It has been a minute since I last wrote. A fifteen month-long, excruciatingly sleep-deprived minute to be exact. Yes there has been some writing here and there (okay to be fair I did write a book in that time but that was maternity leave when I could nap when necessary too). But honestly my brain hasn’t functioned properly enough for me to be coherent over the last ten months since I’ve been back at work. I have been meeting myself with compassion, canceling plans, breaking down, and breaking open, enjoying moments of joy with my two children–doing all of the things that I advise others for their spiritual growth. What I have not been doing in this time is sleeping, however.
It’s been a source of sadness and frustration but every day and night I have gone through the same pattern of hoping and praying it gets better all the while being in survival mode.
I’m pretty sure it was Albert Einstein who declared this as the definition of insanity–doing the same thing and expecting different results. But honestly, I was too tired to really care or make a change.
Sleep-deprived and feeling guilty
I pride myself on being a conscious and intentional parent. I am an evolving Montessorian. I am a life coach. I work with humans on a daily basis and have been known to have a lot of patience and perspective. I’ve learned a lot about promoting independence and empowering children from the very start of their lives, and yet somehow this wasn’t translating to sleep, which was a huge source of guilt and frustration for me. Earlier this year I led a Sacred Bliss Women’s Circle (group coaching) and had everyone break up with an emotion that wasn’t serving them. I chose mom guilt and that break up was liberating, but like any bad break-up, the object of my break-up kept creeping back in, stealing my mind and heart and presence. So it has been a roller coaster and a practice. An invitation to heal further.
I have always believed that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can make a change. This week sleep deprivation hit a new low, perhaps due to teething or sleep regression or transitioning, or all of the above, but no one in our house was sleeping. Our nighttime peace was met with screams every hour on the hour despite our best attempt at interventions (medication, essential oils, weighted blanket, sound machine, peaceful nighttime routine. You name it, we’ve tried it.
And finally, I was at the ultimate surrender.
An eye-opening book and a new chapter
As luck or fate or Divine intervention would have it, I happened to be talking to the amazing head of my son’s school and she shared with me a title that she had recently learned about sleep. Thanks to Amazon Eileen Henry’s The Compassionate Sleep Solution: Calming the Cry. Happy Babies…Happy Parents was mine within two days.
I read the first fifty pages in one sitting. Henry’s tone is comical and realistic and compassionate in and of itself. She opens her book with a letter to parents asking them to let go of the guilt they have felt about being where they are now on the parenting journey. This was an emotion that was coming up strong for me and so I was “sold” at that point.
During my reading, I had the opportunity to practice some of her strategies as my son who I formerly referred to as “The world’s worst sleeper” (Sorry Ry) popped up from his floor bed. And lo and behold, THEY WORKED! I didn’t feel guilty or miserable or sad. After reading the book, I felt liberated and compassionate and like finally, for perhaps the first time in my son’s precious lifetime, I could understand his nighttime needs. He didn’t need me to rescue him. Like in so many other areas of his life, the answer was to help him help himself.
Sleep learning, not sleep training
In her book, Henry refers to the sleep process as sleep learning instead of sleep training. She says we don’t need to teach babies and toddlers how to sleep, it is an innate process. We just need to teach them that it’s okay to fall. It’s okay to fall…yes it is! In all aspects of our life. She discusses that the process of falling asleep can be intimidating, that surrender, that losing control. Control is the thing that we are human beings are so hard-wired to desire even starting at a young age (toddler parents I know you know what I’m talking about).
As parents, we always want to jump in and save our children but they have to be “The heroes of their own journeys”. A fairy godmother is not going to swoop in and save the day and they need to gain the confidence in themselves. Us parents need to gain that confidence as well. Help them help themselves. That’s the best gift that you can give to your children, and finally, I feel like there is a sleep book that supports this philosophy as well.
So like I often do when I find something that’s good, I want to share it with you. I want to remind you that you’re doing an amazing job. And that it’s okay to fall. Wherever you are. In any aspect of your life. If you and your child need support with sleep-learning, this book is where it’s at. Sending you love, strength, and heaps of grace and compassion on this motherhood journey.