It was way back in 2003, I think. Or maybe 2004. Whatever the year, I slept for 15 hours straight. There was no big hoo-ha or celebration for this mighty feat. It just happened and then I got on with my life, refreshed to embrace the party life of a 20-something.
But that’s the thing about sleep, it’s a pretty bog standard part of being human. No different to say farting after too many veggies or closing our eyes when we sneeze. It happens without thought, weighted with little meaning.
That is until you don’t get any. Then suddenly sleep is an obsession. It starts to feel like an object of desire that’s just within grabbing distance. When you reach out, it cruelly darts away, mocking you for another day.
It’s been 21-months since I’ve slept longer than a few hours in one stretch. Almost two years since I birthed my beautiful baby, igniting a love so fierce while equally extinguishing any hopes of ever repeating the Great Sleep of 2003. Or was it 2004?
At the start, the exhaustion was torturous. A hell I had never experienced before. A hell brought to me by a golden-haired baby that looked like an angel, no less. How ironic, huh?
With sleeping, just like breathing, you don’t realise how much you need it until it’s restricted. It’s like drowning on dry land. You gasp and thrash for a decent night’s sleep, to feel human again, to feel restored and to clear those increasingly blurry lines between night and day.
Just last week, I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter at 4am while I sat on the toilet. Not because I needed to go to the toilet, but because it’s the nearest seat-like option near my son’s bedroom. I was listening to see if he was going to stop crying and fall back to sleep by himself. Alas, he did not.
And while in the Twittersphere, I spotted a tweet seeped in a desperation I was well-versed in. British reality TV star Chanelle Hayes was writing about her baby son, tweeting at 3am, “How do I get him to sleep?”
The fact that the desperation was from a British reality TV is irrelevant, because I’ve learnt over the last 21 months, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, what you or your babe looks like, the size of your home or the amount in your bank account, some babies just don’t sleep. It's something I wish I had accepted much earlier in my sleepless journey.
If you clicked onto this story, you are likely to be a parent of a non-sleeping baby. Or you might have a friend, colleague or far-away cousin, and are in wonderment if their tunnel-vision moans about never sleeping again are justified. Let me tell you, yes… yes, they are.
When I clicked onto exhausted Chanelle’s tweet, there were 109 comments from mums around the world. Nothing gains more traction on social media than a desperate mum looking to solve the problem of a non-sleeping baby. I speak from experience.
Each offered how with just one tweak, mamma and child would soon be in a deep slumber, almost as if a sleep fairy had come in and waved a magical parenting wand. Abracadabra, warming the room by a degree has fixed your midnight dancer.
There were conversations of adding more blankets, or bulking-up the amount of food in the day, getting them out in the fresh air an hour before bed time and that innately boring advice about the importance of getting them in a routine, which, by the way, every mother knows about.
When Max turned one, I was exhausted. Yes, by the lack of sleep but mainly because of my consuming fixation with fixing him and his sleeping problems. I should have been focusing on how I was raising a happy boy, who giggled to Peppa Pig and constantly asked for more banana.
Over the first year of his life, I spent so much time and actually, so much money, trying to get him to do that magical thing of sleeping through the night. My life was a never-ending rotation of problem solving. Is he too hot, cold, hungry, overtired, under-tired, over-stimulated or finding this blanket desperately scratchy?
As a result, we have co-slept, controlled cried and sometimes given up and eaten toast while watching Moana at 2am. There’s been a sleep doctor, endless sobbing down helplines and just like Chanelle, and many mothers out there, a desperate scream for help on social media.
And I listened with hope to the other mammas who managed to get their child to sleep. Each time, I would whisper, it’s going to work this time. It has to work this time, I can’t keep crying in the toilet in work or walking around Coles in odd shoes.
Most days, I was constantly nagged by the question – what am I doing wrong? On those really bad days, it turned to, why won’t he just bloody sleep like everyone else’s baby? Why is he such a teeny jerk at night?
But then I stopped searching for the answer and accepted the fact that some babies just don’t sleep. I soon also stopped listening to the “should”, “have you tried” and “it worked for me”. And almost instantly, a bit of parenting magic did happen – I felt less helpless, less sleep obsessive and actually, less exhausted.
I suppose it sounds like admitting defeat, right? Or perhaps it sounds like I am advising hollow-eyed mums to quit their search for the magic formula. But that’s not the case, because really, do modern mums need any more advice in their life? I think we be good on that front.
Instead, I do believe that mammas of non-sleeping babies, like myself, have a well-trodden path to tread. It’s almost a cathartic journey of squeezing out every last dribble of resource out of the body and the mind while searching for the answer.
You might be on it right now, overflowing with frustration and at times, plain fury. It’s all consuming, it’s unapologetically gripping and sometimes when a parent talks about how their child started immediately sleeping through the night the moment they popped out of their vagina, it’s blood-curdling infuriating.
But maybe that’s all part of the journey. And for some, there might be a magical cure along the way, but it’s also okay to have this thought tucked away at the back of your mind – some babies just don’t sleep and actually that’s okay because one day, they won’t be a baby anymore.
Does your baby sleep through the night? What's your advice for a peaceful night? Tell us in the comments section below.