Why I am glad my baby did not sleep


My firstborn started school in September.

I am now a proper grown-up parent with a schoolchild. I have  to get everyone up, dressed and somewhere on time, in clean uncreased clothes, every morning. There will soon be homework, phonics, forms and parents evenings.

I have to kiss my four-year-old daughter goodbye FIVE days a week, and send her off to face new challenges and situations, without me.

I have also had to start ironing!*

I don’t feel ready for any of this.

I am going to have to kiss my four-year-old daughter goodbye FIVE days a week, and send her off to face new challenges and situations, without me.

I don’t feel ready.

I need more time. I wish I could to press pause and enjoy her just the way she is for a little bit longer. I am not ready to let her go.

I should be happy about this milestone. Excited about watching my offspring develop and learn, but I can’t help feeling a huge sense of loss.

I find myself crying as I flick through old pictures of her on my phone – like I’m grieving for the baby and toddler she once was.

I feel guilty for this sadness. I know there are people in this world who would be grateful for the chance to wave a happy, healthy daughter off to school. I know how lucky I am, yet still the tears flow as I recall moments passed.

My eldest daughter was the original Sleep Thief. On a bad night she woke up every half an hour, on a good night every few hours, and on a really bad night she would just refuse to go to sleep at all.

IMG_20130703_154044It was tough. I can’t pretend it wasn’t. But in between the stress and the sleep deprivation there was beauty. Moments of joy that passed all too soon.

I wish I could go back and enjoy them one more time. Experience them all as the mother I am now. The mother who is all too aware, that once those times are gone, you yearn to experience them all over again. The mother who realises that, three years of waking up in the night is actually no time at all.

I long to feel those moments one more time.

Feeding my newborn daughter in the dead of night. Exhausted and overwhelmed. Crying for respite; praying for her to sleep so I could go to bed. Tears flowing into my breast milk.

I wish I could go back and enjoy the warmth of her at my breast one more time. To when she needed me so entirely and when I, alone, was her nourishment, her comfort, her world.

Lying beneath my sleeping daughter. Wishing she would sleep in her cot rather than on me. Putting her down, picking her up, putting her down, picking her up. Must do it right. Drowsy but awake. Feeling frustrated.  

I wish I could go back and feel her sleeping on my chest one last time. To stroke her head, listen to her soft breathing and feel her heart beating in time with my own.

isladummyMy funny baby singing and laughing in my bed at 4am. Totally unaware that the world is asleep. I feel stressed and tired, so tired.

I wish I could go back and laugh with her in the darkness one more time. Enjoy one more all-night pyjama party with my firstborn.

Nursing my one-year-old at bedtime. Down to just one feed now. She suckles until she falls asleep. It feels like forever. I am impatient. 

I wish I could go back and have that moment once again. That last feed. I always assumed there’d be one more. I can’t even remember the last time. The truth is I was probably on my mobile as she fed. Facebook, Instagram, stories, lists, news… there, but not there.

My young toddler is tired but will not nap. Hour after hour is spent trying to get her to sleep. I know she is tired. Cuddling, rocking singing. I have Stuff to do. The house is a mess. There is so much washing. She is grabbing my leg, wanting to play, wanting a cuddle. I need to tidy up. I need to do the washing. ‘In a minute,” I tell her. “In a minute.”

I wish I could go back for one more day and leave all the chores. Pick her up, read another story, play another game. Forget the nap. Believe that the Stuff does not matter. Because it really doesn’t.

My daughter will not go to bed. One more story, one more song, one more drink. One more cuddle. “Will you lie down with me mummy?”   When will she fall asleep alone? When will bedtime not take hours? I need a break. I am impatient for some time alone, to gather my thoughts, to enjoy a glass of wine. I rush the songs. I rush the cuddles.

I wish I could go back for one night and lie down with her for longer. To enjoy cuddling her to sleep and making her feel safe again.

Will you lie down with me, mummy?”

Yesterday evening I sat down to watch the television. I was tired. It was the last day of the summer holiday. My four-year-old, now confident and secure enough to sleep alone, rarely needs me at night these days, but she called out to me.

Will you lie down with me, mummy?” I snuggled up next to her and sang her a lullaby. She fell asleep with her hand in mine and I whispered in her ear.

“Goodnight, my little sleep thief. Thank you for all the long nights, relentless wakings and twilight cuddles. Thank you for giving me so many moments to cherish.”

*When I say I have to ‘do the ironing’ I mean, I might have to put clothes in a basket and forget about them, but still, who has time for that?


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30 thoughts on “Why I am glad my baby did not sleep

  1. “Goodnight, my little sleep thief. Thank you for all the long nights, relentless wakings and twilight cuddles. Thank you for giving me so many moments to cherish.”

    Just so beautiful. Sums it up so perfectly, thank you for writing it.

