Because we both have full-time careers and a painfully long commute each day, the responsibility of this nighttime circus is a chore that we endure together. Gone are the times where the mommy took the night shift while daddy gets his sleep for work the next day. As Adam is a heavier sleep than me, his nighttime shift usually starts with an elbow from me in bed to get up and go fix the situation. He does so almost instantaneously, springing from bed sometimes not even sure which child is awake and what they need. He waits for instructions from me and returns to bed after tending to the crying knowing that the next shift is mine.
These sometimes miserable nights started years ago when Jonah was a newborn. We made so many mistakes with him that resulted in bad sleep habits. When Jonah was a baby, I refused to let him cry until he fell asleep. The thought of it broke my heart. I was sure that he was thinking, “Where’s my mommy? Why won’t she come get me when I need her so badly?”
Looking back, I did more harm than good by not teaching him to soothe himself to sleep. In fact, it seems a little cruel that I didn’t teach him that skill. He certainly would have gotten more sleep if he wasn’t always waiting for me to scoop him up out of his crib and nurse or rock him back to sleep.
People told me that I should let him fuss it out. I did not want to hear it. Jonah’s colic meant that I heard him cry all day long. I couldn’t tolerate one more minute of crying if there was something I could do about it. Jonah screamed and cried from about ten o’clock in the morning well into the evening until he was almost five months old. Nighttime was the only time of the day where holding him actually soothed him.
At nine months old, Jude was still up at night at least once but often twice. We were committed to a little bit of tough love with him as to not make the same mistakes we did with Jonah. Our plan was derailed, though, when Jude was diagnosed with laryngomalacia. Nighttime cries quickly turn into choking and coughing until we become too worried to let it go on any longer. We’re not cut out for tough love. Now at 11 months old, Jude is STILL struggling to stay asleep through the night. We're working on it but progress is slow.
These restless nights have led to a funny set of unspoken rules that attempt to compensate for our lack of sleep. Weekends have become a tradeoff. Adam wakes up early with the kids one weekend morning, and I take the other with the understanding that a nap at anytime of the day is perfectly acceptable for the person that woke up early sometime later in the day. Deciding who will wake up with the kids is a complicated web of circumstances involving travel schedules, the frequency we were up during the night, if one of us had a night out with friends the previous evening and the amount of housework that needs to be tackled before weekend plans can commence.
Adjusting to less sleep is a process that evolves over your first year as a parent. The first few months are awful, especially when you’re nursing, but babies wake less and less as the months go by and you learn to function on much less than the ten to twelve hours of sleep you indulged in before having children. A good night for us might bring eight hours of sleep with only one interruption while a bad night could mean only four or five hours of sleep with hourly wakings for bottles, bad dreams and freeing a chubby baby leg from a crib slat. Nevertheless, we wake the next morning to the sound of our alarms to do it all over again, hoping that the next night will bring a night of uninterrupted sleep.