I remember the first time my friend Lisa – a desperately tired mother of a sleepless six-month old - mentioned to me that she was going to spend a week at Tresillian, aka Sleep School for Babies. I made a sympathetic noise or two, all the while secretly wondering how she could have ever let it get that bad. Surely there had to be something wrong with her technique, I theorised, because tiny babies couldn’t end up so unsettled by themselves, could they?
At the time, I had only one baby – and a compliant one, at that. He slept and fed like clockwork and first ‘slept through’ at only ten weeks old, without any effort on my part. And boy, didn’t I feel smug about it – because surely it had something to do with me, right? How comfortable and secure he felt with me, the consistent environment in which I nurtured him, the absence of any ‘addictive’ sleeping cues like dummies or rocking or soft music piped into his bedroom. It was all my doing, because I was such a great mother. Tresillian was for the weak.
Fast forward two years. I arrived at Tresillian Willoughby after a 14-month battle of the wills with my second child, a gorgeous daughter who refused to sleep from the moment she ‘woke up’ from Newborn Land at about four weeks of age. She was bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and keen to converse at all hours – preferably in the wee dark ones. After 10 months of long, interrupted nights, she finally broke me – I got my referral to the very place I never imagined I’d end up. But by the time we got to Tresillian, when she was 14 months old, she’d turned a developmental corner and managed to cure herself. (Go figure!) But I went anyway, collapsing onto a small, hard bed and gratefully accepting their home-cooked meals .
When my third child was born in May last year, everyone told me how eaaaaaasy he’d be. ‘He’ll be great, don’t worry,’ they assured me. ‘Third children are so placid, they just have to fit in around the rest of the family.’ Well, nine months on, I have one word for you, my friends: BOLLOCKS. We were admitted to Tresillian when he was just 9 weeks old, with crying so vociferous and prolonged that the neighbours had started complaining. The advice I received at Tresillian was really helpful, but upon release he fell sick with successive upper respiratory tract infections and soon Sleepless Bubby was back with a vengeance.
Several hospitalisations and six months later, it’s Groundhog Day in the Higgins Household. Here I am, with a baby who’s waking 3-5 times a night and won’t be settled without a breastfeed. If I try to shush or pat him to sleep (and believe me, I’ve tried), or if I leave him to ‘grizzle it out’, the whole thing escalates so quickly that it disturbs the local peace. (One of our neighbours observed the other day, through bleary eyes: ‘When he gets a good scream up, it’s like having him in a port-a-cot in our bedroom.’ Embarrassment level: high.)
And that is why this week, I’m off to Tresillian once more. Hello staff members, yes, it’s me again. Smugness level: low. This has got to be a record for one family, doesn’t it? Three Tresillian visits in around 14 months, but I’m beyond caring. Like Lisa, my poor sleep-deprived friend whom I couldn’t really understand at the time, I desperately need some shut-eye. And for someone else to help me overcome my baby’s settling issues in a caring, compassionate way.
Thank God for the Tresillian service. I’ll see you all in a week’s time, when I’ve finally woken up.