I know what you’re thinking … “I didn’t even know sleep consultants existed.”
Neither did I, dear reader, neither did I. But I’m here to tell you that they do exist and THANK GOD for that! I discovered Little Z’s Sleep Consulting when my sister sent me a screenshot of an Instagram post. I looked at it bleary eyed during a 3:00am feeding and wondered if maybe this was the solution to my biggest problem, lack of sleep, and thereby also the solution to the side effect of that problem, an extremely strained marriage.
You might also be thinking, “Is she actually going to talk about her marriage problems in a blog post?”
Yes I am. But only because I don’t think anything I’m going to say is all that unique and so I know it will help others who find themselves in a similar position.
Here’s the situation I found myself in…
My 5-month old would not sleep without being held and once asleep, wouldn’t stay asleep for longer than an hour or two at a time. Ever. He’d never slept well and it was only getting worse. I felt like I was being tortured.
My husband and I were sleeping in separate bedrooms so that I could safely co-sleep with the baby, the only way I’d found to at least get a little rest. I never intended for that sleeping scenario but at some point you have to weigh the risks vs the rewards and a mother who didn’t sleep at all seemed scarier to me than a mother who slept next to her baby.
Basically, we were in an extended survival mode and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
For me, the sleep deprivation didn’t manifest itself in tears or sadness (though there was that too). No, I was just plain mad – mad at everyone in my life because they were treating me like I was “normal” but I felt anything but. They talked to me as though I actually lived in their world, as though I wasn’t missing out on the most basic of needs; sleep. My irritability was at an all-time high and my patience was at an all-time low.
And then there was my husband. He had to live with me and all my anger.
We were barely speaking. It was just easier. At least if we didn’t talk, we wouldn’t fight. That took way too much energy. We were stuck in and endless game of “tag team”. While one of us was with the baby, the other escaped to gain some sanity back or to catch some sleep before it was their turn again. It seemed like it was my turn more often than not (something I think a lot of mothers experience – being the “default” parent) and the resentment just built. Meanwhile he was turning to friends that I didn’t even realize he had made, because we’d been living in separate worlds, to vent his frustrations.
The worst part was that we had forgotten we were on the same team, we’d turned on each other. Both of us felt alone and miserable. Things were bad and we needed help.
But I didn’t reach out to a marriage counselor. I found that screenshot I had saved weeks before and reached out to Becca Campbell of Little Z’s Sleep Consulting.
After emailing, we set up a phone consultation. I was a little embarrassed admitting our situation to her but she totally understood all of it and never made me feel judged. She said she could help. For the first time in months I had hope.
I told her that my goal was to get our baby to sleep without being held. That was it. I wouldn’t even allow myself to wish for more than that. She responded that her goals were to get him to fall asleep independently, to sleep for 12 hours straight, and to get my husband and I back in the same bed.
I thought she was crazy. And I was ready to hire her.
The truth is, I was desperate but I was also armed with something very important that has served me well at several “crisis points” in my life; self-knowledge.
I know myself and I know what works for me.
In fact, as a fitness professional, I have built an entire career based on the fact that I know what works for most people. The large majority of the population needs some sort of accountability from an outside source in order to do hard things successfully. It’s just a fact. I am definitely one of those people.
There’s so much sleep advice out there, it’s overwhelming. I was too exhausted to think and I just wanted one expert holding my virtual hand and telling me exactly what to do. I needed a plan, support and to be held accountable. If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right from the very beginning.
Now I just needed to convince my husband.
He was hesitant at first. Of course, there was the cost, and also, “why can’t we just get a book and do what it says?”
Well, first of all, when am I going to have time to read a book? If I ever had that kind of time, I’d use it to nap.
I prepared a little speech to try to convince him and my main selling point was;
“We will be able to spend time together in the evenings again, just you and me.”
He was on board.
We signed up for group coaching with Becca. For us, this was the more affordable option, plus I liked the idea that 5 other families would be on this journey with us. I was a little worried that maybe we wouldn’t get enough personalized support by going with the group coaching but that wasn’t an issue.
The first night of following her sleep plan was a bit of a disaster at our house. Apparently we have a very stubborn baby! I reported that I had “failed” to our private Facebook group the next morning. In return I received understanding and encouragement from the whole group.
A short time later, there was an email from Becca in my inbox asking us very specific questions about how things had gone the night before starting with the bedtime routine. I answered them and she came back with a new approach for us to try that night based on how Beau had responded the first night (a book isn’t going to offer you a plan B). This wasn’t necessarily part of the “deal” with group coaching but it showed how much Becca truly cared.
Once again, I felt hope. We did what she suggested and night two went a little smoother. By the third night, things had improved dramatically. By night seven, Beau slept through the night. I’m talking 7pm until 7am.
The group coaching was two weeks of laser focus. The process itself started to bring my husband and I back together. It was a project that we had committed to together. When we got invited out to dinner on the first Friday night we both said “Nope, we’ve got bedtime”. There was no argument. We were finally working together on something. It felt good to be on the same team.
It was definitely not easy. Those 2 weeks felt like an entire year. But it was so worth it. All along the way we had regular check ins with Becca where we could ask our specific questions and get guidance. We kept sleep logs and turned them in for feedback. She taught us so much and helped us realize the importance of things that we had previously thought of as “not that big of a deal” or just details.
The biggest benefit for us has been establishing a super consistent bedtime routine. If you had told me a month ago that I’d be able to lay my wide awake baby down in his crib at 7pm and he would fall asleep without any tears, I would have never believed you. This is now a nightly occurrence at our house. I’m still a little bit in shock.
Whereas before we were always taking “turns”, now whenever our schedules allow we do the bedtime routine together as a family. Snuggling my son while he giggles at his daddy reading books in silly voices knowing that soon he’ll be sleeping peacefully and that I’ll have the evening to relax with my husband… you can’t put a price on that.
Our marriage isn’t suddenly perfect nor will it ever be. We still have work stress and endless laundry and teething and everything else life brings. But I feel like I’ve finally returned to the land of the living and can manage it all.
The other morning we sat on our stairs before work and daycare and took silly selfies together as a family. The fog had lifted and the atmosphere at home was light again.
That’s when I knew that we were going to be okay.
If you’re struggling like we were, don’t be afraid to ask for help! There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t figure it out on your own. There are people out there who can help you find your way out of the darkness. Becca’s services are accessible to anyone, anywhere! That means YOU, Mankato moms! Doing group sleep coaching was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made for our family.
Thank you Becca for what you do! It is truly life changing.
Jump start your own great night of sleep by downloading her FREE 5 Steps To Get Your Child Sleeping Through The Night guide here.
Photos by Joelle Julian Photography