To the Parent of a Nonsleeper
Written by: Michelle R.
I see you. I see you stumbling down the hall countless times each night not quite awake, but not quite sleeping. I see you going through the motions on autopilot to soothe your little one. I see you on the couch the next afternoon while your babe watches Daniel Tiger, pouring every ounce of energy that you have left into keeping your eyes open. I see you staring at the pile of clean clothes on your floor in the evening, attempting to prioritize the items on your to-do list in order to fit in what you can before the first wake up. I see you brewing another cup of coffee with dinner just to make it through the bedtime routine. I see you questioning your strength, your choices, your ability as a parent.
I feel you. I feel the angst that stirs inside of you when someone asks "is she a good baby?", implying that the only way a baby can be good is by sleeping through the night. I feel the frustrations deep within when you've tried yet another sleep training technique, only to feel as though you've failed, and fractured the bond with your babe all at once. I feel the shame involved in telling someone new that you co-sleep (out of necessity), not knowing if they'll judge you for it. I feel the pangs of jealousy when yet another friend talks about how their three-month-old is finally sleeping through the night. I feel the relief in the warmth of your sleeping baby's warm body next to your own in the middle of the night, when you know that they've fallen into a deep sleep and you can finally relax and drift off yourself.
I support you. I support your strength, and utter ability to muster up the energy to make it through your day. I support your choice to not spread yourself too thin and in turn, say no to certain obligations. I support you asking for help, asking family for space to take a nap. I support your emotional responses to the societal expectations that a baby should sleep through the night, and that there is something wrong with the parent if they don't. I support your decision to do what you have to do so that your family can get much needed sleep.
Sleep is complex. It is not one size fits all. And it is definitely not an indicator of your success as a parent. Your choices and techniques to parent your child through the night are your own, just as they are throughout the day. As long as you are keeping your child safe and meeting their emotional needs, there is nothing wrong with however you choose to get through the night. Darkness is not a veil that should allow shame and guilt to flood our mental well-being as a parent. May your nights be calm, and your coffee be strong.