Like most almost-moms, I had a lot of ideas about what we would and wouldn’t do as parents before our daughter was born. We were going to be schedule people, without a doubt. That baby was going to fit into our busy lives, and she would be better for it because it would teach her to be adaptable.
I’ll stop for a moment so that anyone who is a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or grown-up person who has ever met a baby can have a good laugh.
Fast forward a few months to an actual baby living in our house and things looked a little bit different. It’s not really accurate to say that we’re schedule people. We have (for the most part) fit a baby into our busy lives but that’s because we have a really easy baby who will sleep just about anywhere and doesn’t seem to mind being carted around with us.
The real reason I was so worried about schedules was because, like most new moms, I was really worried about sleep. Or to be more specific, the lack of sleep that we were all getting. I wanted to do whatever it took to make my baby a good sleeper, as much for her sake as for mine. I wanted her to sleep in long stretches so that I could sleep, too, but I also wanted her to be able to self-soothe so that she wouldn’t be upset when she woke up in the middle of the night or end up needing me to rock her to sleep the night before she left for college.
I spent a very agonizing week toward the end of my maternity leave researching sleep tips and tricks. I spent the longest 45 seconds of my life letting her cry it out – I literally only lasted 45 seconds. I created a very complicated bedtime routine and tried to put her to bed at the same time every night. I woke her up before I went to bed for a dream feed.
And guess what? It didn’t work. She seemed to sleep less, not more. I was tired because when she was sleeping, I was Googling. My husband was tired of hearing me talk about it. So we (okay fine, I) decided to let it go. She was a little baby and would sleep when she needed to sleep. If we needed a sleep-intervention later on, so be it, but for now, she was doing just fine.
I laid my head on my pillow after making peace with those demons and woke up eight hours later.
It turns out that our sweet baby girl seems to know what she needs, and that when left to her own devices, she was quite happy to sleep, and to sleep for a long time. She’s slept through the night almost every night since.
What did I learn from this saga? First, that so much of motherhood is out of my control, and that’s okay. My little baby is a little person and while I want to be intentional about her childhood, I don’t need to control her. And more importantly, that how well (or not well) your baby sleeps isn’t a reflection of your parenting. I’m not a good mom because my baby sleeps through the night. I’m just lucky.