For some unknown reason Elbie has suddenly become the world’s most clingy toddler. She hangs on to my leg crying to be picked up, screams if I leave the room and won’t go to anyone else if I am there. She was never like this before and it’s exhausting. Of course she had her moments but it was usually when she was either tired or hungry and she would be happy if it was either Eddie or I who cuddled her. Both of us had a calming effect and it was great that we could share those moments because let’s be honest, it feels amazing being able to soothe your child when they are upset. Equally it is lovely knowing that others can help out and that Elbie feels like she can go to any family member or friend for comfort too.
Elbie is usually a happy go lucky little girl with no fear but this last week she has been losing her shit if I go out of sight for more than two seconds and no one else will do. I have absolutely no idea why things have changed so dramatically. I don’t know if it is something I have done or not done and we are always so conscious of making her comfortable with other people. Maybe it is me? I do like to cuddle and kiss her A LOT! I miss her when she goes to sleep or even if I haven’t seen her for an hour. Maybe I smother her too much? Or maybe not enough?! Who knows? I suppose it’s just one of those things though, just like everything else when it comes to babies. I hope it is just a phase, like all the other issues that have arisen during parenthood that we have encountered so far. Not only is it exhausting being the only one in demand all of the time, it is horrible for everyone else, especially Eddie. I would be heartbroken if Elbie started refusing to go to me anymore and only wanted Eddie but what I have been reading this is very likely to happen at some point in the future so I need to be prepared. We also need to make sure we don’t take it personally as she loves us both equally despite what her actions are telling us. We have a very strong minded little girl and according to most baby sites this could just be a period of her trying to show us her independence, proving to us that she can make decisions which I suppose is a good thing in the long run but my goodness I hope it’s short lived. I’m sure there is a small element of the fact that she does spend most of her time with me but now that Eddie is on school holidays she will be spending a lot more time with him, if not more as I will be picking up extra work so we can only wait to see the effects of that.
I’m finding it very difficult to not pick her up when she is hysterical at my feet or getting herself in a state of emotional meltdown when someone else is trying to calm her and she is just reaching out for me. What do you do in that situation?! Do you let them cry until they can’t catch their breath anymore to show them they can’t always be picked up? Do you let them kick and scream in someone elses arms which makes everyone feel shit to show them that other people can help too? Or do you always go for the pick up and stop crying?! What is the right thing to do? I really don’t know what the answer is. For now we will just try and ride it out and hope that it is short lived.
Last night we did something that I said I never wanted to do. It is a discussion Eddie and I have had many times but I am trying to maintain my ground on. We took Elbie into our bed when she woke at 2am and co-slept for the rest of the night. It’s not that I am against it or frown upon it as it is something that works for many families but it is just not right for me.
I was brought up in a family where my parents room was theirs and theirs only at night. It wasn’t some scary mysterious place that we were never allowed to enter. I spent lots of time as a child in there playing around with my mum’s make up and trying on her shoes or sat on their bed reading my books. I would sometimes prance around in front of their full length mirror when no one was looking pretending to be Madonna singing into my mum’s hairbrush. At night though it was different. If I had a nightmare or felt ill in the night I knew getting into my parents bed wasn’t an option but sneaking in to wake them up for some comfort definitely was. My mum would then get up with me and take me back to bed and if I really was feeling unwell or scared she would sit with me until I drifted back off, comfortable and snug in my own bed. Not getting into my parents bed was never an issue as it was never introduced to me, I didn’t feel like I was missing it or ever want to get in. I loved my bedroom and my bed and who doesn’t prefer to sleep in their own bed? I believe that it is important to show children that their own bed is a safe and comfortable place even when they are having a scary dream and it also shows them some independence. I don’t want Elbie to be reliant on us to sleep or get into a habit of having broken sleep.
Now that I’m a parent myself I can understand wanting to keep some space sacred too. A small place that we keep as a couple and child free. We live in a small flat so there isn’t much room that is not shared but our bed for me, is for Eddie and I. I want to be able to roll over as much as I want and stretch out if I need to. I want to have the option of pulling the duvet up to my ears if I’m cold and most of all, some privacy for Eddie and I as husband and wife.
