To the mother in the throes of a wide-eyed restless newborn.
To the father who sleep-walks through the day reminding himself to breathe, to answer questions, to function.
To the parents of an eight-week-old waking every hour demanding another bottle, his dummy back in, his mother’s embrace.
To the couple furious with themselves for ruining what they had for this a screaming, red-faced, back-arched angry six-month-old. This wasn’t what they bargained on... I want you to know this.
I want you to hear this. I want you to believe this.
It might not get better, the crying might not stop for days, weeks, months on end. Your baby might not sleep more than a few hours ever, no matter what you try. Your toddler, turned into a preschooler, turned into a little person might continue to wake, one, twice, four times a night and call for you. You might not actually get a full night sleep for an inconceivable amount of time but you will get through this.
You will cope, you will survive, you will work out how to deal with it.
And you will be okay.
I’ve been there. I’ve been you. I have three, each of who hasn’t slept. Each of who has woken hourly screaming. Each of who has demanded me. ME. Needed me. Wanted me even at the times I couldn’t bear it. Always needy, always something.
At times I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. At times I wondered if I would not just get through the night but the minute.
But you do.
And you are okay.
I remember the confusion, the mind fog, that bleary moment when you wake feeling like it was only minutes since you last stumbled to your baby. If you were lucky if was from your own bed, but most of the time you only made it to the couch for a few snatched moments of bliss. I remember the to-the-bone-ache of exhaustion. I remember trying everything, reading every book, goggling every solution.
Night stays, in-home nurses, diet changes, doctors, medicines. Tears.
But I remember it with a disconnect. I remember it like it happened to someone else. I remember it with an almost-fondness now.
Watch this paediatrician settle this newborn with an almost magic technique. Post continues after video...
My three are older, two at school, and one at pre-school. The oldest - my eight-year-old - was once your newborn - awake, restless, deposing those theories of sleep cycles and re-settling, defining the regimes of daytime naps and never quite conforming to any standards of baby sleep. He was always awake as a newborn, a one-year-old, always waking at the age of three and four, and still (I say hesitantly, so not as to scare you too much) at the age of eight, he doesn’t sleep through the night.
Is your baby the same? Do you feel like you have tried everything? Here is my advice: keep trying, believe in yourself if you can’t cope with letting him cry don’t, but if you just need a god-damned break take it, he'll be okay to fuss for a while.
You know the thing is, I am okay. I coped. I survived. I learned that swearing like a truckie silently under my breath in the darkest hours of the morning helped just as much as swaying him back to sleep and that letting him sleep on top of you as a last resort was okay. So damn the experts.
I snatched my sleep when I could. I learned to ask for help and to know when to just cave in and let those tiny bodies steal their way into my bed. I learned that sometimes books and methods and theories and techniques simply don’t fit. That what works one night may not work another.
But what I also learned was that it was okay to be furious at it all, to hate the moment without hating the reason behind the moment.
Those late nights of walking the streets with a screaming newborn who will only settle in a pram, those mornings when you wake up with two kids spread-eagled across your pillow and a backache from being squished in the corner. One day you will remember them perhaps not with fondness, but with a diminished sense of despair.
But what I also learned that sometimes the greatest of clichés have the greatest of resonance. That when you are going through hell keep going cause the other side really is just within your reach.
You will be okay.
How did you cope when your baby wouldn't sleep?