the year we didn’t sleep.

Carson-1 We didn’t see it coming, and that’s where the problem began. You see, it all boils down to one little word: expectations. And when your first kid sleeps through the night at three months like it ain’t no thing, well, that’s all you know.

I didn’t expect my second baby to sleep through the night at three months, per se. I knew he was a different baby, a different kid, that he would beat to the rhythm of his own drum. I had grace and patience for that, because I was a second time mom and I knew better.

When the four-month mark rolled around, and then five, and then six, I was convinced we were close. We had to be. Here baby, have some solids, let’s get you nice and full and tired. Seven months. Eight months. Nine months. Ten months went by.

And then I looked at the calendar and realized I had not slept through the night in one whole year.

For one whole year I have been tired and exhausted and irritable and emotional and frustrated and at the risk of sounding dramatic, just plain hopeless. I have been living in a fog, a 52-week haze of coffee and under-eye concealer and 3am arguments with my husband.

“It’s not so bad,” I tell myself.
“It could be worse,” I tell my friends.

And it could be worse, of course, he could be waking up several times a night instead of once or twice. But once or twice is still once or twice and once or twice means that every single night, for one whole year, I never slept longer than a couple hours at a time.

I’m a light sleeper, a bad sleeper, always have been and probably always will be. Which means that when I’m up at 3am to nurse a crying baby, I am UP, you know? My brain starts working and thinking and it is hard for me to fall back asleep. So I sit in the rocking chair and I pray, because I always start with prayer, and I thank God for the baby who doesn’t sleep because if I am not thankful in that moment, I start to feel sad and even a tiny bit angry. After I thank God, I pray for patience and grace and stamina and all of the things I am lacking because I am lacking so much. The second I say “amen” the wheels start turning. My brain starts thinking of 100 things—to do’s that are never finished, things I forgot, people I need to check in with, essays I need to write, e-mails I need to draft, is the meat in the refrigerator expired? Did we pay that doctor bill? How much money is in our checking account? Why don’t we have a budget? Did I put the laundry in the dryer? Who should I pitch for our next Coffee + Crumbs sponsor? What should we have for dinner tomorrow?

It is 3:13am and my mind is too busy to sleep so I am sitting on the couch eating a bowl of honey nut cheerios in the dark, making more lists and setting more goals and wouldn’t it be cool if I published an e-book of essays on my 30th birthday?

And I guess, when I stop and I think and am honest with myself and with you—this was the year I did not sleep, and this was also the year I had more ideas and worked harder than any other year of my life. Because when your mind isn’t sleeping, it’s working, and my mind has had ample time to work this year. For anyone who dare thinks I am “doing it all” let me assure you: doing it all has come at a cost. I have never ever been this tired.

For one whole year I have abused coffee, gotten headaches every afternoon, applied eight pounds of makeup under my eyes each day, and fantasized about hotel beds. While other people are dreaming about Paris and Fiji, I’d settle for an open hospital cot and a few Nyquil capsules.

***

Carson turns one in three days, and started sleeping through the night last week. And by sleeping through the night, I mean he sleeps till 4:30am. Six hours of consecutive sleep? I feel like a million bucks.

To all the other mommas out there with tired eyes and full hearts, let me assure you: there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I hope you are able to embrace the exhaustion as best you can. When you’re up at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, remember that there are probably thousands (millions?) of other mommas up with their babies too. The glass is half full, if you choose to see it that way, and you’d be surprised at how easily the ideas flow in the middle of the night when you’re eating honey nut cheerios on the couch at 3am. Dream big, momma. This too shall pass.

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38 Responses to the year we didn’t sleep.

  1. Yes, this, a thousand times this. Our second babies were born only a few weeks apart, and are more alike than different in this regard (though mine has been more of the up-several-times-a-night variety, and is still, even at 11 months). Thanks for this, at just the right time. And wow, have you accomplished a lot on so little sleep this year! Way to go, Ashlee!
    Michele @ A Storybook Life´s last blog post ..A Letter to Teddy at Three

  2. Courtney says:

    This literally is exactly like the year I am having. My little guy turns one in 2 1/2 weeks and he is still up once a night. My older two started sleeping through the night at 2 or 3 months and besides some blips here and there, continued to sleep through the night. This little guy has maybe slept through the night 5 times. I am tired, so very very tired. But I do the same thing, pray as I am awake nursing him and thank God for the blessings he has given me. I’m sure I’ll sleep again some day soon, right?

  3. Courtney Ameli says:

    Amen momma. I don’t even remember how I originally found your blog but I’ve loved your perspective and have so greatly enjoyed Coffee + Crumbs. So thank you. And I feel you. I have a 13 month old and just last week she slept through the night a handful of times. I too was waiting for her to catch on, and as each month passed I couldn’t believe I’d gone that long without a full night of sleep. So this week I’m celebrating a little more sleep knowing there will be future days, weeks or even months where teeth, colds or whatever else keeps little ones up sets us back. So celebrate this sleep and keep dreaming!

