But then, Ben was born.
I love to sleep. Even before I had a baby, going to bed past 10 o'clock was rare. I've always enjoyed waking up early to exercise, catching a cat-nap after work and heading to bed early to do it the next day. I never realized how tired I would be once my perfect little schedule was interrupted for what felt like forever.
In the hospital right after Ben was born, I remember nursing and finding him wanting more to eat sooner than the 2 hour mark I was told by one book I should wait to arrive. I couldn't stand to hear him cry and therefore, the mommy buffet opened and my relationship with "on-demand" feeding began.
According to some experts we did everything wrong. I fed Ben whenever he looked hungry (and if you all remember how big he was, he looked hungry all the time.) I let him cluster feed in the evenings after I returned from work and (take a deep breath) I nursed him to sleep.
When Ben wasn't sleeping "through the night" by six months, Andrew and I were both frustrated and those around us were happy to give us advice. "Let him cry it out," "Give him a pacifier," "Does he have a comfort object," "What is his schedule like?" "Put him to bed earlier." "Co-sleep?"
We tried everything.
Crying it out--never worked--especially not in the middle of the night. There were nights he would wake up, fuss and go back to sleep but there were nights he would wake up and wail away like someone was pulling out his toe-nails one by one. It became easier for us to go in, attend to his needs and put him back to sleep than to listen to him cry for hours.
Pacifier?-- Ben spit pacifiers across the room from the time he was tiny. I think I purchased every single one Target had to offer without any luck.
Comfort Object? --At about 14 months he became attached to a giant penguin. Not the soft blanket scented like his dear mother or the plush dog toy.
Early bedtime= a party at about 3 a.m. because he was awake and ready to go.
Schedule? Yeah right. On days where he didn't have a schedule he slept better than those where I worked hard to get him down for naps at 10 and 2. I did eventually figure out that if he took two naps I had to wake him after an hour. If I let him sleep longer than 2 hours during the day, 3. a.m. party.
Co-sleeping? Ben's version of an all night party with his mama and dada.
For Ben, and dare I say for most babies, reaching the goal of sleeping through the night happens when a child is ready. For some lucky parents, like a dear friend of mine from Morgantown, it happens when the babies are 6-8 weeks old. For others it takes a lot longer. I do think you can help them get there but for some babies, like Ben, it is a milestone they must reach when they are ready. What I do know is that even though I was sleep deprived for a while I don't regret a single second of snuggling my little guy. There were some nights I felt crazy (for most of those 3 a.m. parties) but now that he is giving up nursing and another baby is on the way, I cherish the moments he still wants mommy cuddles.
If baby #2 is struggling to sleep through the night like Ben did I might enlist Andrew's help a little earlier but perhaps we'll be "lucky" parents and he or she will sleep earlier. If not, I'll just look back and remember that it will pass, the child will sleep and we will all come out alive.