I am trying to remember the first time I learned that my life is no longer about me. It probably should have been when I entered into a serious relationship with my now husband. I should have learned then about partnership and sharing. I kind of did, but not really. Honestly, I like order, I like predictability, and I especially like certainty. Parenting however overthrows all three of my favorite 'likes' and replaces them with the great wide land of the unexpected.
I didn't expect that pregnant for only a few weeks with my first child, I would be diving into a frigid coastal Maine river to rescue our old dog who got spooked off of the path by a squirrel. I didn't expect that my first born would spend a week in the NICU at St. Lukes for a rash; I didn't expect that my 2-year old would go truly mental when my daughter was born (we are still recovering from that one); and I didn't expect that I would be a children's sleep coach when sleep was for so many years to bane of my existence. Perhaps that's why I am passionate (ummm, more like obsessed) with children and their families sleeping as well as they possibly can.
Yes, it is true, my life is no longer about me - I can prove this argument with the sheer amount of unexpected factors in my life that force me to turn my attention to my family as a whole and not to my own needs and desires. I realize that when I am changing a diaper and I have needed to pee for 6 hours and still haven't had a moment to go. I realize that when I pull amazing recipes from the NY Times or Bon Appetit but end up eating way more nuggets and cucumbers than I ever expected. Do you realize that you will probably eat more pizza in your first 5 years of being a parent that you did over all of the years of possible pizza eating before children?
The point of all of this is that to feel better about this new and seemingly permanent condition, I have decided to embrace expecting the unexpected. In doing so, I can find order and rationality in the very relentless yet rewarding irrational world of parenting.
Here are a few tips with regards to sleep so you can plan for and anticipate the unexpected because it will happen:
1. Your child will climb out of the crib or fall of the bed long before you are prepared for this event - drop the mattress all the way down, put the mattress on the floor, teach them that 'we do not climb in cribs', or put them in a sleep suit or pajamas that restricts their climbing.
2. You so dodged that stomach virus bullet ... oh wait you didn't ... have a change or sheets ready, or any in case of emergency crib vomit plan. A friend of mine always has two layers on her son's crib - mattress pad, sheet + mattress pad, sheet.
3. Your perfect two nap a day sleeper stops napping or stages a pretty intense protest - look at windows of time and see if the naps need to shift later, be cut shorter, or call for a longer wind down period. When my youngest turned 2, she fought her nap hard for 3 weeks straight. I kept at it, and she is upstairs napping happily while I write this. Win for Mommy.
4. She was fine during the day, but now she has coxsackie or an ear infection or some other awful, truly, truly awful sleep destroyer - know how much motrin or tylenol she needs, have a thermometer that works, and have the medicine in stock in your house.
5. Embrace a few bad nights - they happen. It doesn't mean that you failed or are failing. If you worry that you are creating a sleep monster, take a step back, get some goals together and formulate a plan that you can stick with.
Finally I would like to dedicate this piece to my beautiful sister in law Robin who in the final weeks of her pregnancy is dealing with the unexpected with grace and unparalleled strength. I can't wait to meet her sweet, sweet baby.