Sleep…Or a Lack Thereof

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My first child slept through the night within the first six weeks of life. We could feed her, swaddle her, put her in bed still awake, and the little angel would drift off to sleep for six to seven hours straight. That was just as a newborn. As she has grown older, once she falls asleep for the night, she is down for the count. It is magnificent. My husband and I had it all figured out, or so we thought. Then we had our second baby. I spent at least the first six months of her life sleeping in the armchair in her room, holding her. To put it mildly, she was (and still is) a light sleeper. I would watch her little eyes flutter closed. I would wait a good half hour, and then I would gently place her in her bed. Sometimes she would wake up and voice her displeasure at the indignity of being made to sleep in her crib instantly. Other times she would wait until I was across the house and settled snuggly in my own bed. Either way, I eventually gave up. I would kiss my husband good night and head off to my new armchair bed for the night. (Let me tell you, this was not a Lazy Boy either…this was just a plain old armchair without an ottoman that I laid across sideways.) I did finally figure out that if I positioned bed pillows correctly in her crib, I could trick her into believing she was still being held, at least for a few hours. And before any of you finish gasping about the dangers of putting pillows in a baby’s crib, let me say two things. One, the child came out of my womb holding her head up. I kid you not. She did this within minutes of being born. (That should have been my first clue that she would be “active” and “strong-willed.”) Second, and most importantly, desperate times call for desperate measures.

After two years, she still likes to visit with us in the middle of the night. She gives us two or three nights in a row of solid sleep, just to give us a bit of respite and trick us into believing that maybe, just maybe, she is going to settle into a normal sleep routine. Then, seemingly out of the blue, we hear her, not crying, but calling…“Mama? Maaa-maaa!” To give my youngest a bit of credit, she did go for about a month once of sleeping through the night. However, just when I began to feel like a real person again with coherent thoughts and a desire to look presentable, she started waking in the middle of the night. We have yet to determine why she wakes up. Sometimes she’s hungry, sometimes thirsty, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, lonely, bored, who knows??? She has been potty-trained since she was about 20-months-old, but she still sleeps in a diaper, so sometimes she wakes up if her diaper is wet. If she gets a cold, forget about sleep. If she cannot breathe easily through that tiny, adorable nose, she is not sleeping…no mouth breathing for my girl.

I know I am not alone in this. I constantly see Facebook posts from friends with young children going through the same sleepless struggle. And I do mean struggle. Having disrupted sleep every night is really tough. I look like a hag most days. I’m convinced that the day I show up to pick up my older daughter from preschool actually wearing make-up her teachers are going to ask for my I.D. before they let me take her. Two years of this is really taking a toll on me. I read a disconcerting article recently about sleep deprivation studies using rodents that found that these poor animals actually died when they were prevented from sleeping over a period of a few days. In case you are hoping I’ll cite a source for this study, you’re out of luck. I am just too tired to look for it right now.

5 Responses to “Sleep…Or a Lack Thereof”

  1. Kara says:

    ….and then one day loong loong from now, you will realize you have not been woken from sleep in over a year, and then she will turn 6 and suddenly for unknown reasons, she wakes up night after night with bad dreams, stomach pains and needs for her pillow or her blanket and again, your mind and body begin the wasting spiral. Joys of mother hood, but the sadness is when those annoying things cease without our notice and we are spent with opportunities to nurture and love them in their need.

  2. Barb Crouse says:

    Hmmm. I’m trying to remember. I think I started to sleep well after Dave moved away from home at age 18! (Sorry.)

  3. Christine Fryoux says:

    I feel your pain. Simon did not sleep through the night for the first year. You brought back memories of when he would wake up at 2am every single night, sometimes 10pm, and I would rock him back to sleep and have to wait 30-60 minutes before attempting to put him back into the bed lest he be woken by the process and it would have to start all over again (ugh). It was a form of torture, I’m sure, but I do look back at those moments and remember,…heck what am I saying, it sucked. Anyway, I’m reading a book right now by Sally Clarkson called The Mission of Motherhood. It really puts an eternal perspective on all the everyday, sometimes mundane, sometimes utterly difficult things we as mothers have to do. I’m only on chapter 3, but it is changing my perspective (even though I was already sold out to the idea of motherhood, this takes it to a new level).
    Well, thinking of you anyway!

  4. Mary McKee says:

    Joanna didn’t sleep through the night until she was 4. And even then, not regularly. I would put a bed on the floor by our bed and give her candy if she got there in the middle of the night without waking us up. It worked. When she was about 8 and Lincoln about 2, they slept together for about the next 4 years in the same bed, holding hands. She has since kicked Linc out of her bed and now he sleeps with the dog. It’s always something. Believe me.

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