Teaching my baby to sleep through the night, saved my marriage after a stressful 12 months
My little girl was 12 months old before I finally called the sleep consultants for some help. The real kicker for me was realizing that I was letting my lack of sleep affect my marriage.
Thea was my first baby, and I really didn’t look into much before she was born, I attended the usual antenatal classes with my husband, but we didn’t think about much more than the delivery of our precious little girl.
When she was born, she had colic, and I struggled with breastfeeding. I found feeding her lying down in bed settled her, and also helped with my fast flow when feeding her. This quickly led to sharing my bed with Thea. I never thought I would co-sleep with my baby, to be honest I didn’t think about how she would sleep at all. At first my husband would try to sleep with us, but more and more he was shifting to the couch half way through the night.
Then Thea became more unsettled around 6 months old, this meant it was taking me from 7pm to 10pm just to get her to sleep, I never saw my husband in the evening and he had by this stage moved into the spare room. I resented how much sleep he was getting at night, and he was feeling more and more distant from me, our paths barely crossed.
Hubby thought maybe this is simply what happens when a new baby is on the scene, we didn’t really have any friends with children, and he was being so patient. But I was getting more and more tired by the day. We couldn’t go out in the evening, Thea needed me. She needed me for her naps, and she needed me to feed. By 9 months I was shattered and hubby made me see my Dr to get my iron levels checked and discuss Thea’s sleeping.
The Dr said my iron was fine and suggested we let Thea cry it out. I didn’t want to head down this path as I wasn’t sure it would work, and I felt a fierce bond to Thea after our months together.
We started fighting more, and arguing over silly things, I could feel myself being overly emotional and unreasonable, but didn’t know what I actually wanted. When we spoke finally my husband confessed he was angry that Thea had come between us, and that he felt us drifting further and further apart. To be honest this just made me more angry at him, and nothing changed.
Finally a few weeks before Thea’s first birthday, I realized I had hardly seen my husband that week. He had been coming in later from work, and I was spending my usual evenings settling Thea while resenting all the free time he had. I started thinking about her first birthday party, and actually broke down in tears. This was not how I imagined the first year of her life. I missed my husband, I was exhausted, constantly feeding and settling Thea at night, meant I hadn’t slept more than 3 hours in a row in 12 months. I was so scared to admit to anyone I wanted things to change, wasn’t this how it was meant to be?
Everyone assured me they were only little for such a short time, and I needed to enjoy this time. But we also hadn’t really admitted to anyone just how bad things were, or that my husband had basically moved out.
Once we booked the sleep consultant I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I knew this would be hard, but I also knew I needed to do this for Thea and my marriage. I didn’t want her growing up with separated parents, and honestly I couldn’t see this ending any other way.
We did a couple of weeks of gentle sleep training, working first on her nights, then her naps. The process was hard I won’t lie! Having the consultant there overnight was a blessing, I would not have coped on my own, and that gave me so much confidence. I knew I could carry on after that.
I was still getting up at night, but my husband moved back in the very first night we started sleep training. Thea was in her room in her own cot, and we had our bedroom back.
I know bed sharing and co-sleeping works for lots of families, but for me, I was so pleased to have my space back. I struggled with the guilt these feelings bought with them, shouldn’t I want to share my space with Thea all the time? But as the months have passed and I have gotten more and more sleep, I have realised that I wasn’t happy, for me, I need sleep, and I need my relationship with my husband.
We bought Thea into this world together, yet that first year I didn’t feel like we were a family. I felt like it was all on me, and I really resenting my husband for not being part of that, but at the same time I was pushing him away.
This has been hard for me to write, but I think it has also bough some clarity. Thinking about the effects the lack of sleep that first 12 months had on me and my marriage is scary. Asking for help, was the best birthday present we could have ever given Thea.
Robyn and Thea