The Sleep Obsession: Part 2

Two day-old Henry and I sleeping on the couch

As a parent, there is nothing that I fret over more than Henry’s sleep. Maybe this is crazy, but I can feel my anxiety levels rise when he refuses to nap. It’s the first thing I fuss about when Blake and I travel, whether it’s a simple day trip to Dryden for groceries or our monthly trips to the North. I don’t know how I became so sleep obsessed. You may recall a very early post, when Henry was just only about 6 weeks old. I had already started to stress over his bedtime routine!

What a sweet little nugget! Seems like a lifetime ago!
Early morning snuggles when Henry was only a few weeks old

Perhaps the sleep obsession began when I read pediatrician, Marc Weissbluth’s book when Henry was still the size of a cabbage, doing somersaults in utero. The take-away messages I laid down in my memory after anxiously poring over its pages in my quest to find the answers to baby sleep issues were:

1. If your baby misses a nap, he will go straight to Juvy.
2. Your baby MUST sleep in a quiet, dark, motionless sleep environment, if not, you’re a terrible parent.
3. If you let your baby sleep in a carrier/car/in your arms, you’re cursing his sleep habits forever.
4. If you don’t dedicate your life to your baby’s nap schedule, you’re a selfish parent.

Blake begged me to stop reading, but it was too late. Before Henry had even entered the world, I had already become sleep obsessed.

In the early days, Henry would sleep though dogs barking, fire alarms, kids yelling, etc. 

When Henry was just over three months, we decided to bite the bullet and sleep train him. Although it was a heartbreaking few nights for me, the result was that Henry truly became a reliable, solid sleeper. I have been truly grateful for that. That being said, just like any child, Henry will still wake at times when he’s teething, sick or, like last night, gets his legs stuck between the rungs of his crib. These occurrences are so infrequent that in a weird way, despite my fatigue, I hardly even mind comforting him in the darkness of the nursery at 2am. It is often the only time he will lay snuggled in my arms as I stroke his hair and smother his face with kisses.

Henry sleeping in the baby carrier on our daily walks when he was a few months old

In Revelstoke, we hiked up Mount Mackenzie weekly. As I worked up a sweat, Henry snoozed away!

There is NOTHING better than a baby snuggled next to you.

Henry snoozing with his Auntie Leah

Lately though, Henry has decided that since he is now the ripe old age of one, he’s all grown up and no longer needs two naps. Over the past two weeks, the usual nap routine of changing Henry, putting him down in his crib and turning off the lights has NOT led to two hours of blissful quiet time for me (read: two hours for me to run around the house, have a shower, cook/prep dinner, do laundry, answer emails, take calls from the Neskantaga nursing station, deal with the endless virtual pile of paperwork that trails any patient encouter, etc. etc…).

Instead, Henry will quietly babble to himself, escalating eventually into screaming and kicking the wall until I give up on him ever sleeping and get him up. When this happens, I become frustrated and stressed, blaming his nap-strike on anything and everything (i.e. It’s too cold/hot in his room! The dog is barking way too much! Blake, you’re stomping too loudly around the house!).

In his crib in Sioux Lookout

Always snuggling with his lambskin!

Sleeping in his tent while we were on vacation in Haida Gwaii

When I find myself getting worked up in this way, my thoughts often go to an online photodocumentary by Swedish photographer, Margus Wennman. Entitled, ‘Where The Children Sleep’, with his series of powerful images, Wennman opens our eyes to the reality of Syrian refugee children’s daily struggles. If your family is anything like ours, dinnertime conversations between Blake and I have frequently centred around Syria, especially in the wake of the Paris attacks. As a mother, my ability to emotionally detach to devastating news of this nature, or any situation adversely affecting a child for that matter, has been forever altered. For example, one day, in our prenatal clinic, I actually burst into tears in the office after seeing a mother struggling with substance abuse who was four-months pregnant. She had her one-year old daughter with her, bright eyed and beautiful, strapped into her stroller. Her mom, drowsy from using street narcotics fed her potato chips and Powerade while her daughter fussed. I felt so deflated and saddened. Her child, was the same age as Henry, yet her daughter’s life would be filled with challenges that Henry will never know.

The weight of these images and stories, regardless if they come from families struggling in Syria or in Sioux Lookout press heavily on me and often bring me to tears as I hold Henry tight. His privilege is so great – he will succeed easily in life with his middle-class status, his white skin, his Canadian citizenship and his male gender, regardless if his misses a nap or two.

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