If I were to take an exam in parenting, I’d fail on the sleep module. That doesn’t stop me giving people advice on how to get their children to sleep – but really, you shouldn’t listen to me AT ALL, because I’m useless.
I had good intentions. When First Child came home from hospital, he’d spent a week in Neonatal ICU so he had that most precious thing – a sleep routine. I tried to keep to it, really, I did. And I was noisy when he slept so that he wouldn’t be sensitive to noise (In the middle of the night, Neonatal ICU is like a blooming train station with people yelling their news across the room. Trust me.) I got the noise part right – he can sleep through his sister having a tantrum in his ear while a burglar alarm goes off – but the routine. Um, I kinda lost that.
And I don’t have the balls for sleep training. Not saying it’s wrong – and it certainly seems to work – but listening to my babies cry didn’t work for me. And I tried – hours of that business of going in, settling, let cry for one minutes, go in, settle, go out, cry for two minutes. And then they get sick, and the whole bloody process has to start again? Not interested. (During that phase, a locum GP told me that I must go in and say, “Hush now” and leave. “She doesn’t have children, does she?” I asked the receptionist. “No,” said the receptionist. “Thought so,” sez me.)
So we got into a cry, feed and cuddle on demand routine – but I still put him back in his cot each time. And then, when First Child was 19 months, I had Second Child.
Here’s how you deal with having two babies who wake up in the night – you put them both in bed with you. With Second Child, I just shoved a boob in her face, and she got on with it. Husband accepted defeat (graciously, for which I will always love him) and went to sleep in First Child’s room.
So how did that work out for me, you ask?
Well, on one hand, seven years later my children can’t self soothe and I have to lie with them while they fall asleep. They need to be in the same room and they both climb into bed with me during the night. Husband is therefore still in First Child’s room which apparently is very worrying to other people but works for us. Objectively, I have completely and utterly failed.
But on the other hand, no matter what happens in the day, my children know that they can find a safe place in my bed and in my arms. And when I wake up in the morning, I’m entangled in two warm, loving bodies. It’s not going to last forever – so you know what? – I’m going to take it while I can. I’ve completely and utterly failed at Parenting and Sleep 101, but in doing so, maybe I’ve won at life.