I read a lot about co-sleeping when my kids were younger. For those unfamiliar with the concept it is about sharing your sleep space with your baby or child; either in bed in your arms, on the bed, or in other co-sleeping devices such as a nest, pod, or crib with 3 sides that attaches to the side of your bed. At the time it was a parenting decision I chose not to make with either of my girls, so they would only be in bed with me if they were poorly or having a rough night through nightmares or other such problems. However, since life likes to throw you curveballs, as my youngest daughter has grown older she seems to spend more time in my bed nowadays than she ever did as an infant, baby, or toddler.
She had a rough start sleep-wise, and she didn’t sleep through the night until she was one and I had many, many, many nights of finding myself at three am on the nursery floor, where I had fallen asleep with one arm jammed between the cot bars, still unconsciously rubbing or patting her back as I came round groggily. This was combined with the fact she breastfed two-hourly until she was five months old, and the fact that, when she was six weeks old, my oldest, who was two, decided the time was right to potty train, but only on the toilet and not the potty. I mainly got through that year on a haze of sleep deprived bull-headedness, imminent nervous collapse, and some great friends and family.
As she’s grown older we have mainly been blessed with relatively few sleep problems compared to other parents of autistic children. She has slept through the night consistently after that first year, and late nights or middle of the night wakings aren’t an occurrence in our house. But she has her own sleep-related problems.
She suffers from bad dreams and very restless sleep, which doesn’t always seem very refreshing. She has also taken to wanting to sleep with me more as she has grown older and her anxiety has worsened. So whilst some people find their kids grow out of co-sleeping, mine has grown into it. Her Dad spends many a night sleeping on the sofa, on the nights she is unsettled and needs the security of sleeping with me. As she is slowly becoming less restless and unsettled in her sleep, and we are finding ways to help her deal with her anxieties, we are going on the assumption she will not be wanting to do it at 18 and we are just rolling with it. But some nights still it leaves both of us a bit sleep deprived, him from a night on the sofa, and me from a night next to a particularly energetic ninja. So how do I deal with it? Humour. Or hysteria. I can never entirely tell which.
So if you are out there tired Mama of a co-sleeping older child, and wondering when they will finally feel safe enough to be in their own bed every night? Well I see and salute you. I wrote a diary style blog after a particularly trying night about two years ago, so this is for you and your weary attempts at continuing to find the world amusing.
Memo: For attn. Gods Of Sleep
Subject Re. last night
Dear project manager
I am writing to draw your attention to the events of last night. I am writing with reference to section 4.12.32 of the parental sleep contract you drew up with my department in 2011. From the following entries I believe you will see you are in breach of contract.
Sunday, 09:45 I slept yesterday from 3pm to 8pm after a nightshift, then woke up about twenty past eight feeling groggy and unwell. Monkey has submitted a request for a snuggle night and my co-household manager Mr J(currently acting up from assistant manager until his next six month review) said he would snooze on the recliner. This is why I had 4 hours sleep last night.
Retire to bed, settle Monkey beside me and tell her to go to sleep while I record something in my phone diary.
Realise I am still on my phone. Have just decided I should be lying down when I get some incoherent, unhappy, sleep-shouting from Monkey. Give her back a rub and talk to her until the shouting abates, and she begins to sleep comfortably. Head down for a drink, where I find Mr J, alternating between impersonating a strangled warthog and catching flies on the recliner. Cover him up with a blanket and switch off the TV and lights. As I am leaving I see one eye half opened, staring at me in a suspicious stupor, so I tell him what I’m doing. There is a sleepy grunt which I assume is assent and the eye closes.
Am forced to retrieve Monkey, who is hanging precariously off the end of the bed. Issue several instructions as I’m wrestling with her: “Legs over here, covers over here, body over here, head on pillow, here is Bearbear, now lie still”. I get a still-fast-asleep giggle and she goes back to sleep. I am now wide awake from struggling from, what always feels like trying to stuff an angry octopus in a sack whenever I do this. I play some mindless games on my phone for a while until my eyes start to get heavy again.
More wriggling. I decide to try and sleep and am suddenly hotter than the surface of Venus, and completely irritable in my own skin. I do some sleep position calisthenics, take the covers off Monkey who has appropriated the entire lot, put them on again and try with just one leg inside the covers, (to maintain their protective abilities against night monsters) followed by under the covers with one leg out. I smooth the pillows and duvet. Nothing is working so after 20 minutes I get up again and continue reading.
Fist is shoved with some force into my mouth. It’s not mine. It is clean which is, at least, a bonus.
I attempt to lie down again.
The following conversation occurs:
-Monkey: (Clearly fast asleep) SOMETHING!
-Me: (amused) Something what?
-Monkey: BABY HEARTS!
-Me: You have baby hearts?
-Monkey: Nooooo! Ants!
-Me: (laughing) Ants have baby hearts?
Monkey: (Fast asleep with a contented smile): Yep!
Foot on my stomach. I’m aware it is a lot heavier than it used to be. It is less clean than the fist. She showered before bed, I have no idea how she managed to get grubby between the bathroom and my bedroom.
I give up again and start blogging. During this following period of time I have the enjoyment of a couple of shouty moments and a lot of sleep trampolining going on beside me, plus the odd bout of light pummelling.
I decide enough is enough and it is time to try and sleep
A head is shoved into my armpit. It isn’t majorly uncomfortable so I don’t intervene.
A head is shoved between my cleavage. I am slightly more confused around the protocol for this, but decide she seems unbothered and not to take the risk, I leave her alone.
Monkey sits bolt upright, still fast asleep, and strips off her pyjama top before flinging it with some force over the end of the bed. I think the bottoms are following suit for a moment, before she lies back contentedly scratching her belly with a smile. I am now offering my soul to any God or Demon that will take it, to let me fall asleep.
I am starting to doze when there is movement besides me. I look over and Monkey is sat bolt upright grinning at me like a loon. I laugh and tell her to go back to sleep. She turns over, hits the mattress with a dull thump and is immediately asleep. The injustice of this is staggering.
Still lightly in the early stages of sleep I am awoken by wriggling. Now apparently cold due to lack of pyjama top, Monkey is strategically attempting to commandeer all of the duvet. I remove it then reposition it, tuck her in, and give her Bearbear. I am now mentally composing this blog
05:00 ish (I can no longer count beyond six)
My body finally surrenders to blessed sleep, but not dreamless sleep as I am having my usual bizarre, yet intensely uncomfortable, REM sessions. Tonight it features Darth Vader, a unicorn and a skyscraper.
I groan and roll onto my front wishing for a painless release
Luckily Mr J takes pity and let me sleep until half nine. I currently have eyes that feel like someone has heated them up, dried them out, rubbed them in hot sand and shoved them back in again. I have a cold, and even my hair hurts. On the bright side hopefully Monkey will get happily into her own bed. Although this does mean Mr J will be back in his usual position tonight, making warthog impressions and catching flies…
Hopefully you have found some weary humour in this diary extract and know that you are not alone. If you have enjoyed reading please consider subscribing by putting your email in the box below and hitting the magic switch. If not maybe consider giving me a star rating so I can continue to improve my writing and this site. There is also a contact form if you want to send me any feedback, want to contribute a guest article, or are looking for somebody to write for you.
Yours in solidarity