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Ever wonder when you’re looking at someone else’s story … what have the triumphs been? How have experienced shaped hearts? What have been the deeper struggles?

By far, one of the hardest challenges of this “special needs” journey has been the sleep issues that have accompanied it.

I still cringe a little when I hear the familiar line of a christmas carol… “Sleep in heavenly peeeeeeeeace, sleeeeeep in heavenlyyyyyyyy peace.” You can bet that your first weeks, even first months, with a newborn will be sleep-deprived. Baby needs to eat, and may stay up for a middle-of-the-night party; could possibly completely soak through a diaper precisely at the moment when a tired Mama needs to sleep. This is just how it goes.  It’s a motherhood right-of-passage.

But when it goes on …. and on …. and on …. for years……. no doubt about it, sleep deprivation takes its toll.

I struggled with insomnia after Mikayla was born. I think that’s pretty common. Looking back, there was definitely a connection to hormones and cycles and just feeling like I needed to be available all the time (you know — just in case you’re enjoying that sweet spot of drifting off to dreamland and then the fussing begins!) In fact, when Jon & I talked about having Baby #2, I think I said something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not sleeping anyway, so I vote we should just have another baby!” I didn’t think I could wait another day or month or whatever to have a second baby. I loved it.

But I was not prepared for the sleep deprivation that would be a critical part of this journey for six years.

There is something about not sleeping well at night for a lengthy period of time that will have you start thinking like a CRA-ZEE perosn. I have, in fact, read some articles about the seriousness of long term sleep deprivation and thought, “See, it really WAS as ugly as it felt!”

For us, it took almost six years of tracking good days and hard nights with a sleep journal I think I may have burned those papers with great joy once we found our way through this! Sometimes I slept with Kezia on the couch (after much trial and error I discovered that she slept best snuggled up on the couch and after 45 minutes of deep sleep I could put her back in her bed). Sometimes I just kept going into the girls’ room (Mikayla and Kezia shared a room and sometimes that resulted in TWO kids awake!) to tuck her back in. I gave her tylenol for possible teething pain, a sip of milk or water in between. I tucked her sheet around her nice and snug to provide that extra sense of security. I tracked nap times and bedtimes and we went to a pediatrician that helped us a little (she was a very nice doctor!). We discovered that cute little nighties do not provide enough middle-of-the-night-coziness and after rediscovering the loveliness of fall flannel jammies, resolved to never try that again ;). I begged and pleaded and prayed for sleep. In short, I tried everything I could think of!

I also had to face feelings of failure. Somewhere along the way I had internalized the myth that “successful parenting” was reflected in “kids that sleep through the night, in their own beds, nodding off around 8pm and waking for the day at 7 = perfect parenting.” Nothing could be further from the truth. But oh, what a hard lesson.

We did eventually find our way through this. In fact, Kezia is now one of our trooper sleepers. She is an early-to-bed, early-to-rise gal, who loves the beauty of a Sunday afternoon nap :). She can tell me when she’s tired, and will curl up and take a nap after a hearty dinner if her internal battery is running a little low. In short, it is great, and I am thankful that we have made it to this point!

How did we get there? Well, I’m a journaler, and that was probably the most helpful tool. When one day blurs into the next, it makes most sense to track things as much as possible. For a very long time {not to be discouraging!!} I made note of how many times we were up in the night, and whether or not she was up for a lengthy period {could be minutes to hours}. This helped us to find patterns of sleep disruption, as well as potential triggers. And triggers there were. Overtired. Overstimulated. Under stimulated {slightly less active than her sisters, her body was restless at night, looking for that activity that would normally come in the day. Restless at night = kicked off covers = awake baby}. Teething and colds were a bear to get through. Diet can play a role in this, though I didn’t notice anything specific at the time. Jammies are an issue, and something we still consider.

How did we survive?

As often as needed, I slept with Kezia. {And you know what? As those days faded, I began to miss it. Just a little :).} I knew exactly how she slept the best, and the sound of her deep breathing and her little body tucked into the crook of my arm or her hand on mine — and time moves swiftly and these sweet things don’t last forever.

I became a power-napper. With a preschooler playing softly beside me, and eventually a third baby who also had her own sleep issues :), naps became a saving point. Even if it was just 20 minutes — or 2 hours, if I was really lucky!!! — a nap helped me keep my sanity.

Oh. And I read books. Books do not help. One particularly witty moment was when I called ahead to a bookstore to have a “Sleep Help” book set aside so that I wouldn’t have to look for it on the shelf. When I went to pick it up, the gal asked me my name, which I honestly could not recall at the moment!!! I started laughing, said, “uh….” a lot, and then concluded with, “…. See. Tired. That is why I need this book!!”

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Oh, and grace :). Plenty of grace ;). At one point, the LORD convicted my heart on the self-pity that had started to well up. Oh, how ugly! Instead of complaining, He taught me how to say, “Thank you Lord, for providing the energy I will need for tomorrow.”

It became a lesson in reliance :).

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