When you are deciding to start a family, there is a lot of stuff you know, but you don’t KNOW it and you can’t KNOW it until you actually have that baby. One of those things is sleep deprivation. You know you’re going to be feeding the baby at 2AM, but you don’t KNOW what that is like until you’re living it. Like, people say “You’re going to be so exhausted” and you believe them, but you don’t UNDERSTAND what they’re saying until you’ve experienced extreme sleep deprivation. It is a hell of a thing that I can’t even put into words really, probably because when you’re that tired, that entire period of your life becomes a blur that you can’t really remember properly because you were too tired to know what the hell was happening around you. This would be the #1 reason why I think we need paid maternity leave in this country, because ain’t nobody doing their best work when they’re that tired. Seriously, when you’ve been running on 4 hours of sleep a night for 3 months, is it even safe for you to be behind the wheel of a car to drive yourself to work? Do you want to be on the road with that person? I didn’t think so.
When we had The Boy, he came home from the NICU on August 1, and on the night of my birthday in early October, he began sleeping through the night. And when I say sleeping through the night, I mean 12 hours straight, every night. People used to congratulate me on it, and ask me what I’d done to get him sleeping through the night so quickly. I was like, “Damned if I know.” Really, I had no idea why he was such a good sleeper. But people would press me for my secret, as if I had learned some special wisdom somehow, like I was the Baby Whisperer or whatever. I actually had people say to me, “It’s because you’re such a good mom and you’re so laid back, that’s why he is able to sleep so well.”
Then I had The Girl. She’s now almost 2 and there are still nights she’s up at 2AM, just AWAKE and wanting to play or talk or whatever. She also screams in her sleep a lot, for no apparent reason. I’m guessing nightmares maybe? Perhaps she farted and it scared her? She is just a really really bad sleeper, always has been, maybe always will be. At first I sought out advice about how to get her sleeping better, thinking maybe there WAS some trick I could learn that would help her sleep through the night and if I just learned the right trick, I’d finally be able to get a good night’s sleep. But you know what? People have all kinds of ideas about what they think worked with their kids, but none of it may work for your kid. None of it worked for my kid.
One of the tenets of the Cult of Perfect Motherhood is that there is some body of knowledge out there that you need to acquire in order to raise your kids the right way, and in fact, that there IS a right way to raise your kids. And if you just find the RIGHT book, it’s going to teach you how to get your kid to sleep through the night, because there is a perfect motherhood out there, and you must try to live it. But, kids are all different. Some of them sleep through the night for no reason, and some of them don’t sleep through the night for no reason. Some of them walk early and some of them walk late, some of them have disabilities and some of them don’t. Some are great eaters and some are not. There is no one right way to parent your kid. Every kid is different and every parent is different. People can share ideas and advice, and it may be completely useless to you, or even destructive. And it doesn’t mean they’re bad parents, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means, every kid is different and there is no such thing as the one right version of motherhood.