Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Katie Sluiter, known as katiesluiter on Babyhuddle. Katie is a freelance writer and teacher who should probably be grading papers or changing diapers but is more likely blogging, tweeting, or just overusing social media in general. She chronicles all this on her blog, Sluiter Nation.
When I was pregnant with my first son, Eddie, my biggest fear about having a baby wasn’t the pain involved in getting him out of my body, but the lack of sleep that would come with the territory of having a newborn in the house. I would wring my hands about this and the response varied from “Yeah, it pretty much sucks,” (from all of my friends) to “Oh, sheesh. You just do it,” (from my mom). My husband, Cort, reassured me that we would get through it together. He would help.
I worried anyway.
You see, lack of sleep is a major anxiety trigger for me. Even though I wasn’t diagnosed yet during that pregnancy, I was suffering from a general anxiety disorder and depression. I didn’t know my problem had a name, I just knew that when I didn’t get enough sleep at night (more than 7 hours in a row), I would weep and shut down and get headaches and become unbearably grouchy to the point that I couldn’t do simple everyday tasks correctly.
So I worried. Out loud. To people.
The thing about people is they like to freak you all the way out and then try to tell you it will be fine. Sometimes? People suck. All these people started their response to me the same way, “Just you wait. You think you are missing out on sleep now? Wait til that baby gets here.” And then they would proceed to tell me the worst possible horror stories about colic and babies who puked on themselves during cry it out sessions. And when they realized I was looking at them like this: O_O they would say, “oh but that won’t happen to you. That is just a worst case scenario. I am sure YOUR baby will be wonderful.”
Well, all the horrible things came true.
Eddie was a nightmare. He had colic. He had digestive issues. He had separation anxiety. He cried all day. He cried all night. He sent my anxiety into something so ugly I almost snapped. He would only sleep on me…when he would sleep at all. The first 3-4 months of his life seemed never-ending. I would cry in the bathroom while he scream-cried in his room. I would cry in the rocking chair while he wailed in my arms. I would cry in my bed while he laid next to me losing his mind.
Nothing worked. Both Cort and I lost sleep and became zombies.
Things eventually got better. The colic subsided and he became quite a happy baby. But going to sleep was never his thing. As he got older, he still couldn’t be put down awake. He would cry for hours. He had to fall asleep in our arms. And even then, if he woke up even just a little while we were putting him down? The entire process would have to start all over. We thought we were losing our minds. Where all babies like this? Evidently not. The books said we should be able to lay him down while he’s still awake and he would figure it out.
Eddie either never got that memo or didn’t care about it, because he was NOT going to just figure it out.
The internet was full of suggestions about letting him Cry it Out. I couldn’t do it. Neither could Cort. We tried. We really did. But it hurt us too much because Eddie is stubborn. He could do that for hours. He was NOT going to be the one who gave in. Call us weak, but Cry it Out was not for our family. I should interject here that when Eddie would finally fall asleep? He was usually in it for the long haul (unless he was sick or teething).
Eddie is three now and bedtime is still a chore. He wants to get up a million times for various reasons ranging from, “I have to pee” to “I found this booger on my bed.” But even at three, he knows he needs his sleep. Once asleep, he will stay sleeping for 10 hours or more. AND he still takes a 2-3 hour nap during the day. We just have to get through it. It’s who he is. Eddie is not in any of those baby books (and surprise…most babies aren’t) that tell you how to “fix” your baby or “train” your baby.
He’s just Eddie.
Once we learned that we had to follow his lead and help him take control of his sleep, things got much easier. It’s true what they say, it’s just a phase. It seems like forever, but it’s not.
You WILL sleep again.