“This is where you will sleep” they said. We were just outside a small room, no larger than a prison cell. It was black inside, with a metal bed and a stereo in the corner that was half tuned into a station. All you could hear were voices and static flowing in and out. It was hot and stuffy and the door was heavy and deadlocked. The only way in was with a swipe card.
“You need to sleep here all night. You are not supposed to cry. If you do, a stranger will come in here and roll you on your side and pat you firmly until you stop crying. If you still don’t stop, you will cry until you are so tired you fall asleep anyway”
“You are scheduled to eat and sleep during the day as we see fit.”
My mother was beside herself. The head paediatrician told her that it was her fault that I couldn’t sleep on my own. She was feeding me when I didn’t want or need to be fed. They told her I wanted to be independent and she wasn’t letting me by putting me to the breast too much. They said I was self-weaning. They put her in a room too far away from me. It had a big, heavy door too that they insisted be closed at night so she couldn’t hear me cry. I felt sorry for her and sorry for myself.
I couldn’t help it. I needed my mum. I cried and I cried. The nurses soon realised I would be a challenge. They told my mum I just had ‘spunk’ and they would get it out of me. But I was determined to fight and by the second night my mum was too. She demanded a noise monitor in her room. She came to me when I cried. They told her she couldn’t feed me though and they were always watching because there was a video camera in my room and they could see her.
We were both so tired there. It wasn’t working. They wanted us to stay another night. It had been 3 nights already and I was still waking up every 2 hours during the night. I was so glad my mum said no and we finally got to go home.
My room at home was just the right temperature and it was comfortable. It had familiar smells and noises throughout the day and night. Sometimes when I cried mum or dad would come in to comfort me.
When I was in sleep school I was 9 months old. They were wrong about me self-weaning. I kept feeding until I was 15 months old and then I was happy with regular milk.
Now I’m 2 and a half and I sleep through the night. Sometimes if there’s a loud noise or I have a bad dream, I take my baby doll and car and crawl into mum and dad’s bed. I go to Mum’s bedside and she helps me over the side of the bed. She turns her back and I snuggle up against her and put my hand against her skin so I feel safe enough to go to sleep.
My baby brother is starting to wake up a lot and sometimes I hear him. I hear my mum’s footsteps go past my room to comfort him and I don’t need to get up because I know he is safe.
And I know she will never send him to sleep school.
One day he will sleep, just like me.