When I was pregnant for the third time, I was ready for the sleep challenges this new baby would present me. I’d been through the wringer with my first two, who’d both pushed me to the edge with sleep deprivation. I’d been through all the angst and desperation that comes with the lack of sleep, and I’d made it to the other side. I now had children that slept beautifully, having learnt all the tricks to finally solve the sleep problems in my house.
I was ready for baby number three, who I’d be showing a thing or two about sleep early on, thank you very much. Then we found out that baby number three was twins. That’s two babies. I don’t know about you, but getting one baby through the shush/pat process was tough enough, but two babies? How did that even work?
I pushed the worry aside and concentrated on getting through the pregnancy, which ended at 32 weeks when our twins arrived premature. They thrived beautifully in the NICU and when we got them home, they fed and slept perfectly, being sleepy premature babies who’d got into a routine from the stint at hospital.
It all went really well to begin with. I even dared at this point to think that maybe these babies were programmed to sleep. Maybe Mother Nature was throwing me a bone here.
They woke up and became regular babies
At three months, our babies ‘woke up’ and became the regular wakeful babies that I’d come to know so well with my first two. Only now there were two of them at once, and I was out of my depth. I knew all the theory about hands on settling, but with my older kids being two and four at the time, I just didn’t have the space and quiet I needed to make this work for my twins.
We got to nine months and I was still feeding them overnight. Only in my befuddled, sleepless head, I found myself caught in the trap of feeding one baby and then praying that the other one wouldn’t wake up as I crawled back into bed as quietly as possible. Naturally, the other one did wake up for a feed, usually about an hour after I’d fallen asleep. This pattern soon had me up at least four, sometimes six times a night with two babies needing attention.
One night, after the twins were awake all night long with a virus, I told my husband that we just had to do something. We decided to separate them to avoid them waking each other up, as I suspected that one twin was slightly better with sleep than the other.
Things had to change
I managed to get the first twin to sleep in his cot, while my husband tended to the other baby who was now housed in our room. It took a while, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I even allowed myself to start feeling excited about everyone sleeping through the night again very soon.
Only baby number two turned out to be more resistant and it took me weeks to get him sleeping solidly. I’d spend up to an hour each night with him, patting him and whispering shush until my tongue was numb. Eventually, it worked. But after all that hard work, I grew paranoid about even entering our bedroom once he was asleep. I worried that the light from the hallway would wake him, or the sound of our bed sheets moving. I worried that he’d be woken by our night noises and I’d have to resettle him over and over again.
‘We can no longer use our bedroom,’ I announced to my husband.
Just as tired as me, and willing to do whatever it takes to get some sleep, he nodded his weary head and went to fetch the single mattress from the garage that we keep for guests. I made up a little bed on the couch and side by side, we fell asleep to the humming of the fridge and the dishwasher whirring away in the kitchen nearby.
It worked for us
That’s how we slept for the better part of a year. We camped out in our own living room after giving up our bedroom to a ten-month-old because we were that desperate for sleep. I would have given up more, too. My life’s savings, if he wanted it. In any case, the whole household slept better than they had in months for that year, and I don’t regret a thing.
So, tired mums, if you’ve set up crazy sleep scenarios in your house that you’re embarrassed to admit, don’t sweat it. We’re everywhere, doing our best in the name of sleep. You could be kipping on the floor of your baby’s room, or in the hallway outside toddler’s bedroom. As long as everyone’s safe, happy and getting some god-forsaken sleep, don’t worry about it.
You’ll live to tell the tale, just like I have.