Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Let it be

Resignation: a word that conjures up images of quitting and giving up. For the past year I have been writing, on and off, about a quest to find sleep, the real REM sleep; the stuff dreams are made of. So what have I learnt? That like most things in life if you fight it, it becomes a battle and then life becomes a bit of a struggle. And we’re not here on this planet long enough to be struggling – welcome to the new Zen, well kind of…

According to a study in New Zealand, by a year old, more than 85% of babies will sleep through the night for a solid 8 hours. Looking around at all my parent friends that percentage is sort of right. We just happen to be in the minority and well, that’s OK, I think. It’s all too easy to compare with friends when their darling sleeps like an angel and yours abruptly awakes like an amphibian on acid.

Equally, when you seek out the 15% of parents whose child never sleeps, it feels good – we are not alone! You too are up every few hours with a teething/nocturnal/wide-awake child. At 3am I know that maybe 5 of my friends are up too, we may as well have a conference call (and a coffee).

After meeting up with some friends for dinner one night whose children didn't sleep either, I had a bit of an epiphany. Having tried every single tactic in the book, and please don’t tell me to cry it out (the T-Shirt has been worn, 4 times) and even after having the sleep clinic out (didn’t know that service existed until we needed it) we are at where we are; still tired.

So this new tactic is not to have a tactic at all, it’s just one of acceptance. And it feels good. I feel like an athlete: for over a year I’ve pushed my mind and body to cope under extreme exhaustion, I’m running a marathon of (mal)function. No wonder I lost my baby weight and more (I guess there has to be some bonuses right?), I’m fuelling up on carbs and catnaps and I’m still managing to make decisions and make sense, just about.

In the virtual dustbin goes the emotive emails that promise you a child who sleeps; the ones you signed up to at 2am when you thought you had discovered the answer. The psychological sales technique that plays on (the already sleep deprived) parents' guilt and worry that if their child doesn’t 'get enough sleep' they will be not develop, grow, walk or talk (ever) and they'll be at the bottom of the class.

Well let me tell you Mrs-trying-too-hard-to-sell-your-book; my son is a genius (every child is to their parents, non?)! I am flabbergasted at his understanding, communication and ability to learn and pick things up at a rapid pace. For a one-and-a-bit year old, he understands absolutely everything, and tells us everything. He started talking at 9 months old and has been chattering away ever since. He wants to learn everything and demands to know what it is and how it works.             

Aha! I thought, let’s try and ‘talk’ him into sleeping. If he understands what we are saying, communicating back and is willing to try everything, perhaps he will sleep… But the experiments only made us laugh: when we asked him where he sleeps, he points to his cot. So far so good, ‘Your monkey is going to sleep now’ (shakes his head and says ‘no’). ‘Close your eyes now please’ (prods his fingers over his eyelid with one eye still open, smiling) ‘Mummy is very tired’ (prods his fingers in both my eyes and shuts my eyelids one by one). ‘You are going to have a long sleep all night like a big boy (shaking his head saying ‘uh-oh’). One night at 4am he woke just to tell us that the ‘door was over there, oh look!’ as if we hadn’t already walked through it half a dozen times that evening.

This morning, the baby alarm goes off at 5.30am after a broken night’s sleep. So I scoop him up and smother him in kisses. He starts giggling uncontrollably and it’s the best sound you can ever hear to start the day off.

And so I am resigned to the fact that we fall into the 15% of parents whose child wakes frequently in the night. Perhaps relaxing about it he will start to sleep better by not having the underlying tension of a haggard mother trying to get him to snooze. One of my best friends texted me to say if she could buy sleep she would. Now there’s a thought; what about banking it too? If someone could invent that I’d happily start up a savings account. In the mean-time I’ll take a deep breath and just go with it. It is what it is and it’s OK.