Sleep training has to be my least favorite part of parenting. It literally sucks the life out of me. I love sleep. Probably to a weird, somewhat extreme degree. I believe it to be the ultimate foundation to a good day, because when I'm lacking sleep I'm not functioning at the rate I know I can. The emotional stages of trying to sleep when your kid is going through a sleep regression only add to the hell that is not getting a decent amount of sweet, serene unconsciousness.
When my daughter was a baby and on a regular all-night sleep schedule, I thought I was in heaven. Naively, I assumed I had this whole "baby sleep" thing down, and the worst was behind me. Of course, it wasn't long before it all went out the window. It was like having a newborn all over again, except she was a 2-year-0ld toddler. Reverting back to the basics, we had to essentially re-learn how to adjust in order to accommodate her changing needs (and big girl bed) and incorporate a new routine. Not only had we established a schedule that was now completely useless, but this little toddler was refusing to sleep after being a ball of energy all day, every freakin' day.
A couple years later we had another baby, meaning we went through all of this again. Why do we do this to ourselves, parents? Oh, right. Because we love our babies. However, that unconditional love doesn't negate the emotional stages we go through when dealing with a sleep regression. No need to feel bad about experiencing them, either. I'm convinced this is part of the whole parenting gig, dear reader.
Stage 1: Pretend You Don't Hear A Thing
The moment I lay my littles ones down to sleep, I tiptoe down the stairs and embrace the glorious sound of nothing. If there's a shriek for something, I don't hear it. Once I'm off to bed myself, drifting to the deep slumber I've thought about all day, those early morning muffled sounds are merely in my head. My sleep-eyed babes can't possibly be in need of anything other than sleep right now.
So, I will tell myself I hear nothing, and nothing is all I will accept. Besides, they know how to get out of bed and come get me if it's really important.
Stage 2: Angrily Flop Into Different Positions
If there's any noise streaming from their rooms, I'll flip and flop in search of a better sleep position that (I'm convinced) will magically make that noise disappear. The pillow will render my ears ineffective, and perhaps the covers will be my invisibility cloak.
If the noise persists, surely my partner will tend to the kids. I mean, I'm not the only one who hears them, right? (The answer to this question is usually, "Yes." I am the only one who hears. Always and forever.)
Stage 3: Barter With Whoever Is Listening
OK, let's assume the noise hasn't stopped and my partner is sleeping though everything. I can't deny there's someone in need of something, but I know that "something" won't be important because, well, I know my kids. So, I'll resort to begging, pleading, and praying to whoever is listening (usually no one). "I just want to sleep!" I'll say. Yeah, no on will hear me, much less care. My partner is still snoring.
Stage 4: Consider Co-Sleeping (Again)
Every once in a while, I'd consider co-sleeping, thinking the sleep regressions would come to an end if we were all in the same bed. Yeah, I was so, so wrong. While others can rock co-sleeping like pros, the only thing that ended up happening was instead of one person losing sleep (me) everyone was losing sleep (which is, surprisingly, much worse).
Stage 5: Cry Until (Hopefully) Everyone Falls Back To Sleep
When time has passed, and you're just so tired all you want to do is sleep, you'll resort to some strange behaviors. You might crawl on all fours to your child's room to make sure they're OK without them actually noticing you're now in the room with them. You may go downstairs to start your day at some ungodly hour in the morning, because why the hell not? Or you might have a complete and total breakdown because you've realized you have zero control over how much (or how little) your children will actually sleep.
This is known as the "free-falling" zone, and it's as awful as it sounds. Godspeed, mama.
Stage 6: Cave
Eventually, once you're too drained to try another avoidance technique, you'll probably either fall asleep no matter what's going on around you, or you'll go into your child's room to pass out next to them. Yeah, co-sleeping is what he, or she, wanted and no, it doesn't make you a bad parent if you hadn't planned to do it in the first place. It just makes you tired as hell, in need of whatever will help your kid sleep, too.
When your children go through sleep regressions, it's tough to see past the fatigue and remember that it's only temporary. However, it really and truly won't last forever. The sleep regression will end. Maybe not tonight, maybe not next week, but hopefully by the time they're out of the house. So, at least you have that to look forward to, right?