If I could give advice at all of the baby showers that I have been to during my lifetime - all over again - it would have nothing to do with being happy, going for walks, going on a weekly date with one's husband, enjoying being a mother, or any of the other silly pieces of advice I gave.
My advice will now forever be: teach your baby how to put him or herself to sleep on their own - as early as possible.
Oh, and, by the way, this advice intricately and powerfully influences, or rather, totally determines all of those other things I mentioned.
Each of our four sweet children have settled nicely into the middle of our bed after sleeping peacefully and deeply through the night in their own cribs from 6-weeks-old until 7-months-old. At that point, something happened with each one. They recognized that they were alone in the room? They started waking up naturally as we all do, and didn't know how to return back to sleep by themselves? I don't know. But, I do know this: once they got snuggled between mom and dad when they were 7-months old, there was no returning to their crib.
Luckily, though, I realized just yesterday, we are now on child #4. Even at this moment as I type this post late at night, he is snuggled up to my husband, burrowed next to his back. Yes, let him sleep, I remind myself, for, very soon (though not soon enough... is it at 26 months that it works?), he will be old enough to bribe. And then, it will be all over. Suddenly, we will no longer have a permanent visitor every night, stretching his or her toes and arms horizontally in order to be constantly touching both mom and dad, or curling his body around my head in an attempt to get comfortable.
Yes, at 26 months, our other three children returned voluntarily to their own beds, determined to receive a sticker, treat, toy, or whatever we decided to bribe them with. It only took a couple of weeks of bribes and the training was complete.
Only 7 more months to go...
I need to stop. It's a bit too fresh to try to imagine and write about what goes on each night while I am struggling innocently to get a restful night's sleep.
Maybe when my children have their own children and I am asked at a baby shower to give my most valuable advice, maybe then I will enjoy the memory of these years without sleep - just a little.