My current hurdle (in case you thought I was sailing along, jollying about the place with two little impeccably behaved little angel babies) is sleep. Daytime sleep to be precise. I still haven’t fathomed why my precious young litter came home from prison the week after their birthday all sleepy and quiet, eating, sleeping, eating, sleeping (and being quite cute all rammed together in a tight squashy single carrycot, face into face most of the time) then suddenly 4 odd weeks later, WOKE UP! And haven’t slept since.
Well of course they have slept. Of course. But like the durbrain new mummy that I am, I have only just realised just how much sleep they actually need. And the answer is, blimin loads.
So while they were writhing around, shredding dummies (that noise – oink oink oink, furiously chewing, trying not to cry) wanting to be held the whole time (which I couldn’t manage; did my utmost, have a pile of redundant double carriers in every style), they were just utterly exhausted, and I didn’t get it!
Then all the efforts I did go to to get them to sleep, just for a bit (it was only ever for a bit); I seduced them with every womb imitating prop under the sun, as I missed each sleepy cue, and the whole crucial sleep window thing each twatting time. I’m ashamed to say that just a few weeks ago they were each taking their miniature little daytime naps in their own battery operated swing, sucking their little cheeks hollow on a dummy, or paci as they like to say in the US (don’t think we can get away with that), with various white noise machines playing a colourless harmony of nothing supposed in some way to imitate the sloshings of my amniotic fluid and pumping of my blood. How embarrassing.
Despite these tools however, they were rarely asleep for long, and seldom at the same time. My day was spent caring nonstop for (quite rightly) grumpy babies, and driving me round the bend. Caring for? No, just existing – we were all just existing, and they were probably longing as much as I was for the end of each trying day when we could all finally sleep. (Having had a bedtime routine established from six weeks, that bit was easy.)
Funnily enough (not really funny at all actually) such appalling days made the nights (up 3 times to feed, that is if they fed together, otherwise I’d expect 6 wakings on a good night) seem easy. And they were easy, because I knew what I was up against, and there was consistency. Yummy Mummydom, needless to say, has so far evaded me.
So anyway, not a moment too soon I made a fundamental shift in my approach, and set about restoring health, sanity and order under the rule of my cast iron routine, without which I would still by rocking, plugging, and white noising them to sleep.
I’d observed long enough to know just how long they were able to stay awake and read enough to have a good idea of the average 3 and a half month old infant’s sleep needs. Armed with figures I planned our day, and bloody well told them to get on with it. And to my amazement, they did! They seemed to accept quite willingly that I’m the one in charge, and did as they were told. I do admit to letting them cry just a little bit, well maybe a lot by some standards. (And then more guilt, and more tears: mine.)
In the first days of this ‘sleep training’ as people like to call it, I felt a kind of permanent, low level background guilt for causing their pain, and for not stepping in to save them. But had I continued each time to step in and save them, they wouldn’t have learnt to fall asleep unaided, and the misery and fatigue would have continued.
Previously the whole focus of my day was to alleviate all pain, and sooth all crying, whilst a granny in each ear urged me to let them cry a bit (I wasn’t having any of it). I never did leave them to scream themselves into sad and lonely sleep, but regardless, I did find it painful at the start. However – my rational and unemotional side took charge, concluding that I hadn’t a choice – they need to sleep, and I needed to teach them how to get there. Simple as that. Actually, I was giving them the space to learn how to get there alone (with plenty of support and encouragement), a crucial skill if I’m to get any sleep.
So now, 3 weeks in, and the payoff is that they seem positively relieved when I prepare them for bed and put them in. We have a little song, some hypnotic words, and a very special cuddle. Not bad at all really, I reckon I’d quite enjoy being put to bed that way myself, if there are a pair of giant and willing arms out there anywhere? Mostly, they’re asleep within minutes. We do have tears at bedtime on occasions, but overall they are a million times happier. No, a googleillion. Really… And me too.
And suddenly, I have time once again to write.