I never truly knew how lucky I was with Hector’s love of sleep until about a month ago. I mean I could see that I’d been blessed with a boy that was happy to sleep for five hours straight from the moment he was born (although that in itself had its own problems which I’ll go into another day). In comparison, close friends of mine, with similar aged babies, struggled with attempting to grab more than two hours of shuteye on the trot. But you can never truly know what it feels like to have a baby that doesn’t sleep unless you’ve experienced it for yourself can you.
In fact I think the only times I truly struggled with Hector’s snoozing was during his sleep regressions at 4 and 8/9 months. But even then I think the whole thing lasted a matter of three days and we were back to normal all over again.
In fact my mum mentioned the other day that Hector really hasn’t changed all that much from the moment he was born, adoring his sleep and not really being all that fussed about food. Actually, don’t even get me started on the food battles that we go through daily…there’s nothing so demoralising as slaving away over a hot stove only to have your toddler say ‘ugh…yucky’ as they spit it out. He doesn’t even like pasta?! What is it they say…you can’t have it all? Anyway I digress…
Imagine then my absolute surprise then when last month, Hector’s dependable sleep habits went well and truly out of the window. It started one January night after a fairly normal bedtime when Hector woke up crying at about 11pm. This is fairly unusual behaviour for him and has only happened before when he’s been in pain or he’s coming down with something. After going into his room and settling him, and checking that he wasn’t poorly I thought that was the end of it. Perhaps it was simply a bad dream…
About half an hour later, he started crying again. Strange…perhaps he really wasn’t well after all; I went into his room, soothed him, tried to settle him back to sleep until he seemed calm before walking out again. Little did I know that this cycle would repeat again and again in 15 minute intervals for the next three hours. Each time I went in, settled him back into his cot and puzzled over what could possibly be upsetting him so much. He wasn’t ill, didn’t feel hot and responded in the negative when I asked him if anything was hurting. The whole scenario reached its peak when at about 2am he started screaming for both me and for Ste, kicking his legs wildly and attempting to climb out of his cotbed whilst shrieking ‘OUT, OUT!’ at the top of his voice. He’s never done anything like this before and he sounded absolutely terrified.
As I cuddled him in the dark at two o’clock in the morning, I have to say it was the first time I felt truly at a loss in my role as a mum. I really didn’t know what to do. Writing this now, this sounds a bit daft, after all it was an unsettled night in a sea of many more probably to come, but I genuinely could not fathom what was wrong and therefore how to react to him. Surely by the age of two we were done with sleepless nights weren’t we? We weren’t about to start upon a journey of disrupted sleep patterns were we??
Was he seeking attention? And by consistently going back into his room was I creating a pattern of behaviour/a habit that was going to be difficult to break. Or was he genuinely terrified and just wanted his mum and dad and so all I could do was to show him that we were there and he was safe.
By 3.30am Hector had been awake for four and a half hours, without any signs of wanting to go back to sleep. Both Ste and I were exhausted and Ste was due to get up at 5am and needed some form of shuteye. I ended up going into my mum’s room and asking her for her advice (there’s definitely some advantages of having your house renovated and living with your mum!). She took one look at me and sent me off to bed to try to get an hours sleep at least whilst she took over. Suffice to say I slept until 6.30am when I woke with a start and nipped into my mum’s room to grab the monitor. Hector was finally asleep but only just, having settled at 6.15am. For a kid that loves his sleep that was some going!
I was in two minds as to whether to send him to nursery that morning; he certainly wasn’t ill but he would surely be exhausted. That said, I woke him at 8 and dropped him off albeit a bit later than normal. Terrified I’d have another night like that, Ste and I were on tenterhooks that evening as to how Hector would behave. Fortunately he went to sleep as normal…no doubt exhausted by the activities of the night before.
That’s not exactly the end of the story however, we had about two weeks of crying on waking and on dropping off to sleep which we worked through with him by reassuring him by speaking over the monitor (discovered by sheer fluke) which I think proved to him that we were ‘there’ whilst not being present in the room. And lately it seems to be back to ‘normal’ again, with him happy to lie in his cot chatting to his cuddlies before he goes to sleep and when he wakes up in the morning. I thank my lucky stars that our sleep-loving boy is back.
But that doesn’t stop me wondering why. Why did he wake up that night in such a tizz? Was he scared or testing the boundaries? Did I respond to him in the right way? And it’s something I bring up with my own mum regularly too in my attempts to understand it that little bit more. Her advice as ever is sound, that he’s growing up, that he’s becoming more aware – of himself and of the world – and that this mental development will make itself known…in Hector’s case with his sleep and self-soothing abilities.
If anything it’s taught me more about myself, that sometimes the controlling tendencies in me need to take a hike, that not everything will be/can be explained and that Hector won’t always abide by rules and routines (often imposed by him in the first place!). He is human after all. And of course that this won’t be the last sleepless night I see either especially when/if we have more children. I need to be much more relaxed about the whole thing and be more appreciative of the amount he does sleep because I know that we do have it pretty darn good. I’m keeping all my fingers crossed anyway.
Have any of you had unanticipated sleep issues? Problems where suddenly your previously sleep loving toddler stops liking their bed? Or perhaps something else entirely…Apparently when I was small I didn’t sleep properly until I started nursery aged two and a half. My poor mum!