Google “sleep-deprived new parents”. The results that come in are in excess of 11 million hits. Google “books on sleep training babies”. We’re talking upwards of 37 million hits, and counting.
There are so many contradictory books and articles and experts and websites on the subject, ad infinitum. Last week, on these very same pages, I bemoaned the horrors of sleep deprivation and thought I’d be done with it. It’s a week later and the topic is still in the forefront of all my conversations – probably because I still haven’t managed to get any sleep.
Parents, it seems, are united in the pleasure they garner out of discussing just how miserable sleep deprivation can make you. From Newfoundland to Tokyo and from Texas to Moscow, I’ve been given a lot of generous advice from friends near and far on how to get Baby A to succumb to sleep. Mr T is suffering alongside me, of course; although it is I who must heed Her Dictatorship’s call according to Royal decree, Mr T is always at the ready to offer moral support and to make sure I don’t stub my toe in the dark as I stumble towards Her Highness.
I’ve even received emails from certified sleep consultants, mothers themselves, renowned for their work and their ability to help exhausted parents. Childcare expert and author Rachel Waddilove (www.rachelsbabies.com) emailed to say she’d be happy to help me get that rascal Baby A of mine to settle down for the night; I’d lamented missing out on her workshops when she had been in the UAE. And sleep consultant Visa Shanmugam (of Sound Sleepers, www.sound-sleepers.com) wrote to say she believes “in teaching children independent sleep habits – where they don’t rely on anybody or anything” to sleep; she could coach me on how to help Baby A sleep well.
Herein lies the problem: I don’t want to be coached. It has taken all this back and forth for me to realise that, despite my complaints, despite my moans and groans, despite the bags under my eyes and the muddled thoughts heavy in my brain and the knowledge that insufficient sleep is a certified health hazard, I’m just not ready.
I’m not yet ready for my baby to fall asleep on her own. I can’t imagine that she would no longer “rely” on me to provide the safe haven I’m meant for. The few, rare nights that she’s slept for hours in a row and not wakened me from fitful slumber have had me worried and on edge; I missed her. I missed our private bonding in the enveloping darkness of a quiet night. I missed feeling the weight of her in my arms. At night, we don’t have to rush. I don’t have to be anywhere.
The truth is, last week on these very same pages, I wasn’t 100 per cent honest. I conveyed how desperate I am for a full night’s sleep, yes, and how bewildering Baby A’s staccato-like sleeping habits are: she can drift back and forth between deep sleep (in our arms) and unsettling wakefulness (in that second it takes us to place her in her crib) at an alarmingly fast rate. It’s a little freaky.
But I didn’t confess my secret: rocking her at night is the highlight of my day. I’m not ready to give up those precious, night-time moments with her. No matter what I tell myself, the guilt of working full time is one I have not yet learnt to shake, and both Baby A and I compensate for being apart by making the most of the night.
She clings in the dark and I allow her to do so, comforted by the assurance that she really does need me, even if she can do without me during the day.
Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts&Life editor
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