6 to 9 months: you have been my hardest lesson so far. A time that has been so full of ups and downs, with the highs being so outrageously high and the lows feeling so brutally low.
You are magic, you are light and you are beauty. I owe you so much. People always say how 'worth it' it is, but not everyone always mentions the hard stuff that makes the great stuff so great and this little section of our journey has been tough. Is there light at the end of the tunnel, absolutely, but when I try and recall moments from this time they seem particularly hazy. A huge barrier in this was my assumption that because you were getting older and bigger, things would fall into place with ease. Oh dear, I sound so naive or is it that the stories I was told were untrue, only half truths told to cover up the reality? Or is my reality different, did I do something wrong? The expectations I had did not match my reality. Altering expectations is hard, so is living a reality that you weren't expecting.
All I know is that when January came around you did not/do not sleep. You were 5 and a half months old. Was this your 6 month sleep regression kicking in early? I honestly don’t know, but it came and only recently has decided to leave (but still not in its entirety).
It felt like someone had transported me back into those first newborn weeks except this was somehow worse because I’d already done that. I felt like my eyes were constantly being pinged open or I was being jolted awake from sleep. Three months later and it is better but it has been quite a journey (cliche I know). At first I remember just thinking it will pass and every night feeling hopeful that things would just click into place. It didn’t. Then I remember the utter rage and surges of anger about how I couldn’t get you to sleep for more then three hours at a time and I know for some people that’s their norm but it wasn’t ours and I would be so angry which led to periods of giving up. Up until that point I’d thought that if I got you to sleep at 7pm that would fix it, If I gave you enough food that would fix it, if I fed you for longer, kept you warmer one of these little things would fix it. It didn’t, nothing did. This was hard. I felt like I was failing whilst half dreaming, half sleep walking through life. Everything felt really hard and overwhelming, my patience was paper thin and I didn’t care. The only thing that I could do was take care of you. One meal at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. Sleep deprivation is honestly one of the worst things I have experienced and can see why it’s used as a form of torture. Weeks and weeks went by with you waking up three of fours times a night and then the morning would appear. I used to think of night time as an almost separate part of the day before you came along. Now I have seen every hour in every different way that they all feel familiar and friendly but equally there isn’t that pause, where you get an opportunity to reset, it all starts to blur into one. Auto pilot. Survival mode. It was a very grey, very small place with limited energy and enthusiasm. I would hear my husband talking but I remember it feeling so far away as if I was submerged under water and the effort to engage and respond was monumental. I just wanted you to sleep that’s all I could think about. When you don’t get sleep it becomes all consuming.
There was so much pressure as well for you to sleep through now you were 6 months old. Whenever someone used to ask me how you were sleeping it used to make me cringe inside. It made me want to cry. ‘Why is she not sleeping?’: honestly if I knew that don’t you think I’d have fixed it by now!! Give her formula. Stop breastfeeding. You need to feed her more. You need to feed her less. Were all offered as valuable solutions that I didn’t want to hear. I became fixated on food thinking that one more mouthful would do the trick. Again the harder I tried to fix it, the worse I felt.
During this period we started with quite a regimented evening routine. Tea, bath, boob, bed. A lot of people start with them quite early on but up until the age of six months I just felt you were too little. I think when other things fall out of your control you do what you can to grab it back in different areas and even though this routine didn't have a sudden and instant effect on your nighttime sleep it did offer a period of respite in the evenings, where I could at least try and respond to my husband in a non robotic fashion!
Following on from this period, somewhere along the line gradually my feelings subsided into acceptance. I listened to a couple of podcasts, did more research online and found that I wasn't the only one. Maybe because I was too exhausted to do anything else or maybe because I knew deep down that there was nothing wrong, that phrase ‘this too shall pass’. ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain’ and at this point there was so much rain I could only keep going.
Acceptance that you will wake up. Acceptance that I won’t get a full nights sleep but equally I’m not doing anything wrong. You will sleep eventually and then one night you did, eight hours straight and we had done nothing different. Your bedtime routine was exactly the same as previous nights, you hadn't eaten more or less. It just was. The next night you did 11 hours. The sheer relief is unreal, the feeling of more then 3 hours sleep is unreal and it feels like a weight had been lifted. Since then it's not been consistent. Every night is different. But I don’t stress or worry about it anymore. Some nights are wonderful some are not but we are on the right side of the tunnel, for now.
All I know is that you have to keep going. If you are the one doing the night time wake ups then get your partner to do the mornings to help with balance and sleep. For a time this wasn’t possible for me and I really struggled with how tired I was but in recent weeks it has been an absolute god send to have him take the morning shift. Colour and humour have come back into my life. Some days it’s just that one extra hour sleep that can make all the difference. If you both do the feeding, split it, but don’t be resentful of the other one sleeping. Sleep above everything.
Day time naps are always an option too: if you figure that one out let me know though, I’m not a very good napper. There are so many tips and tricks out there to help you, but equally do what’s right for you. If it doesn’t work don’t do it and try not to feel to much pressure. It’s so much easier said then done but trust yourself! This is not a fairytale ending and I am under no illusion that she will sleep well from now on, this could return anytime but for now I’m going with it and the sky seems a little brighter.
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