  2. This made me cry and cry for the past wonderful 4 years with my daughter who is a sleep thief. She still is to a degree, just wish I could go back and do it all again without the words ‘drowsy but not asleep’ and ‘rod for your own back’ ringing in my ears. A very moving article x

  3. I am so happy I found your blog this morning, when I was just about to break down following four sleepless nights in a row. I read some of the other posts first, which were a refreshing change after fifteen months of sleep-related advice and trying to figure out the mysteries of baby sleep. But this post was the one that really did it for me. I could almost imagine what going back to job will feel like after being a stay-at-home-mom for a year and a half. I will miss all these hours my son clung to me. He won’t be a baby forever, and your post sort of put it all in perspective. Thank you, because I know I would have lost it this morning, would have quarrelled with hubby and shouted at a toddler who is still too young to understand mommy’s troubles.

    • Thank you. I have lost it many a time over the years! Hang in there. It is tough but there are wonderful moments we’ll cherish forever in between the milk and tears! xxx

  4. Beautiful and so true! My little sleep thief is bubba number 4 and with his siblings aged 13, 9 & 8 I am only too aware that these times pass very quickly. I ‘sort of’ even embrace our 4 am starts – obviously armed with a very large strong cup of tea! I wish I liked coffee, I am considering ditching the caffeine free teabags though, tough times call for the hard stuff!! Anyways off to ponder how one small bubba can actually fill up a king size bed, oh and yay he is asleep…..at the moment……shhhhh!


  5. I feel just the same! But my darling little man cries every time I leave him at school. Screaming “Mummy” as the teachers peel him off me and I walk away in tears and all alone. I have to fight myself to not turn around and snatch him off his teachers and bring him with me.
    They assure me he settles and is happy but my heart is still broken every morning.

  6. My eldest was 2 before she slept through and my youngest has just started now – I’ve been a zombie for nearly 4 years but I already miss the middle of the night cuddles. Brilliant post xxx

    • Thank you. I feel the same. I never would have believed I’d ever miss it in the early days! Starting to get a bit more sleep with my youngest but making the most of the night cuddles while I can!

  7. Beautiful thank you. 14 months and still no sleep, a rough night last night left me desperate to night wean, to do something!? But I know she will sleep when she is ready at least most nights i now appreciate the cuddles but feel such a loss for the first 7 months of battling with her, reading every bastard sleep book, scowling when people said enjoy it they grow up so fast, wishing she would grow quicker i was so desperate. I know i will miss this x

  8. Thank you for putting this into writing. I am 5 months into having my little guy steal my sleep. Next time I am woken in the night I will try to remember your words and that I will in fact miss this stage.

  9. I feel the same – my first was such a bad sleeper i thought I would die, but I have hours and hours of mental footage of his little face in the dead of night, listening to my wavering lullabies as I waited for some more milk to come in. Lovely post. Good luck with the MADS, I’ll hopefully see you there (going as a plus one).

    • Ah same here. As tired as they make us I would not go back and change it even if I could! Thanks.. be good to put a face to a well..blog. I’ll be the one on her own in the corner downing the free wine. I literally know nobody! X

  10. Soo beautifully written…I can’t stop reading this article again. And every time it makes me cry. Your article is a perfect reflection of my feelings and emotions. Thanks for such a great piece.

  11. I’m bawling as my almost 4 year old, original sleep thief, is soundly sleeping in her room and her one year old protégé is on her third wake up/nurse of the evening. Beautifully written article 🙂

  12. Oh wow, that made me cry. My only child starts school on Tuesday and I’m so not ready! After being an (almost) full time mum for 4 and a half years, I’m going to miss her sooooo much! And like you say, the ironing..! I generally do ironing once in a blue moon! Suddenly I’m going to have to be an organised person! I wish I could just have another day with the newborn version of her!

    • Mine starts longer days today and I feel the same! I am going to miss her loads. Her little sister adores her and when I think of how much she will miss her too it breaks my heart. I think the toughest part of motherhood is letting go.

  13. I just nursed my 20-months old Little Man to sleep and I felt it, precisely as you tell it. It took forever, I wanted him to doze off so bad cause I got Stuff to do, I’m tired, everyday I feel robbed of something I cannot name. But when he finally DID fall asleep, with his sweet slimy cheek on my chest and his fists on my collarbone, I just couldn’t move. I sat on my bed in the dark for almost an hour, breathing in the scent of his messy little head, overwhelmed by the thought that this will end, sooner than I think, he will become too old and big to need me like this. There is no Stuff in the whole wild world more important than these moments. Thank you for this post, you gave me the courage to accept I NEED this closeness too.

    • Oh my what a beautiful comment. I am crying now. But a good cry. You are right we need it as much as they do. My eldest never falls asleep on me and I miss it. God knows how I will cope when my youngest grows out of it too…

  14. Aaaw I’m tearing up. This is beautiful and I’m in full swing in the sleep deprived stage… Couldn’t be more poinient following a week of sleepless nights, breastfeeding all night and a toddler the other side of me and the baby. Thank you for this X

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