BabyA has never been much of a sleeper. From the moment we set eyes on her, she wanted to set eyes on everything else. Shut-eye was an ordeal for her, and making her shut them was a bigger ordeal for me.
The first year of her life, it took at least an hour to make her sleep (sometimes two). I would rock her, pat her, make white noise (since it mimics the sounds of the womb), make her sleep in various gravity- defying positions on my lap to comfort her colic, sing to her till my throat went hoarse and walk with her till my legs were ready to give way. Finally, she would fall asleep, and I wouldn’t move for 15 minutes (watching the clock tick-tock, praying she doesn’t stir), whether my bladder was ready to burst or my feet were plagued with pins and needles. Then I would gently put her in her cot, repeating God’s name over and over again, and if she didn’t wake up, I would settle by her side. Often, this was the time when I could focus on my own bodily and mental needs, so I would hungrily open a bag of chips, and pop one in my mouth. “Crunch!”, and there, she was awake again!
She has always been a sleep-hater! This child can sit through a car-ride for 3 hours from Pune to Bombay, in a car-seat and not catch a wink. What I wouldn’t do for a little magic potion to make her sleep? My mom would say, “After a maalish (massage), you children (her teen anmol ratan) would sleep so well that I could go watch an afternoon film show and come back to catch you just beginning to awaken”.
I never understood whether it was evolution that was affecting this generation of babies: our own prenatal (and postnatal) environments that were filled with stress due to our high strung mindsets and highly mobile life, or something else. I searched and searched… and later found out that our mothers really did have a magic potion. It was available off-the-counter as “Woodward’s Gripe Water”. Now, I know that we have the option of giving gripe water although it has lost some popularity in the last 30 years, but what we don’t have any longer is the alcoholic variety! I searched high and low for the old style gripe water WITH ALCOHOL but I can’t get it even if I pay a million bucks (I know because I was willing to!) All brands of gripe water now have a huge sign saying “without alcohol”. Why would they do this: a little alcohol never hurt anyone, especially a sleep-hater baby. For all those judging me, I feel like if we turned out right after a peg of gripe water every morning, then it can’t be so bad for our kids!
I have read several articles that tell you how many hours of sleep a child needs. BabyA fell short of that by 2-3 hours every time. This didn’t really work well with me, since the one thing I find hardest to deal with is Sleep Deprivation. I can handle the tantrums and the terrible twos but I need 8 hours of sleep, otherwise I’m like a Neanderthal (club in hand, and all) moving around with a mercurial temper.
Moms who are blessed with kids who love their sleep will never know what I’m talking about and moms who are right now mentally composing their scathing comments about Sleep Training Techniques want to whip me. Let’s just say, sleep training wasn’t for me. I know it would have saved me much misery (especially the months where she would wake up every hour throughout the night, expecting to be comforted by a 20 minute drill each time), but I couldn’t!
So I trundled along, singing lullabies and doing a solid workout while trying to make her sleep. From 2 hours, we have been able to come down to 30-45 minutes, the kindness of which I thank BabyA for every day. But I must say, till date, I never have any clue when she will knock off because there are no classic sleep symptoms: No typical reduction of movement, decrease in conversation, glassy-eyes, yawning… Nothing! In fact, till the second before she falls into deep slumber (if she knows such a condition), she will be either singing on the top of her voice or talking continuously, while twirling, whirling and swirling all over my bed.
But finally, after so many varied physically defying stunts to make her sleepy, she relents… she stops moving and talking. And there she is: asleep. As I place her down and tuck her in, all the frustration melts away. I look at her angelic face, so devoid of any malevolence, and my heart always skips a beat. I can’t believe I created this mysterious tiny miracle!