When pregnant I dreamt about the days our small little child would burst through the doors and jump on our bed waking us up at the crack of dawn. Lazy Sunday mornings with the three of us tucked up in bed chatting and being silly. This is not a dream now but our reality and these mornings are something that I cherish. Some of my favourite times that I want time to freeze so that I can capture the moment and make sure I never forget. This is all wonderful but only past 5.30am. That is my cut off. I know it probably sounds mean but before 5.30am it’s still sleeping time and sleeping time is for sleeping in our own beds. This is where Eddie and I disagree. Eddie is a firm believer in letting Elbie get into bed with us if she wakes in the night. He says that if she is frightened or simply can’t sleep then we should move over and make some room for her to hop in. We agree with most of our parenting but this is something we are struggling to agree on.
Last night happened by having no other option as Elbie was sharing a room with her big cousin and we didn’t want her to be woken as well. This is the first time she has woken in the night in months so it took us by surprise and we panicked a little about how to settle her again without the whole house waking so we chose the easy option. Elbie fell asleep curled up like a little warm football between us. And just like a football she rolled around all night long and kept me awake. I agree with Eddie in that having her so close and feeling her warmth while you sleep, or at least try to sleep, is amazing. Listening to her little breaths while she dreams is one of the best things ever but not while I am trying to get some shut eye. It of course has brought up the whole debate between us again and I’m sure it won’t be the last time it comes up either but fortunately for me, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Eddie doesn’t often wake up to Elbie in the night if I’m there. This is where I’m hoping I can win this battle but only time will tell if this was a one off or if I will be sleeping on the edge of the bed.
I’m not entirely sure where the saying “sleeping like a baby” comes from but if what they are actually referring to is someone who screams everytime they go to bed, wakes up almost every hour and actually has no idea how to sleep at all then OK I agree with it but it doesn’t mean that does it. So in fact it is total rubbish and extremely misleading. Babies don’t sleep, well mine doesn’t anyway. Elbie used to be a great sleeper and treated us to whole nights of sleep at one point. We could put her down in her moses basket, she would have a little look around if she wasn’t already asleep then close her eyes and off she went for at least 8 hours. This was for a very short period of 5-6 weeks but we thought we had nailed it. We tried not to be but deep down we felt pretty smug. We thought we had produced a sleeping angel but that halo didn’t just slip a little, it came tumbling down and crashed right into a sleepless hell.
Although smug and secretly hoping that Elbie was now going to sleep through the night until she moved out of home and went off to university, I knew down in my boots it wouldn’t last. What I didn’t think was that she would revert back to sleeping the way she did just days after she was born. I don’t want Elbie to sleep just for selfish reasons either. Well at the moment it’s mainly for our benefit but in the not too distant future Elbie will need to concentrate during the day on school. I don’t want a kid who is up all night and unable to sleep and settle themselves. I want her to be able to get the most out of her days without being tired.
Those first nights of Elbie’s life are all a bit of a blur of sleeplessness but I do remember people saying “it gets better”. They lied to me along with that stupid saying. Things have most definitely got worse. At least when Elbie was a new born she had no idea if it was day or night so it didn’t matter if I sat up at 3am watching Mad Men to keep me awake and entertained. Now though I have to promote sleep at night so when she wakes it is nothing but tears and feeding in the darkness, that goes for myself and Elbie. Struggling with all my might to keep my eyes open and my frustration at bay. For the last few weeks Elbie has pretty much been waking every hour and now her new thing is to wake in the middle of the night wanting to play. I think she feels like she needs to practice her new skills and party which I totally understand but mummy really doesn’t want to join in on this party.
It’s so difficult to know what to do for the best. I have read many books, blogs and forums and each and everyone says something different. Advice from health visitors is different and of course offerings from friends differs too! We have tried one strategy one night which seems to work then fails catastrophically the next night so how do we know what to stick to?!
After many many conversations about our little party monster’s habits the one thing that crops up time and time again is the “crying out method”. Although controversial it seems to be the only thing that has had a blanket effect (no pun intended) on sleeping issues with most of my friends and friends of friends. Eddie has been keen to try this method out as we are close to the end of our tether but all that we have read says not to attempt until 6 months. I would definitely prefer another way of gaining some much needed shut eye back but we seem to be running out of options. I have definitely found the sleeping issues of parenting the hardest so far and I’m sure we still have a very bumpy ride ahead of us. For now though I’m just going to have to embrace and treasure that Elbie still needs us to fall asleep. One more month of hourly awakenings for cuddles with mummy and daddy isn’t the end of the world. A lot is going to change at 6 months so I need to cherish her being so small and needy as I’m sure once she figures out how to settle herself I will somehow miss our night time snuggles, even if it doesn’t feel that way now.