Almost the instant you become a parent, you start hearing talk about the elusive "sleeping through the night." Like war stories, veteran moms and dads tell tales of their raucous first few months of parenthood, typically concluding with the happy ending of when, in either months or weeks, their little one stopped waking up and started sleeping through the night.
At first, when you're really in it, it's impossible to believe that your crying, hungry, helpless newborn will ever, ever in a million years sleep like a normal human being, and you reluctantly come to terms with the fact that you'll never be well-rested again. But eventually your baby does start sleeping through the night. And it truly is a beautiful thing.
The first night my daughter slept through the night came at an odd time for me. My husband and I had just made the hard decision to move out of the city and into the suburbs. We were living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a walk-up, and, despite our pre-baby delusions of grandeur, it just wasn't happening.
We thought we could do it. We spent the first few months of my pregnancy visiting various suburbs and looking into bigger (more expensive) apartments, but by around month four, we decided we would stay in our place and it would be fiiiine. People in New York City have babies in studio apartments -- why couldn't we have one in a one-bedroom?
We warmed up to the idea. We even started getting excited -- it was sort of a challenge. We created a nursery in the little hallway area. We bought everything mini. And we started taking off our shoes before we came inside. Friends told us we wouldn't last, and we got a little annoyed with them. Just because you live in a house doesn't mean we need to.
But when the baby came, it was a shit show.
Never mind sleeping through the night, my daughter wouldn't sleep at all. After five weeks of non-stop crying (Have you ever been with a crying baby for 6 hours in a 600-square-foot apartment? I don't recommend it.), we took her to the doctor and learned that she was hungry. And although she eased up on the wailing after we supplemented with formula, she still wasn't sleeping very well.
She was almost 3 months, and it was clear she was a light sleeper. I'd open the bathroom door, she'd stir. A booming garbage truck would come bounding down the street, she'd wake up. Someone walked by in the hallway, my dog would bark, and my daughter would start screaming.
It was bad times, and it was obvious the city life (in our current conditions) wasn't for our family of three.
Our lease was up, and at that point, we pretty much would have rather died than renew it. We had nowhere to go, though, so we made the (really weird/unlike us) decision to temporarily move in with my father in the suburbs while we saved for a house.
I felt a little bit like a failure; bummed out that I wouldn't have a child growing up in earth mama/family fun/hipster Brooklyn, but it was instantly clear we made the right choice.
On our very first night there, my daughter slept through the night.
I wasn't expecting it at all. At that point, it wasn't even really a discussion. We had gotten better with our night schedule. I was even somewhat used to operating on four hours of sleep. The night that it happened, after my daughter went to sleep, I had laid out everything for the night wakings in preparation -- diapers, my laptop, water -- but it just never happened. And I didn't wake up either out of habit. I, too, got a full night of uninterrupted sleep. It was glorious. I felt like a new person -- able to sort of think straight; less on edge. But more than anything, I was proud of my baby. And in one very, very, very small way, a little sad -- she was turning into a little human in sync with the rest of the world, as opposed to a squirming, red-faced newborn.
Everyone was right. Babies really do start sleeping through the night. It wasn't just some folklore invented by the Brothers Grimm. It actually happens. It actually happened.
Since that night, my daughter -- knock wood -- has never looked back. And I truly believe that it has to do with the fact that she now has her own quiet room that can actually get dark, and most importantly, that has a door. The girl's a light sleeper, and she just wanted her space.
I still get a little sad now and again that we no longer live in the city. When I come into work and I see moms pushing their babies in strollers, I think, "That could have been me." But it just wasn't in the cards for us. And I have to be honest, no city in the world is worth a night of uninterrupted sleep.
When did your baby start sleeping through the night?
Image via Nicole Fabian-Weber