By Tracy, Managing Editor
Last week I was chatting with a fellow teacher. We were talking about our daily routines, to help students understand a school wide vocab word “sequence.” I got to the point of saying that I sneak out of bed to get ready in the morning, while Abby still sleeps. In my bed. We were in front of students, so when he said to me, “Oh, that’s no good. You need to get out of that habit,” I nodded and moved on.
I’ve only known him for like a month and a half. He’s probably my mom’s age. And, he has no clue what we’ve gone through with Abby’s sleep issues. I wonder if while I nodded, my face told another story, one where I just couldn’t fathom someone making snap judgments about how I choose to parent my child. Or maybe it was also the fact that it’s the first time I’ve encountered a judgmental father instead of the usual judgments I get from fellow mothers, that made me wonder where he was coming from. Either way, I was left reeling.
The truth of the matter is, though, that if you asked me while I was pregnant, or if you asked me during Abby’s infancy, if we would be a co-sleeping family, I would have said no. Not because we had anything against it, but just because. If that makes any sense. (Trust me, though, there were many nights when the hubs looked at each other and thought about snapping her up and laying her between us in bed because we missed her when she was sleeping her glorious 10-11 hour nights.)
But then there were the bouts of Abby struggling to sleep because of the damn RSV she got for her first birthday. We spent months worrying about her breathing and doing 2am steam showers when the wheezing started. And some of those nights, I laid her on me, as it was the only solace for the two of us, and we slept. In my bed. She got better, though, and went back to sleeping on her own.
Around 15 months old, though, sleep issues began. It all started with her not allowing us to put her in her crib while she was awake. I had to rock her to sleep. And there were many nights when she was fast asleep in my arms, but the minute I placed her in her crib, she would start wailing. She would start coughing. We couldn’t stand to hear her like this, especially with all those respiratory issues looming overhead. And some nights, it would take two hours to get her to settle down for sleep. By that time, I had to shower and get to bed because my 6am alarm clock was waiting for me. And that’s when I stopped even bringing school work home during the week. There was no point. There was no time. This added even more stress to my working momma world.
Then around March, Abby started waking a few hours into sleeping. The only way to get her to go back to sleep was to bring her in bed with us. Then I called her our part-time co-sleeper. And in the back of my head, I began to think that sleep training needed to happen soon. Again. She was getting old enough to realize how to play us.
But at the end of March, my Aunt suddenly passed away. I was immediately on a plane to Florida. Alone. The hubs stayed with Abby. And when I returned, I knew that I was too much of an emotional wreck to listen to my toddler screaming for Mommy.
Summer came, and I thought with a break from school, I could have more time and energy to focus on getting Abby to sleep better. (NOTE: Abby took naps perfectly at daycare, but not for us. Go figure.) However, with summer came me somehow acquiring mono. Guess who still wasn’t up for dealing with sleep training?
At this point, Abby went from being willing to sleep in her crib for a few hours, to not at all. This meant my night ended when hers did. We crawled into bed together, and as she slumbered away, I typed away on the laptop. (NOTE: The hubs was more than willing to take this co-sleeping on…being the one to get her to sleep, but my kid only wants her Mommy.) But this sleep was restless, for all of us. We had a flopper of a kid at that time. She seemed to sleep great, flopping included, but her parents not so much.
Then we made the decision to get Abby a floor bed. With that came a shiny new gate for the top of the stairs, toddler proofing all the door handles upstairs, and a bunch of anxieties about Abby having the freedom to get out of bed and roam around. Still, though, even with the floor bed, I had to lay down with her. But now, once asleep, I could get up. Of course she rarely slept through the night, so halfway through my sleep, I would wake up and crawl into bed with her. Sometimes for a few minutes, while other times I’d wake up in the morning wondering how I even got there. But those nights when she would wake every 2-3 hours, I felt like I was back to newborn baby stage. Except now, I have to climb out of bed in the morning and go to work. To a whole other group of whiny children, ones, though, who are on the cusp of puberty. (That takes a lot of energy on my part to deal with.)
And then about a month ago, instead of crying out for Mommy, Abby started quietly getting out of bed, walking down the night light lit hallway, sneaking over to the side of my bed, whining out, “Mommy,” and placing her head on my thigh.
I would either pick her up, or just say it’s time to go back to her bed, and we both would groggily make our way back onto her floor bed. Again, this might be once a night, or three times a night.
This left me a zombie, relying on copious amounts of coffee to make it through my day, including another cup around 4 or 5 to get through dinner and bedtime and any sort of school work I absolutely had to get done before starting this whole debacle of a night all over again.
So a couple of weeks ago, I decided that instead of walking her back to her bed over and over, that I would just scoop her up, and lay her in bed with us. And you know what, we all slept great, which makes the next work day go smoothly. And this is where we are right now in within the realm of Abby’s sleep saga. We still have her fall asleep in her own floor bed, with me by her side of course. She won’t fall asleep with me. I’m totally fine with this, because once she’s out, I can get up and get work done. But at some point, each night, my little pumpkin makes her way to our room and that’s perfectly OK with us. Sometimes it’s midnight. Sometimes it’s 2am. Sometimes I don’t even remember her getting into our bed. And sometimes she wakes up and needs to snuggle with us before we are even in bed.
And you know what, I DON’T CARE! I’m a working teacher momma. My day starts a lot earlier than others. And I have to put on a show five times a day. I need a decent night’s sleep, even if that sleep is only 6 hours long. At least it’s a 6 hour long stretch without much of an interruption. (NOTE: I still drink copious amounts of coffee.)
At some point we will transition Abby to sleep the whole night in her bed, but for right now, this works for us. Especially since when Abby first started sleeping in our bed, we noticed her talking in her sleep and crying out, saying things like, “No.” Our poor kiddo was having nightmares. That’s scary for her. And we’re pretty sure those nasty dreams have mostly subsided because of the lack of crying out and less bouts of flopping around in our bed, but she’s now battling all four of her eye teeth coming in. It’s one long arduous process and after a month, only one has poked through. Sigh. It’s tough on her.
And as an almost 32 year-old woman, when I’m having a hard time, I want my mom. It’s a source of comfort, even when that comfort is venting and being irritable, that’s what moms are for. To take it because they know behind it is a deep immense amount of love. And if my comfort for Abby can help the whole family sleep better, in our family bed, then so be-it. No judgments needed.