For the last 2.5 years, we have learned how to walk around doing our daily tasks while half asleep. Night time has been reserved for medicines, feedings, vomiting, ER visits, heart rate checks, crying, musical beds, laughing, movies, tv, pretty much anything and everything OTHER than SLEEP!
For months, all of this was tolerable. We were over joyed to have Asher home, whatever it was that we had to do or he wanted to do, we just did it!
Fast forward to the last few months. We have had a stable, happy, for the most part healthy, 2 year old! When sleep still wasn't happening, we decided, he must hate his crib and be ready for a bed. After a short stint on the the crib mattress on the floor, we bought bunk beds for Joel & Asher. Asher has an amazing double bed on the bottom bunk. He can get out of it easily and I'm sure if he tried, he could get back into it as well. We have pillows along the outside of it so he doesn't fall out of bed (which he actually has managed to do, but only 2 times in the last several months!).....he has his beloved Fisher Price Aquarium on the head board and a Discovery Kids light up bug on his bed that shines stars and the moon onto the wall and bed above him. Its cozy, calming and to be honest - a bed I would have LOVED when I was growing up!
After all of this "big boy" bed talk and getting him settled in, we realized the trouble with sleep wasn't the crib, it's not the bed...it wasn't even Asher, it was US! GASP! Sleep problems are often attributed to CHARGE syndrome so we just chalked it up to that...we (ok maybe more I than we) had not considered that we could be fueling the night time parties! Yes, when he has been sick, he has needed us throughout the night, just like any child would! But, in the end our lives were revolving around getting Asher to sleep.
Nap times I would spend at least an hour if not more lying beside him (at least it's a comfy bed I told myself) trying to get him to fall asleep. At bedtime, it was another hour or more lying beside him to get him to sleep! He also had a fairly demanding attitude where daddy had to do bed time and mommy had to do nap time, and heaven help us if that couldn't or didn't happen! During the middle of the night, he would wake up wanting a bottle, and I thought to get him to sleep faster, we should just give it to him...however, we realized those short wake ups were becoming hours of no sleep in the night!
Finally, after realizing that he could handle sleep training and this was more about us (me) than him, I conceded that we needed to help him learn to put himself to sleep without us and without a bottle! In my head I think I had actually known this but my heart did not want to admit my baby, my baby who I am with 24 hours a day, was growing up.
It's been a common theme for me, as a mom of a special needs boy who is also the youngest, to admit that I can and really should push Asher to learn to do things for himself. I didn't second guess pushing my older two when they were that age, to do age appropriate things, but with Asher, it's a constant internal battle.
Yes, he is the youngest and I want to keep him in my arms and not let him down. Yes, he had a very rough start in life and I want to keep him in my arms and not let him get hurt. But the truth of it all is, yes, he is a 2.5 yr old healthy boy who needs to hop out of his mother's arms and begin to explore, learn, and sigh, even make mistakes or have accidents. I am reluctantly coming to grips with this truth.
The very best for Asher as always meant protecting him from a laundry list of things. This is no longer the very best for him. If I want to continue to give him the best, I have to let him go in some areas. I have to let him toddle around and bump into things, I have to let him try new games and play with new toys. I have to put him in bed, have short cuddles and kisses and walk away. That is the new best!
I am ecstatic to share that after one week of sleep training (a very gradual process each night), Asher seems to be sleeping so much better! He hardly wakes in the night, and if he happens to, we go in, reassure him with a hug and kiss and tuck him in and go back to bed. He no longer cries at that! We no longer lay down beside him at bedtime, we cuddle, read, and kiss and walk away and Asher puts himself to sleep!
We had a long journey back to sleep. I fully expect that there will be set backs, interruptions and some challenging nights ahead, but I am confident that we can now handle it and then return to our routine.
I know that as we continue to give Asher the very best in life, that there will be more "letting go", but in the mean time, I am going to enjoy sleeping, at NIGHT!