Two years. Two years we have had disrupted sleep.
From the day Kai arrived he was a dream sleeper. I remember thinking going through the adoption process that when he came home forever as long as he slept then he must be happy, feel safe and secure. And he was. From day one it was naps and full night sleeps. We couldn’t believe our luck and felt incredibly smug that come 7pm it’d be bath, bottle, story and a kiss goodnight. We’d close the door and not hear a peep til 7am.
7 til 7. Dream.
Then he turned three. And well… things changed just a little.
We moved him to a big boy bed just before he turned three. I think it’s quite common to do it sooner, but he was fine in the cot and never once tried to escape. We were all comfortable and so was he. But even when we made the switch to the cot bed, he still didn’t get out of bed in the morning. He’d call us in the morning. “Daddy… dadda… I’m up!” It was perfect.
The change coincided with a pretty traumatising holiday. He hated the room and it wasn’t ‘home’, you know? Think about it, he’d suddenly been moved from the cot, all he knew, into a bed at home. But to then be abroad in another country, a strange house and have a make shift bed on the floor… it didn’t work. And something switched that holiday. He changed. And no word of a lie, it freaked me out.
That was the start. When we arrived home (we couldn’t get home soon enough!) I had to lay with him til he fell asleep every single night. Where had this new fear come from? For two years we’d been blessed but this was like a rude awakening and literally knocked us for six. Our evenings now consisted of laying with him, then trying to creep out of the room on the creaky floorboards that’d wake him up. He’d wake. Kick off. We’d have to stay another twenty minutes til he drifted off again. Evenings were lost. Dinners got cold. But that wasn’t the worst part. That I could handle. It was the sudden 5am wake ups. Often 4am. And a few times, I remember in my bleary-eyed state, the clock started with a 3. And that was it. He was up. No going back to bed. No negotiating. He was wide awake. The iPad became our best friend during this time but only that would last an hour max… come 5am you’d realise you still had an hour til CBeebies started and when your alarm would normally go off for you to wake up for work.
It was hell. And I have no real idea how I handled it, I just did. I had work. Kai had nursery. He was so tired all. The. Time! Seriously drained each day and flailing come 4pm wanting his bed. I think after a good year it was our version of normal. We were so used to it. People would say on Instagram “Put him back to bed, it’s too early” and family and friends would give their advice. But it was useless. He was wide awake, head strong and would not be told. We tried of course. We’d pick him up and put him to bed. For him to then only jump off kicking and screaming. It wasn’t worth the drama. At 4am the last thing you want is a power struggle.
The amount of times we were recommended the gro-clock was hilarious… we tried it. It didn’t work. Kai isn’t the kind of kid to sit patiently and wait for a clock to turn orange. If he’s up, he’s up.
Weekdays, weekends, holidays, hotel stays… it was always the same. I think in the last two years we might have had two, maybe three, mornings where he woke at 6 or 7am. And would feel like we were in a coma for the extra sleep. It was insane. Everyone said school will knacker him out. It did. He was shattered. But he’d still wake early, making himself more shattered. It was just a crazy, vicious sleep circle. After a good year we managed to settle him by setting up camp in his room when he woke up. So 4am would come and we’d take it in turns each night to pull the fold away mattress out, grab the spare duvet and sleep on his floor. It seemed to work a treat, but it was still an interrupted sleep (not to mention giving ourselves immense back pain every day!). We’d completely forgotten what it was like to sleep from say 10pm to 6am. This was just our life now.
What actually got me through was thinking that it won’t be forever. One day he wont need me to settle him. To hold his hand. To be there for him when he wakes up in the middle of the night. I had to savour this, even if it was draining me of a little bit more life each day…
Fast forward to present day. And suddenly, overnight, it has changed. Don’t ask me how or why because I couldn’t possibly tell you. But it’s been over a month now where he wakes up, doesn’t run out of bed into our room in a frantic state letting us know he’s awake . Instead, he rises about 5:30am, we tell him it’s not morning yet and he, (wait for it…) stays in his room. In his bed. He usually falls back asleep/stays quiet til we get up around 6am. It’s unreal and completely unexpected with no rhyme or reason to the switch. When putting him to bed he jumps in himself, we have a kiss and cuddle (and he calls me back for five more and we laugh and hug it out a little more) then I leave the room wishing him a good nights sleep… with the door wide open. Light pouring in. Noise downstairs. And he’s sparko within minutes. Where as before, a creaky floorboard woke him! Maybe he’s grown out of it? It was a phase. Aren’t they all? But this was a bloody long one.
I’m writing this for the parents that were going through the same thing, the ones that would message me on Instagram or the parents I worked with that understood the struggle was real to make it in alive and kicking for the 9am meeting. And the parents that are going through a crazy sleep pattern now to tell you, it will pass. It ends. Eventually. It’ll surprise you when it does but I can tell you, I haven’t slept so well in two years and feel like a new man. Energy levels, my mental health, just everything. I feel simply better.
If you’re riding the crazy sleep wave just know it’ll end and when it does, my god… you can celebrate with the most beautiful of sleeps.
P.S. He still wakes at 5:30am/6am at weekends… haven’t mastered the lay in yet. Small steps and all that.