do while Husband watches Top Gear, so here we go.
You may have noticed that every now and then, I make vague references to sleep problems without ever going into what they actually are. This has been because I haven't been able to even think about them without wanting to sob uncontrollably, but it means that I can't look back over this blog and check what they were, so this might not be the most coherent account of anything ever. Because normally I'm all about the coherence, obvs.
I have not been blessed with brilliant sleepers. It could have been worse, much worse. I know this, because I was a horrible sleeper and I honestly don't know how my mother didn't kill me. But it's been bad enough. Up until recently, I hadn't had more than 3 nights sleep in a row for about 3 years. And I'm not being greedy - by a full night's sleep, I mean 6 straight hours without having to get out of bed to put a boob or a dummy or a glass of water in a small person's face, or to argue about whether or not 3am is an acceptable time to go to the theatre. We've had the phase where The Big'un wakes up shouting for me, then says "NO!" to every suggestion of what might be wrong or what I might do to help and flails her arms in my face until I have to remind myself that although you might slap an incoherent adult awake, it is absolutely not acceptable to do that to a three-year-old. We've had the phase where most nights saw us watching BabyTV at 2 in the morning with a completely wide-awake Littl'un. I do not believe that we have seen the back of any of these phases for good.
Unsurprisingly, this kind of thing makes you TIRED. In time, you do kind of get used to surviving on no sleep. Getting a full 8 hours now is actually kind of a shock to the system. But while I can survive on little sleep, there are days when I can't do much more than that, and things suffer. And one of those things is entertaining my children. That's one of the worst things about the disturbed nights: they make the days crap as well. Even firing on all cylinders, I am not one of these get-up-and-go-and-join-groups-and-do-messy-play-and-have-adventures kind of mothers. When I'm tired, I'm beyond crap. I cannot muster up any enthusiasm for anything harder than putting CBeebies on and waiting until it's bedtime again. Which of course makes them grumpy and bored, which makes the day even harder. It's a rubbish cycle to get into, and some days I manage to have a word with myself and snap out of it and Do Stuff, but very often I don't.
The other thing that really, really sucks about sleep problems is how much it makes you feel like a failure. A warning - if you ever find yourself with a child who won't sleep, you might think that asking other parents, in real life, or on a parenting website, is a good thing to do. In some ways it can be - you can very often find sympathy, and people who can suggest things you might not have tried. But you are also going to find a whole bunch of implications, real or imagined, that this is ALL YOUR FAULT. It will be your fault for not leaving them to cry, thus making them realise they can manipulate you just for the fun of it. It will be your fault for leaving them to cry, robbing them of the security of a parent who always responds to their needs, and teaching them to be helpless in the manner of a Romanian orphan. You weren't patient enough, weren't strong enough, didn't read the right book, and shouldn't really be whingeing if you're not willing to put the work in, and what did you have kids for if you can't cope with the lack of sleep?
I must say that, if I think about it properly, most people don't really say that. But it feels like they're thinking it. Because kids are supposed to "sleep through", aren't they? Tiny babies, they're allowed to wake up, but once they pass 6 months or so, you should be putting them down and not having to think about them again until the morning. Isn't that right? And if that's not happening, then you've got to be willing to do whatever it takes to "fix" it.
I can't fix it, I don't know how. All the approaches that have been recommended to me involve a lot of patience, resolve and consistency. I have very low reserves of these. They are even lower between the hours of midnight and 5am. My younger daughter, however, has seemingly endless reserves of resolve and screaming, and is willing to use them if she deems it necessary. She is not above deliberately smacking her head off her cot, or trying to climb out. Perhaps I could win the battle of the wills, eventually, but not without considerable, considerable distress to everyone in my house, and possibly even my street. It is not worth it, not to me. Things are not, yet, *that* bad.
I can't pretend to be OK with it either, though, like those who chirp "all babies sleep through in their own time", as if this is a developmental phase I should be relishing just as much as climbing in boxes and trying to eat their own fist. It's rubbish and I want to whinge about how it's rubbish. This is where I think most of my feelings of failure come from. I am not strong enough, either to fix it or to just suck it up. Is that OK? Can I opt out of the quest for the Holy Grail of Parenting that is a decent night's kip? Can I feel comfortable with the decision I've made about what to do (ie whatever gets me back to bed in the minimum amount of time each night), and still be unhappy with the consequences of that decision (being tired and grumpy all the time)? And can I get another coffee over here please?