My 5-year-old daughter has slept through the night in her own bed exactly twice in her life. Yes, you read that right. After five years of nighttime woes and countless lost hours of sleep, I think I can safely say:
Hi, my name is Lindsay, and my daughter is a bad sleeper.
There is an inexplicable cloak of shame surrounding that statement. As if it's me who has done something wrong, as if I am somehow to blame for the fact that my child just doesn't seem to want or need sleep the way other children do.
I've done plenty of the self-blame, kicking myself for not sleep training, even though at the time when "everyone else" was doing it, I knew in my heart I couldn't and didn't want to.
My mom swears I was an amazing sleeper as a baby and child, and that I was sleeping through the night from a very young age. During my pregnancy, I felt certain the Parenting Karma Fairy would pay me a visit and ensure my little one slept well, too.
But then I was plagued with insomnia through the last half of my pregnancy (at least), and I began to feel certain I was being somehow prepared for a bad sleeper. I wasn't wrong.
When other parents start talking or bragging about their children's sleep, I either tune out or say nothing at all, aching somewhere deep inside with a sadness reserved only for these occasions.
I've been doing it from the very beginning. I've always feared judgment, somehow, as if it's my fault my kid came out squalling, pink, adorable, and...hating sleep.
It's not easy having a child who doesn't sleep well. I'm perpetually exhausted and, in fact, am used to living in that state now. Even still, the human mind is quite an amazing thing, and I am constantly teetering on the edge of hope that she'll eventually be a good sleeper.
Here's a tiny glimpse into what it's like:
- When your child is a newborn and stays wide awake in her sling/baby carrier/stroller/swing while your best friend's child naps for five hours in a row, you tell yourself your friend's baby is an anomaly, and, It's no big deal, she's a newborn and none of them are good sleepers….
- When everyone else's children are going through the four month sleep regression and you're all, "Sleep regression? Welcome to my life." 🤷
- When your child starts taking 15-minute naps (as opposed to her usual 40-minute naps) and you start lovingly referring to them as "ant naps" (as opposed to the cat nap) because if you can't laugh about it, you'll cry. A lot. And laughing is more enjoyable.
- When your child just turned one, and you remain convinced that now that her infancy is over, she will start sleeping. Because that's what children do at this age...right?! And when you're wrong, you silently doubt yourself and wonder if you should have done some sort of sleep training even if you didn't feel like it was right for you.
- When your child wakes up at 5:30 am and you celebrate this treasured "sleep in."
- When your child is 2 years old and still won't take a full nap on her own (except at daycare!) and the longest stretch she gives you at night is three hours (four on a good night), and you beg the Universe to please, please, please send that Parenting Karma Fairy any night now.
- At each stage, you comfort yourself by saying, "She'll sleep better when she's XX months old." When it doesn't happen, you say, "Next month...we've got this."
- When you accept your reality: you have a child who doesn't love sleep, and she may always be like this. But you hear kids like this start sleeping through the night at 4 years old, so you think to yourself, Two more years. I've already done two. I can do this...Two. More. Years and sleep will come!
- When your child is 5 years old and you really truly begin to embrace that your child just doesn't sleep, and no longer feel guilty letting her watch the iPad so you can grab a few more minutes of sleep every morning.
What I've learned is, some children just don't sleep well. It's not my fault. It's not even my daughter's fault. It just is.
I've even googled "Aquarius child bad sleeper." And guess what?! Apparently, Aquarians can have sleep issues. I'm sure other Zodiac signs can too, but you can't imagine the relief I felt when my Google search turned up results from other parents who struggle, bleary-eyed and desperate for rest.
There's still a large part of me that worries about being judged for this. But I decided to go public with it anyway. Because I can't be the only mom out there with a bad sleeper, who desperately clings on to the hope that someday, we too shall get a full night's sleep. Someday. I hope. 🤞
Hi, my name is Lindsay, and I'm really tired, but also really hopeful.