Friday, May 29, 2015

When sleep was just a thing

Before kids sleep was just a thing that I did.

Sometimes I did it more and sometimes I did it less.  But overall I assumed it would always be there.  Waiting for me.  Every night.  All night long.

Then I had my first baby and everything changed.  Sleep was no longer just a thing that I did.  It was my obsession.

It all started the night I went into labor.  You see, my water broke around 9 pm and I had Aiden around 9 am, so you can do the math to add up the ZERO HOURS OF SLEEP I got that night.

But when I went to catch up on my lost sleep this crazy thing happened.  They gave me a baby.  An actual one.  One who I needed to hold and change and feed every waking, and sleeping, minute of my life.  They gave me a baby when all I wanted at that point was a good night's sleep.

But good night's sleeps were a thing of the past. I know because I charted it.  Yes really.  I did.  From the second he went to sleep to first wake up, second, third, fourth.... In case I somehow duped myself into thinking I was receiving an adequate night's rest, I just referred to the chart.

Honestly, I didn't think human beings could survive on such little sleep.  But it turns out, we can.

And of course I heard a million trillion times to sleep when your baby sleeps.  Which left me with a terrible, anguishing decision every single (much-too-early) morning.  To drink coffee.... or not to drink coffee.

Should I sip that delicious life-giving beverage and feel for a short moment like an actual person, or should I stumble zombie-like through those early morning hours and attempt a 15-minute nap with my baby.

Oh, and the days I skipped that morning cup, only to lay down and not fall asleep... ugh, I shudder to think of them.

Sleeping, or, more accurately, not sleeping, became everything.  I thought about it from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell, exhausted, into bed, to an hour later when I was forced awake yet again.

I remember one Sunday at church complaining to a mom with grown kids about the utter lack of sleep.  How it felt impossible.  How I thought I would never sleep again.

And do you know what she said?  "You will never sleep again."

She told me that.  Straight up.  And I know it should have made me feel terrible, but it didn't.  It made me feel better.  It made me stop obsessing over the hours of sleep I was missing every night, stop wondering desperately how I would ever make them up, and embrace my new reality.  The reality of motherhood.  I would never sleep again.

She was both right and wrong, of course.  As the kids get older I do sleep more.  I sleep better.  But I'll never sleep the same.  Not as before, at least.

Last night I finally got Benjamin to sleep around 9.  From 9 to 10 I ran up and down the stairs, trying to relax in front of the TV for the first time that day while simultaneously attending to my eldest, with sleeping troubles of his own.  My eyes were barely open by the time he fell asleep.  So I closed them.  Which is always a mistake.

The next two hours were spent drifting off to sleep and waking to Finn's sudden, frantic screams.  These night terrors happen fairly often, but I still sprint to his bedside every time, heart racing, expecting the worst.

Most nights, though, I get "enough" sleep.  My new definition of "enough," of course.  But I'm finding the sleep obsession just shifts a bit as my kids get older.

I used to obsess over my sleep.  Now I obsess over their sleep.  Are they going to sleep early enough?  Sleeping the whole night?  Waking up naturally?  How will they make it through the day with that little sleep?

I wonder if this obsession will ever end.  I distinctly remember calling my mom in college, chatting about friends and classes and always, always... am I getting enough sleep?

At the time I didn't think much of this question.  But not now.  Now I realize the full implications of such a question.  My mom was still worrying about my sleep in college.  In college!

And it's got me thinking, perhaps it will never end.  When my boys are waking with babies of their own, I'll probably still be worrying about their sleep.  And their baby's sleep.  And the sleeping worries will only compound and grow until they take over my life!

Okay, probably not.  But it's quite possible that sleep will never again be just a thing that I do.

And, let's be honest, I could get more sleep if I really wanted it.  But there are these glorious hours every night when the kids are asleep and the house is so quiet and my head isn't spinning with children.  There are these hours of peace that are mine for the taking and I'd be a fool to sleep them away.

So instead I will look back on those full nights of sleep with a certain affection.  A certain whimsy.

And then I'll sip my wine, turn down the volume, and bid them a fond farewell.

1 comment:

  1. Patrick and I both had insomnia a couple of nights ago and we played an on line game together while 1500 miles apart. Sleep is overrated.