  4. kate says:

    i loved this! this was our year too! our 11 month old just (JUST!) started sleeping through the night (knocks wood) a week and a half ago. i feel surprised every single morning when my husband and i wake up and ask each other, ‘did you wake up for a paci replacement?’ “nope!” ” me either!”. we didn’t even start doing anything differently! i keep thinking maybe our 2nd kid will be a good sleeper and eater, but my hopes aren’t too high 🙂

  5. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for this post that so eloquently says what I’ve been thinking lately. My 8-month-old still wakes up several times per night and I am surrounded by friends whose babies have slept through the night since 2 or 3 months old. I am so utterly exhausted but when I am up nursing and rocking my little man for the fourth time in the middle of the night I just try to enjoy the warm baby snuggles because I know they won’t last forever.

  6. Andi says:

    OMG bless your heart… We did a CIO method at 8 weeks and that changed our lives. We weren’t getting more than 1-2 hours of consecutive sleep before that. I can’t image going a whole year without sleep. My heart aches for you! Even now that he wakes up at 4:30!!! And I thought 6:30 was bad! 🙁

    But, we are both blessed with gorgeous, healthy baby boys that are our worlds!
    Andi´s last blog post ..Review: National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016

    • Ashlee says:

      We did CIO with Everett when he was a baby and it worked great for us, but it’s hard to do CIO when the baby’s bedroom is right next door to a 3.5 year old. We need soundproof walls in our next house.

  7. Amanda says:

    My first daughter started sleeping through the night at 14 months old. It was challenging, I was tired, but I tried to tell myself that she won’t be little forever, she won’t always want to snuggle, etc. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Now… baby girl #2 is a great sleep (I’m seriously spoiled) and even when there is one wake up a night, I try not to complain because it is a significant improvement over her sister. I just try to take it all in stride but some days are definitely easier than others.

    P.S. I really love that behind all the sleep deprivation there was a positive side and you are in the place you are in life and your career because of the last year. But I’m also glad the sleep is starting to come!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I love your writing style! This was such a fun read (and slightly makes me want to put off kids a couple more years 😉 ) You are great and I love your blog!
    Elizabeth´s last blog post ..Ode To Summer

    • Ashlee says:

      Oh no! Haha. That’s never my intention, but yes, you should probably be ready to give up a bit of sleep before you have kids 😉 Thanks for reading!

  9. Ashley says:

    I just love reading your motherly adventures here, and your overall positive outlook on the daily stresses 🙂
    Ashley´s last blog post ..luna roja la noche.

  10. Misti says:

    My son will be 13 months on Sunday and still doesn’t sleep through the night. Every time someone said “Give him food, he’ll sleep through the night!” or “Oh, he must be good and tired, he’ll sleep through the night!” I just mumble and shake my head because I *know* that ain’t happening. So many sleeping wives tales I’ve heard.

    I’m one of those people who have it worse. Occasionally I get a 3-4 hour stretch, but six? I haven’t had one of those since he was like two month sold. He’s an every 2-3 hours up and nurse baby. Co-sleeping after a certain point in the night has saved my sanity, though we’re working on getting off of that. Which is really damn difficult when it is 3 am and you know you can sleep until 6 if you just put him in bed with you.

    I’m sure someone is going to tell me to night wean but we’re neither of us are ready.

    It is just nice to hear other people’s stories.
    Misti´s last blog post ..Some Garden Blooms | Wordless Wednesday

    • Ashlee says:

      Girl, you do you. It’s always easier to feed them when you know they’ll go right back to sleep. Been there, done that. Hope you get some zzz’s soon!

  11. Justine says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this and making me feel like I’m not alone. My first child also slept through the night early on without much prompting, so I was pretty clueless as to what the right mix of bottle, bath, book, etc., would work for the second. We’ve had whole two week stretches of sleep through the night, only to be detailed again by teething or a cold. It’s been ten months, and at 2 am, I am a wreck. Then, at 2pm, I hit a slump and start thinking of bedtime myself 😉 I’m still working on getting her to nap in her crib and was just sharing my frustration with my husband when I saw your post. I know there is light at the end of the sound machine, sleep sack, tunnel. Your post helped me see a little clearer through bleary eyes.

  12. Erica says:

    My first (and currently only) was up as often as 4-6 times a night until she was two and a half. She’s now 3 and gets up a few times a week. Hang in there mommas…it gets better.

