If only the pictures captured how I felt: Content and well-rested. I’m anything but that after last night.
After Dave and I returned home from a short weekend getaway, I discovered that Rachel Marie no longer wanted to sleep alone. Her nana had informed us that she didn’t want to go to sleep before her big sister. You can’t blame the child. She’s approaching the 2-year mark (she’s almost 20 months now), and she’s starting to realize that all that time she spends snoozing could be devoted to far more interesting things. Nor can I fault the grandparents for catering to her every bedtime whim (that’s what grandparents do, right?) and allowing her to sleep with her sister as well as them for two nights.
But why, oh, why is this happening to me?
I knew that sooner or later the girls would be sharing a room and that we’d have to transition Rachel Marie to her big sister’s bed. Given the new sleeping arrangements introduced the weekend as well as Rae’s plaintive (and unheard of until now) cries on Sunday evening, we decided to give it a go.
First night: After story time, the girls fell asleep without me having to be in the room. I was in shock. Maybe we should have tried this a lot sooner since getting Madeline to sleep usually involves more steps than I imagine it would take to launch a nuclear attack (yes, we’ve had her tonsils checked for signs of sleep apnea).
Now Madeline still found us at 2 a.m. and was upset because she couldn’t find Honey, a gargantuan dog stuffed animal you cannot possibly lose. But she went back to sleep without too much trouble, and I was actually able to get up and have some alone, quiet time in the morning – something that’s normally impossible since Madeline ends up in our bed and has a highly sensitive “Momdar” and senses the moment I’ve left the room. She then uses her primal tracking instincts to find me. There’s no hiding. (I admit I’m not a big fan of the advice for moms getting up early to start their day in solitude. It doesn’t work if you have a child like mine.)
By 7 AM, both girls were up. Not bad. Madeline informs me that she loves sleeping with her sister. It’s one of the first nights I can remember that she hasn’t ended up wedged between Dave and me in her bed. It looks like Rae is her new human lovey. Things are looking very promising.
Second night: Lots of tears from Rachel Marie. Having Madeline beside her wasn’t enough; she wanted Mommy’s presence. This is something Madeline has always demanded (though I’ve worked long and hard to wean her of this in recent months, but she always suffers a relapse after a sleepover with the grandparents), but Rae has rarely needed anything other than her elephant lovey to drift off to Slumberland. Dave will soon be leaving us for mandatory training for an entire month, so I found myself panicking. I know I’m going to need my evenings to decompress. There’s a limit to my mom martyrdom.
Dave tells me to go ahead and go grocery shopping, and he’ll take care of the sleep issues. When I return, the girls are sleeping…together. He moved Rachel Marie to her room when she wouldn’t settle down, but she became hysterical, snot flying everywhere, uncontrollable crying. Madeline was upset, too, sobbing from her bed saying Raja (one of her favorite stuffed animals) and her pet fishies weren’t enough and that she needed Rae. Great. Now we have two sleep-defiant children. My optimism is waning, but Dave told me that once he returned Rae to Madeline’s room, they both quickly succumbed to sleep.
Things are looking up again. They didn’t wake up at all during the night. At 7:30 AM (yahoo!) they both padded into our room. “I tried to play with Baby Rae in my room and let you sleep in, but she wanted to get up,” Madeline said. Hmmmm…perhaps this new sleeping arrangement isn’t such a bad idea.
Third Night (referring to last night): My conclusion based on the fact that I’ve been up since 3 AM (it’s 6:23 AM right now): This is definitely a bad idea.
At bedtime, Rachel Marie once again became distraught when it came time for me to leave. Mind you, I’d spent 30 minutes reading to the girls and 30 minutes more cuddling with them. It was way past her bedtime when I retreated. She came running down the hall (a trick her sister must have told her about) a few minutes later. “It’s night-night,” I told her and returned her to bed.
“No, no,” was her reply. I left.
We hear both girls chatting in bed. It’s now over an hour past normal bedtime. Madeline can survive on little sleep; Rae cannot. Dave moves Rae to her room. She lets out one or two cries and then falls asleep quickly.
“This isn’t working,” I tell him.
I settle down to sleep at around 11:30 PM. At 3 AM I hear Rachel Marie crying. She is inconsolable. She wants her sister, but I can’t have this. I can’t orchestrate a game of musical beds every night. She’s never been one to fight sleep like this unless she’s in a strange place. I’m crying now, too. I lose my patience and beg her to go to sleep. I curse myself for going on that stupid weekend getaway, that it’s not worth this, that I can’t handle being 30 weeks pregnant and not getting any sleep. After an hour of coaxing, begging, and some, I regret, short-fused outbursts on my part, I finally get Rachel Marie to sleep.
I haven’t gone back to bed since. I tried, but I’m too tightly wound. I’m trying to not get ahead of myself, but I can’t bear the thought of having two kids who refuse to sleep and a new baby. I know I should be thankful that I have healthy, beautiful children (and I am). I know I should be praying instead of venting and whining (and I’m trying). But I’m exhausted. I’m shifting into survival mode now, already wondering how I’ll get through the day without completely losing control. God, help me.
I don’t want – years from now – to suffer pangs of regret for what I did or didn’t do. And I know that moving Rae to her sister’s room might not be a smooth transition and may take some patience on my part. But the truth is, my patience stores are running low right now. I’m only human. Sleep is a basic need, and this need is not being met. I know I’ll get through this. That this bedtime story gone bad is like ones in the past and will soon be forgotten or laughed about or even cherished. It will have a happy ending. But right now I’m feeling, well, exhausted and overwhelmed.
And so, my friends, in this honest, raw, mothering moment, I humbly ask for your prayers.