Lucky #13. Yeah, right! Again, I feel like I am out of order with the hurdles/challenges that mother’s face, because this is probably MUCH higher on everyone’s list. And we truly don’t realize how valuable sleep is until it’s gone.
We are warned before we have kids, during our pregnancy even, to “sleep while you can” because when the baby comes, you’ll dum-da-dum-dum: never sleep again! GASP! We try to listen, we try to eek out every little droplet of sleep we can. I remember taking long, luxurious naps on the weekends while pregnant. Sometimes, I would even come home from work, take a half-hour nap, and then go to bed two hours later. I was never really a napper, either, so it was strange for me. I mean, if I hadn’t slept the night before or gone on a rare bender, I would often be able to conk out for an hour to try and recover, but it was only out of sheer exhaustion and to the benefit of everyone around me.
When I had my first child, I was able to sleep at the drop of a hat. When the baby went down for a nap, eyes wouldn’t even be shut and I would be fast asleep in the same room. I’m not sure if my sleep was as deep as I’d have liked, because I felt like a part of me was always aware of what the baby was doing, but I still felt rested when I woke. Baby number 2, not so much. Sleep never came. It wasn’t that I didn’t have opportunities. Oh no, I had plenty! People came over to offer to hold the baby so I could sleep. The baby slept for me for pretty good chunks of time. My husband would take the early shift at night so I could crash for a few hours before the baby woke up for the 11 o’clock feeding. So it wasn’t that the opportunity wasn’t there, it was, with bells on. It was more so the fact that my body wouldn’t cooperate. I was too amped up at all times to sleep.
How did I survive? Literally, by the skin of my teeth. It was rough. I was lucky if I got out of my p.j.’s on a daily basis, and even then, it was only to put on sweatpants to pick up my first at daycare so I didn’t look too much like a bum. I don’t remember showering much, because it seemed like too much effort and I was too tired to even lift my arms. I never wanted to do anything because I was so tired. When I went back to work, I was surviving on no sleep and coffee, lots of it. I was wound tight, and I can’t really tell you much about those first few weeks back to work because they were a blur. Everyone kept saying, just survive. You don’t have to be perfect, just survive. Well, at times I would wonder if I could do that without sleeping.
I suppose when we become parents, our bodies readjust to need less sleep. I can remember as a teenager thinking about how my parents would stay up to watch the 11 o’clock news and be able to get up at 6 to get ready for work in the morning. Weren’t they tired? I know now that those extra few hours at night was their time without us, to unwind and recuperate from the day they had. My mom also used it to grade papers and prep for her teaching, and I’d often see my dad paying bills when I would go up to bed at an early hour of 9. But as a parent myself, I barely make it to 9 o’clock with my eyes open. Our children go to bed at 7, so we have those few hours of blessed silence (most times) to relax and enjoy each other’s company. I feel like I’d rather sleep than relax in peace and quiet, because maybe if I sleep more on that end, the morning sleep, or lack thereof, wouldn’t matter as much.
Someone told me the other day that we sleep for 8 years of our lives. It just doesn’t feel like enough to me right now. Lack of sleep will probably always be the fight we have as parents. With disruptions during the night for a need for water or crying out for nightmares, or the sobbing at 3 am because “I heard a noise”, we may never get the sleep we truly need.