  13. Laura says:

    Wow. Thank you. I am reading this after my little boy, who is 1 on the 21st decided to be wide awake for 2 hours at 1am. That is unusual but he has only slept through a handful of times. I went back to work part time in sept as a teacher and its hard without sleep!
    Just thànk you

  14. Kelly Reyes says:

    I rarely (if ever) comment on blogs, but I just have to this time! Yours is my favorite to read and I was so sad when you said you’d be taking a break. I love that you are posting again! I’m overdue with my first baby and have had a mom-crush on you since I started reading your blog, haha! Anyway, just wanted to say how much I enjoy your posts 🙂

    • Ashlee says:

      Oh my gosh! You’re so sweet, thank you! Trying to find time to blog in between running C+C and my photography business and wiping boogers. It’s hard, but I do love this space so much.

  15. It’s nice to hear that other mamas go through the same thing! It felt like all my friend’s kids were sleeping through the night at 8 weeks while my little guy never once slept through the night before 18 months, and even then it was sporadic. He just finally started being consistent in the last month or two and he turns two in November. I remember thinking some of your exact same thoughts during all those nights. So exhausting, but as you stated so important to start off with a prayer of thanks or that exhaustion could really get the best of me most nights. Glad you’re sleeping now!

  16. Elaine Pendley says:

    I have not slept through the night for about 15 years and it has nothing to do with a child. When you reach about 50 years old and the female body changes so does the ability to sleep for more than 2 – 3 hours. The good news is you don’t seem to need a full night of uninterrupted sleep as much as you did when younger. So, just wanted to warn you that after your children sleep through the night you better enjoy your full nights sleep untill…………..the big 50!

  17. Angela says:

    So good to hear! Our little guy slept through the night every single night for the first 4 months and everyone told us how lucky we were… except he is our first baby and I was too paranoid to sleep myself through the night. Silly mama. After 4 months he decided to make up for all those nights. 😉 Good to know there’s still hope!
    Angela´s last blog post ..Fourth Anniversary Gift Guide Ideas

  18. oh i feel you on this sister, i went through the same thing with my second as well. he didn’t sleep through the night till 13 months old! god taught me a lot during that season of life. cheers to sleeping now! 🙂
    Andrea Worley´s last blog post ..DIY | Zane’s Big Boy Bed

  19. Laura says:

    Ah, I love this so much. For me? It was my first that didn’t sleep. Well, two years in and he actually still doesn’t. God gave me a sleeper the second time around and at 6 months, we’re still going strong! Amen! Last night was a particularly rough night and after two years and only about two weeks worth of a full night’s sleep, this morning had me longing for the day that I will just put him to bed at bedtime and see him in the morning. This was just the thing I needed to read this morning. Thanks, Ashlee. 🙂

    P.S. Happy Birthday to your little man! How exciting to see him already turn one 🙂

  20. Natalie says:

    I was blessed with babies that do not sleep well. My 2-1/2 year old is finally sleeping through the night (with an occasional bad dream at midnight) as long as we lay down with her as she falls asleep. But my 9 month old still wakes 1-3 times each night. At 2-3 months he would only wake at 4am to nurse and then sleep until 7am… I thought he would be my good sleeper. Then we hit 4 months and he was up every hour, then eventually every 2 hours, and now we are up around 1-2am and again at 4-5am. Every time I walk into his room, I remind myself that this will pass and one day I will miss these middle of the night nursing sessions… but that doesn’t mean that I am not exhausted and grumpy and irritated that my husband gets to sleep through the night EVERY night. So happy that Carson is now sleeping through the night… it gives me hope that one day my son will also let me sleep more than 3 hours at a time.

  21. Kala Knowlton says:

    Reading this as my baby boy takes his first catnap for the day, and after a night of 4 nursing sessions. It feels reassuring to read this over my 2nd cup of coffee, and to be reminded of all of the Mom’s going through the same tired days and sleepless nights. We are blessed to be able to be mothers to our precious babies, but it’s also OK to be tired and frustrated. We are only human after all. Thank you for your realness and for helping me remember I’m not alone, and this too shall pass.

  22. Stacy says:

    I needed to hear this right now, thank you so much for being real and honest. This too shall pass!

  23. Alisha says:

    So good to not be alone! Our second won’t be one until just after Christmas, but we’re still up 2x/night most nights; he has some food allergy issues so sometimes it involves mopping up vomit after a feeding. :/ Even though we’ve been through this whole ‘kid’ thing before, sometimes it’s hard to remember that yes, they will indeed sleep one day, they won’t want you to hold them all the time (buff arms for the win!), and we’ll look back and miss it. Except the not sleeping. I won’t miss that.

  24. Ruthie Dean says:

    Oh Ashlee, I am right there with you. June has never been a good sleeper! So.So.So tired. I am catching up on your blog at this hour if that is any indication. Hang in there! You’re doing great.

  25. Megan DeGuerre says:

    Hi Miss Ashlee! Had to come back and read this one after listening to today’s new C+C podcast. Our daughter is almost 15 months and still waking 1-2 times a night (wanting to nurse), sometimes for a long time (UGH) and I’m wondering if you did anything special or if Carson just started improving naturally (and is he a good sleeper now?). I’ve tried it all and nothing seems to stick. I’m just so so tired!

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