Sleeping has always been a major part of my life. While other kids were getting up early at the weekend to watch Going Live, I was wrapped in my quilt blissed out. From a young age I wouldn’t surface till the afternoon. Friends would call and my Mam would say “Aisling’s in bed” they’d reply confused “but it’s 4pm?”. My Mam would say “she needs her sleep”. I’m not sure why as I stopped growing at 5’4″.
You see my Mam is a sleep enabler and the inventor of lie-ins. When my sister or I would wake and climb into her bed as tots, she’d wrap herself around us like a python and we’d pass out/ fall asleep. She still has this talent with her grandkids and I wish I’d inherited it.
When I met my husband, I truly met my soul mate as he loves to sleep too.
We would work the Summer tourism season in Kusadasi and then hibernate through the Winter, and in the few hours we were awake, we literally roasted chestnuts on an open fire and sipped wine… wrapped in blankets watching TV.
Enter baby number 1 in 2008. It was an exhausting and lengthy labour and I felt I’d done my part and should be left to sleep but no.. the nurses insisted on me taking care of this squealing, ungrateful gremlin. I begged them to take him for a few hours during the night so I could rest but because of the breast-feeding I was woken continuously. After a few hellish days, I was on the point of hallucinating… yeah sleep when baby sleeps.. what if baby doesn’t sleep and if he does it’s for 10 minute power naps?
We were living with my Mam and Dad at this point trying to save for a house. I had a fancy moses basket set up beside the bed for my little bundle of joy. He possibly spent ten minutes in total in the bloody thing. I began to wonder if it was called a moses basket cos it made you want to float your baby down the river to better parents! The only time Conall stopped squealing was when I cuddled him. So I became an attachment parent without knowing that that was a thing. I carried him everywhere, I quickly showered as he watched angrily from his baby seat. Every night I would feed him and lower him with trepidation into his cot (we packed away the moses basket, blaming it for his unwillingness to sleep) where on impact he would howl. So, I would snuggle him and fall into an uneasy sleep while he snacked on my boobs like I was an open buffet.
When he was 6 months old there was an intervention. My parents and husband cornered me and talked me into letting him “cry it out”. I sat on the stairs leaking tears (and milk) and felt as if my heart would break as he cried for me. The traitors brought me wine and hugs but all I wanted to do was scoop up my baby and cuddle him. I half-arsedly let him cry it out for the next few months but would sneak kisses and pick him up, undoing any good work.
By this time we had moved to an apartment and I had become accustomed to a child who couldn’t get himself to sleep. I would lie beside him and sing songs and then mentally count (sometimes to 1000) until his breathing got heavy. I would put an excited toe on the floor, visions of food and tv floating only to hear “mam” Fuck! “baa baa fucking black sheep” 1000, 999, 998, 997….
It was only when we moved to our house and baby number 2 was on the way that Conall began a normal sleeping pattern. I don’t know if it was his autism/adhd or my shitty, nervous parenting that caused all those years of difficulty, maybe a combination.
I wasn’t making that mistake with number 2! His first night home, I fed him and put him in his cot in his own room; Sweet Jesus, he slept! A dream little baby who loved his own bed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had a baby that slept the night but he was quick to settle after a feed.
Number 3 and I’d forgotten the mistakes of number 1 and was back to co-sleeping, singing and counting. It was only when I went in for my fanny operation in February that my lovely child minder got him into a routine and his own bed at 2 years of age.
So now, 7 years later, I have a bed to myself. I am still sleep deprived but have learnt to live with it. If I get 4 hours straight, that is an amazing night. They tag-team me with nightmares; trips to the toilet; is it morning time?; questions about how milk gets inside cows. They’ve all gone through a fabulous phase at 2 where they wake at 5am and there is nothing you can do but get up with them or risk a Veruca Salt scream that would wake the dead. I really hate the sound of the birds singing, almost as much as the ice-cream man.
The only times my husband and I fight is over sleep. We accuse each other of terrible things like feigning sleep when one of them is shouting at night (he does) or having an hours more sleep than the other person. Sleep is a currency and the best bargaining tool to have; If you get up early with them I will do absolutely anything… even remove a digit or shave my head… please…please.
I am not a morning person, I am feral and prone to shouting. If I’m really tired, I will cry… silent tears (full of pride… in a world made of steel, made of stone). I am a disorganised mess as described in morning mayhem. I read articles about women who seem to have the art of motherhood under control and they recommend getting up a half hour before the kids to dress yourself and organise lunches etc, are you kidding me? I can’t even remember what it’s like to set an alarm clock, do such things still exist?