Before the twins were born, I literally studied a variety of books about helping babies sleep and be content. I studied them and would’ve aced any written exam. Then they arrived. Enough said. I distinctly remember staring at the dark grey smudges that sleep deprivation had sadistically smeared under my eyes, realizing that for the first time in my life, ‘preparation’ had actually set me back for reality. Instead of guiding my every step, in my situation, the books that I had read, only left me feeling more inadequate, as they made sleep techniques etc. seem easy, which wasn’t what I was experiencing. The one piece of advice that I persisted with and took seriously was that of keeping their bedroom pitch dark. I persisted with this and after practicing military-like routine, and night time total darkness, we had sleepers from 5 months old. They slept through until the age of 2 when Hadassah suddenly started waking frequently at night. Eden has her moments, and since our move to the ‘city’, has needed reassurance most nights. The three of them insist on sharing a bedroom. Thankfully they’re deaf, as the night time fussing doesn’t wake each other.
Having trained my girls to associate darkness with sleep, I soon realized my challenge. When they wake at night and need me to reassure or question what the problem is, I’m now dealing with deaf-blind children. Their sleep is very sensitive to light, so I can’t just switch on the light as it will wake the others escalating the chaos. Even my cell phone light or torch light often cause the others to stir. I do use my cell phone none the less, and have to continuously remind myself to shine the light onto me, so that they can see my hands and face, rather than the automatic action of illuminating the one doing the fussing.
A little while ago, I realised that I could sign on their bodies or move their hands passively to communicate when they are unable to see. My mentor also demonstrated to me how I could improve this. Hand in hand, total darkness, I can sign most of my current signing vocab through movement and touch. I needed to train them a little, so that in the pitch dark at unearthly hours, they don’t suddenly freak out when I grab both of their hands, but rather understand that I’m going to “talk” to them. Tahlita loves this so much that it has become a fun part of our bed time routine. After kisses and snuggles, “I love you’s” and tickles, she rushes me to switch off the lights. In a moment, there is darkness apart from the few glow-in-the-dark stars that cling to the ceiling. I feel my way back to the side of her bed, and we have our “dark time whispers”. Hand in hand, we say good night, she’s reminded that she’s loved, beautiful and precious and then we may chat about the odd random event. She giggles, squeals and moves my hands as she signs back responses. This is always finished off by her throwing her arms around my neck and plastering a long kiss on my cheek (or nose if we miss judge our positions in the dark). This is a special time for Tahlita that makes her feel loved.
Had I known when they were born that they were deaf, I would have trained them to sleep in a lighter environment, as I’m sure that waking up without the sense of sight when you’re already deaf must be quite scary. Eden woke up the other night and signed to me that she needed the toilet. After a quick trip to the loo, she was soon asleep again. Previously this would have become one chaotic night of recurrent awakenings and frustration. For now, our “dark time communication” is doing the trick, and the three of them are starting to sleep a little better. Trying new things and being willing to adapt – for now, I’m experiencing that these things, are key to the enjoyment of the parenting journey of deaf children.