There was a time when she had trouble going to sleep but would stay asleep once she finally gave in. There was a time she when she wouldn’t nap during the day. Now, she wakes up three or four times a night. She’s scared, she says. Her stomach hurts. She wants to get in our bed. She just needs to tell me something. At 3 a.m.
I’m exhausted. I feel like I have a nine month old and night time is not safe, quiet or relaxing. I find I have no energy for her during the days because her sleeplessness saps me dry at night. I find I’m irritated with her and it’s starting to show.
“Why are you cranky mama?” she asked me the other day.
A not-so-perfect mothering moment, indeed. Blaming her is not the answer. Resenting my six-year-old because she doesn’t sleep is a narrow bumpy path to travel and completely unfair to her. I know these things. It’s just that I’m not firing on all cylinders these days. And it feels like this has been going on for years.
We have consulted sleep experts, we’ve followed their advice. We’ve tried to empower Eliza, we’ve let know she can back to the safety of us if she needs to. We’ve read, made tea, sang songs, yelled, stomped, begged, cried. None of it has worked. And I am truly at a loss. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Last week I took her to her pediatrician who said it was worth a conversation with an ear, nose and throat doctor. We went to see him, too, only to find that her tonsils are normal. He recommended a sleep study, though. At the end of March. I might not make it that long. I’m being dramatic but I’m feeling a little prone to drama lately.
Last night I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. I don’t mean I went to bed to read at 7:30 p.m. I mean I was ASLEEP at 7:30 p.m. I couldn’t even put the kids to bed I was so tired. I went straight from the dinner table, pulled on my pjammers and crawled into bed. Light on, National Geographic on my belly. Asleep. Then I woke up at 11 p.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. After about an hour of lying looking at the ceiling, I put on my headlamp and cracked a book. I read for 45 minutes then turned off my light. I was still awake when I heard Eliza’s footsteps on the stairs a few minutes later.
“Mommy, can I have a vitamin?” she said, as wide awake as I was.
“Sure, babe,” I said of the homeopathic sleep remedy I’ve been trying with her in the middle of the night. (I told you, desperate!)
Usually, this is point where I am so frustrated that I can’t even breathe and I wake Seth up and he walks her back to bed. But last night I took her back to her bed. As I was tucking her in, I looked around at the half-lit room. I thought about how the night can seem so lonely and big when you can’t sleep and, for the first time, I thought about how frustrating it must be for Eliza to not to be able to do what we ask her do.
And in that moment, a tiny amount of compassion replaced my deep frustration and the hard space between me and her started to soften. I crawled into bed next to her.
“Are you going to lay with me?” she said, clearly confused.
“Yeah, baby,” I said. “I can’t sleep either.”
She curled into me then and we drifted off together.