Last night when I was rocking my 9-month-old back to sleep, I was thinking (I have to think about something or else I'll fall asleep and wake up in the rocking chair at 6am with a crick in my neck!) about how differently I view sleep now than when my little girl was a baby. My little girl slept great from when she was 3 months old until she was 5 months old. Then the teeth started coming in, and she (nor my husband and I) have had many nights of uninterrupted sleep since. By the time she was a year old, I was getting pretty irritated when she would wake during the night. I resented having to climb the stairs for the second time during the night. I guess I had memories of pre-baby sleep (8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep!), and I wanted to have that kind of sleep again. I read books/articles on sleep issues, and I eventually decided to let her "cry it out." After hearing her scream terrified, blood-curdling screams and shaking her crib violently, I decided that that method was not going to work for me (actually my husband came upstairs to rescue her before I did). I knew that a good night's sleep was not worth hearing my child scream like that.
But when I became pregnant with my son, my daughter was almost 2 years old and still waking up most nights. I started to wonder how on earth I would handle feeding a newborn during the night and getting a 2-year-old back to sleep at the same time. So I tried methods like "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" and "The SleepLady Shuffle" to see if I could get my little girl to start sleeping through the night on a regular basis. She started doing better, but she was still waking up some nights when my little boy was born. There were nights that I would crawl into my daughter's twin bed with the baby and nurse the baby back to sleep while explaining to my daughter that there really weren't any "sharpteeth" dinosaurs in her room. There were also nights when I would be rocking the baby in the glider rocker with my legs on the ottoman, and my daughter would come in the room and lie down on my legs to go back to sleep. I can't for the life of me remember how I got the baby back into his bed without waking her up. This is what is different this time around: I no longer resent being awakened during the night...I sometimes actually look forward to it. Maybe it's because I know he's my last baby, or maybe it's because I've forgotten what it was like to get decent sleep, but I just don't get too stressed about losing sleep anymore. I know that the years will fly by, and there will all too soon be nights when I won't know where my kids are or if they're okay. I'll long for these nights when they cry out to me for comfort and I can hold them and reassure them that everything is okay because Mommy's here. When I nurse my baby boy during the night, I try to memorize everything about him...the way his sweet little chubby hands look, the way I can actually feel him smiling when I kiss him on the cheek (sometimes he even utters a little laugh in his sleep), the softness of his hair. When I get into bed with my daughter, I realize how big and grown-up she's gotten and how one day she might not want me to come into her room at all. There have been days when our time together during the night was our only one-on-one time that day because my son didn't take a nap at all. I know it's all worth it when we snuggle together and she says, "Mommy, I like doing this!"
During the night, I don't have to worry about wiping rear ends, cleaning fingerpaints off my kitchen chairs, cleaning spit-up off the carpet, or washing the one millionth load of laundry. During the night, when it's quiet enough for me to actually think, I pray to God and thank Him for letting me borrow these two precious souls. The angels must really miss them.
Like the good book says...there's a time for everything. And one day there will be a time for me to sleep. But for now, watching my kids sleep is about as close to heaven as I can imagine.