Henley is four and a half, almost exactly, and had her first real nightmare last week. I woke up to her crying hysterical in her bed. She was speaking nonsense and I was extremely tired so I scooped her up and brought her into our bed, it was probably close to 2am. She quickly settled into our bed, practically laying underneath my husband as usual, falling asleep right away. A few moments later she popped up, muttering something about the snake getting in. We assured her nothing was coming in and she fell back asleep within minutes. That morning we learned she had dreamed about a rattlesnake she saw on Sheriff Callie. Sheriff Callie of all things?!
Henley has been a lot of things but a good sleeper has never been one of those things. When we brought her home from the hospital she slept next to our bed in a Rock n’ Play. Most mornings I would wake to her in between my husband and myself sound asleep. At around five months we moved her out of the room and into the crib. She slept pretty good for her age although still waking once or twice a night and not falling asleep without nursing.
A few months later we attempted cry it out which was a terrible fail and more of the same. Nursing her to sleep, carefully laying her down, repeating however many times throughout the night. I remember complaining to my aunt at around nine months that she still wasn’t sleeping. She was very reassuring and said her daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was twelve! Twelve people! I couldn’t even fathom that at the time but I can totally see that being us now.
We’ve done everything possible. We got the toddler bed thinking she no longer was tolerating the crib. We let her pick sheets and the comforter of her choice. Rewards and bribes, none of it mattered. She would have a good night here or there, a run of a few good weeks but always back to square one. Sure she has slept through the night some but more night than not she ends up in our bed.
Before the nightmare we had a great routine going, she was falling asleep on her own and sleeping through the night most nights. But now here we are. It’s 10pm and I am sitting on the end of her bed because she is too scared to fall asleep. She slept with us the entire night last night because she was so upset at the idea of being alone I couldn’t take it, quivering chin and all. The night before she came running in our room like a bat out of hell scared out of her mind.
So I sit. I answer questions about why we have noses and I get her a glass of water. I insist there is nothing scary in the house and share similar stories from my childhood confirming that even though I was scared, nothing happened and I survive. It's just a dream.
Parenting is nothing if not unpredictable. I never thought all those years ago that I would still be battling sleep issues at four and a half. I never thought that I would shed more tears over Henley’s sleep than anything else.
There are many nights she wins. The Friday night I am exhausted from the week and just want bedtime to be peaceful. The days where I miss them and just want them with me to cuddle. Then there are the nights where she is wise beyond her years and I can’t help but let her win. It’s nights like the time she looked at me, tears in her eyes, and said “You and Daddy get to sleep together every night and I am always alone”, she’s not wrong. Sure kid---hop on up.
I’m sure somewhere in these last four years I’ve done this parenting sleep thing wrong. Maybe I wasn’t committed enough to CIO or maybe I was co-sleeping more than I should in the beginning or I didn't stick to a routine well enough. I’m sure nursing her to sleep for the first year was against most good parenting books out there but you know what, it is what it is. It’s draining and stressful at times but at other times it’s pretty sweet to be cuddled up so closely to my babies.
At the end of the day, I do hope she is sleeping on her own before twelve though. Truth be told.