Parenthood and expectations of sleep

Every parent wants to sleep more, there is no doubt that parenthood involves less sleep that being a freestyling pre-parent person. But for most, there is a linear progression from newborn sleep, to baby sleep to toddler sleep. Lots of parents have second children and got through it again, and possibly more times if they dare to have more than two children.

However, some of us end up going in the opposite direction, starting off with newborn sleep, and it somehow getting worse. How can my 16 month old sleep worse than a newborn? I know, it’s fairly ridiculous. One of the key symptoms of GORD, or gasto-ospheogeal reflux disease, is catnapping and disturbed nighttime sleep or extreme night waking.

What I have found through one whole year of waking on average 1-2 hourly is that the only way to make it easier is to surrender. I have and it is well acknowledged by doctors too, a high needs baby. Some babies are easy to manage and others are harder. Of course parents also affect the outcome by their own management style but in our case, with the ongoing medical issues, and Ripley’s persistent personality and extremely strong attachment to us, he is not a “good sleeper”.

The word ‘good’ to describe a child or their behaviour is plain wrong. A child is neither good or bad, a child just is. Of all my reading on parenting, what has really resonated with me is that children come into this world with their own personality and as a parent, it is my job to nurture the child, not to mould them. I don’t believe in the forceful learning of manners and alphabets.

What I do believe in is simple. Becoming a parent was a choice I made, it is a privilege especially in a wealthy country such as Australia where we have so much choice, opportunity and freedom. I believe my child should grow up to be empathetic to others, should pursue a life of their own choosing, should not necessarily follow in my footsteps but I do hope they strive for simplicity, to be kind to others, to eschew society’s expectations. While I’m still a work in progress, and will be until the day I die, my child is not an extension of me, he is himself.

By choosing to see my child in that light, I am freer to just let the lack of sleep be. While it’s difficult as sometimes I’m so tired I can’t think straight, I know that I’m choosing the right path for us. Sometimes when I see or hear friends or strangers talking about controlled crying, or complaining about their child not sleeping, and having to force them or train them, it is hard not to comment. But what I’ve learnt is that everyone’s journey in parenting is different. Not everyone chooses to take the other path, preferring the well-trodden path lit up by friends, grandparents and popular baby books.

While we try to make everything in this world fit around us, mother nature will always try to take back control, ultimately in charge of the cycle of life and thus the cycle of baby sleep.

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