Before I had children, I used to get a good eight or nine hours sleep most nights. I wish I had appreciated it at the time. Little did I know that when I had my first child I would be woken two or three times between ten pm and seven am. I found it extremely hard to adjust, but eventually my baby and I settled in to some sort of a routine, and I began to get a little more sleep.
Imagine my horror to discover that when we took our baby away from home for the night, her hard-won sleep patterns were severely disrupted. I began to dread going away, knowing that it would mean me losing precious sleep. Travel was no longer something to enjoy, rather something to be endured.
Over the last seven years I have amassed my fair share of travel-sleeping horror stories. Such as the time in Norfolk, when a two year old Edward woke at 5am every morning and expected the rest of the family to join him. Or when we visited France last summer and Dickon screamed inconsolably every time we put him to bed, oblivious to all our attempts to comfort him. Or when as a small baby, Eve woke screaming, repeatedly, when we were staying with our friends, whom I was desperate not to wake.
Also over the last seven years, I have learnt ways to cope with this. Such as sticking black card onto windows to block out the 4.30am sunrise of the English summer. And using a spare duvet under the thin travel cot mattress to make it more comfortable. And of course remembering to take all their favourite teddies and blankies from home to make staying in a strange bed a little easier. I have also relaxed as a mother and cope much more calmly with the odd broken night.
This week it is half term and we have been travelling around East Anglia, visiting friends and now staying in a rented cottage near the beach. We’ve slept in bunk beds, on the floor and in tall beds you can fall out of (as Eve discovered last night). Steve and I shared with Dickon for two nights, and now the children are all sharing together, something they don’t do at home. And it has been surprisingly OK. No tears at bedtime, no getting up in the night, except for falling out of bed, and everyone sleeping until about 6.30am, which is about when they’d be up at home. I don’t want to assume that all my travel-sleep issues are over, but I think the end may be in sight. About time too.