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The Sleep Drug

It seems we’re in the middle of Sleep Issues week here at 1M2A, since
today’s another sleep-related entry. But there’s so dang much to say on
it! So if your baby has no sleep issues, started sleeping through the
night at three months and hasn’t looked back, and you are bored by the
topic, check back in a couple days. And don’t ever tell any other mommy
about your child, because she’ll beat you with a stick.

the past few days, I’ve been struggling to put Madeleine’s sleep history
into perspective (see previous blogs); finding patterns or reasons in her
wakefulness and fitful sleeping somehow makes it easier to bear the
seeming unpredictability of it all.

And makes it easier to not
resent her for robbing me of my precious sleep.

Just last week a client said to me, “Have you lost weight? You look great!”

which I replied, “No, but I have gotten at least four hours of sleep
uninterrupted at a time for the past eight days in a row!”

been sleeping much better the past couple of weeks, and has slipped into
longer naps as well; she’ll nap for an hour and a half or two hours around
noon, and sometimes still squeeze in 30-45 minutes late afternoon. I’ve
been catching a few of those naps myself, and I feel like a new woman.

it amazing how a bit of sleep – or not enough of it – will quickly
determine the quality of your day? Two or three nights in a row of less
sleep than “normal”, and it’s “Oh, I’m a bad mother. Oh, I’ll never get a
full night’s sleep again. Oh, where’s the chocolate to help get me through
this day. Oh, my daughter will be an only child because I’m never going
through this again.”

Sound familiar?

But then you get
even two nights in a row of a bit more sleep – say, midnight to 5 a.m.,
then back to sleep until 8, and it’s “Oh, I can do this mommy thing! It’s
not so bad! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I can eat salads
and fruit all day and feel great! This baby thing isn’t that bad; maybe
it’s time to start talking about a sibling!”

I can’t
believe how quickly my mindset changes based on the bottom line of my
sleep balance sheet for the week. I dimly recall a time after high school
when I’d stay up late rehearsing or doing homework for college, get a few
hours sleep, go all day, and repeat over and over. Never felt like this, I
guarantee you.

And you get in the middle of a sleep crisis – a
growth spurt, or a developmental surge – and you are convinced that 1)
your child will never sleep through the night again, which means that 2)
neither will you. Concern quickly turns to despair, and whom do you take
it out on?

So far I have yet to become resentful towards Madeleine,
or speak harshly or unfairly to her. I know that she’s doing her best,
this is all new for her, and she doesn’t deserve any of the blame.

husband, on the other hand, is fair game.

I cannot count on all my
fingers and toes how many times I’ve stumbled bitterly out of bed mumbling
something about someone being comfy and cozy just because he doesn’t have
boobs. Or made some nasty remark about it being time for the milk farm to
get to work. Or how it must be nice to be able to roll over and go back to
sleep while other people have to get up and care for his child.

sure I must be the only one.

To his credit, my husband has never
stooped to the snippy, side-of-the-mouth hurtful comments that I’ve
indulged in. He grits his teeth and says, “Perhaps this isn’t the best
time to talk about this.” And it’s not like he doesn’t wake up when she
cries; his sleep is interrupted just as much as mine is.

But the
truth of the matter is that as supportive as he is, as much as he wakes up
and hears her cry and feels me come back to bed when I’m finished
comforting or nursing, it’s just different. Having to get out of bed and
nurse for ten minutes clearly wakes you up more than hearing a baby’s cry
and rolling over. I’ve had countless nights of getting up to nurse her and
being unable to go back to sleep for a good hour after I get back in bed.
My husband does not usually have such a problem.

So I stumble
through my days tired, a tad resentful of everyone else and their eight
hours of sleep, and riding a sugar roller coaster. Then Madeleine
magically sleeps a good stretch for a few days, and suddenly the birds are
singing, the air is crisp and clear, and as I throw open the curtains in
the morning I hear the swelling of a happy Broadway musical in my ears.
Life is good once again.

As I said, Maddie’s been sleeping
consistently for a couple weeks now so I’m hoping I’m off the roller
coaster for a while. It’s bad for everyone around me, and bruising on my
ego since I’m alternately the Greatest Mom in the World and the Nation’s
Top Mommy Screw-Up (subtitled: Who Let Her Have Kids?).

There are a
couple unexpected side effects that come with getting more consistent
sleep, though. One is a return of dreams. Remember those? Remember when
you were asleep long enough to go into a REM sleep and have dreams? Well,
they’ve been waiting in the mail slot and it’s pretty full by the time you
start dreaming again. I feel as if I’m being bombarded by a backlog of
funky dreams that have been circling in a holding pattern, waiting for an
opportunity to swoop in.

The second side effect is one I hadn’t
expected: fatigue. Yes, it’s nature’s cruel joke that when you start
getting more sleep, you start getting more tired. Your body’s been
functioning in that half-awake fugue state for so many months that you’ve
turned off your tired gene. I used to hear Maddie wake for good at 8 a.m.
or so and think, “Ok, time to get up”. No big deal, since I’d only been
dozing the past few hours anyway. But now she yanks me out of a deep and
sound (albeit dream-filled) sleep, and getting up is that much harder.
It’s as if my body was trying to be polite and not ask me for more than
the bare minimum of sleep, but now that I’m spoiling it and feeding the
Sleep Monster regularly it’s getting greedy and asking for More More More.

get me wrong – I’m happy to be dealing with the situation I’ve got right
now rather than the one I was in for the past few months.

But I
can’t help but still gaze longingly at my single friends, with their
Saturday mornings empty and stretching endless before them, and wonder,
“How long, Oh Lord, how long?”

Kids sleep a lot when
they’re teenagers, right? So if I can hold out twelve more years . . .


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