Through the Night

For the past several nights M has slept from the eight o'clock hour to the five o'clock hour without waking up (or waking up only to fuss herself back to sleep within a minute), and then nursed and gone back to sleep until seven or even eight.

I had stopped believing that this would ever happen. Over the past year or so, well-meaning people, noticing my exhaustion, have said things like, I hope M starts sleeping through the night soon, and I have thought, You might as well wish that she would fly off to the moon.

But we have reached that magical point. Tthe one that coworkers and random strangers began asking about when M was (no joke) less than two months old. The one that people finally stopped asking about around the time she turned one. Not, I think, because they noticed how I seemed to want to scrape my brain out with a grapefruit spoon and wipe it on the pants of whoever popped the sleep question, but because pretty much everyone (except for a few cherished friends who are also blessed with rotten sleepers) started to assume at that point that she must have been sleeping well by then.

And it is amazing, this new development. I can't say I have gotten a ton more sleep over the past few days than during the times when we were in a good co-sleeping and night nursing groove. I've been up late drinking wine (great side benefit of night weaning, by the way) and eating goat cheese with old friends in town for the weekend, and, before that, scrambling to finish a proposal for work, and, before that, knitting like a maniac on the thick grey scarf I'm making for my husband. But if I were to go to bed at a decent hour! Just think! I could sleep for, like eight hours in a row! Uninterrupted! It could happen.

These sleep changes, and my many, many posts here on the matter (for which, forgive me. Unless you are also trying to night wean your 16-month-old and get some rest, in which case, take heart and lay in a good supply of dark roast coffee and madeleines and let me know how it goes) have made me think a lot about the overshadowing role sleep has taken in my life and identity as a parent.

For which I blame forces larger than myself. See above comment about random stranger sleep inquiries starting super early in baby's life. See also, some blogger I can't remember who wrote about how sleep is the big flashpoint for our generation of parents the way potty training was a big enormous deal for our grandparents. Also, decisions about sleep are one of those litmus tests that it seems people use to determine What Type of Parent You Are: Where does she sleep? Oh, you're still nursing? Oh, you let him cry? Etc.

But of course I'm to blame, too. It's still my inclination, when meeting another parent, to ask about sleep, to compare nap lengths. How many baby sleep books do I own? Three! I'm starting to think about what I've missed during all this obsession. What else could I be talking about? What other parts of my identity as a parent have atrophied as I've clamored for the elusive goal of spending more than four hours at a stretch with my eyes shut? Now that I am no longer so desparate for a decent rest—and even, dammit, if things go south and we end up awake at all hours again for some reason—I'm going to find that out.

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