Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Who Needs Sleep?

I did not have one of those babies who slept through the night at 2 weeks old or even 2 months old.  I had one of those babies that woke up every hour on the hour the first night we were home from the hospital.  I remember thinking that night "I may never sleep again..."

But I did.  And thankfully, he did.  

Two years later, we were blessed with our daughter.  She was not one of those babies who slept through the night at 2 weeks or even 2 months old.  She was one of those babies who simply could not sleep on her back.  So I "slept" in a big arm chair in our living room for 6 weeks with her laying on her tummy on my chest .  I remember thinking those nights "I may never sleep again..."

But I did.  And thankfully, she did, too.

Maybe you had one of those babies that was a great sleeper right off the bat.  God Bless You!  Find other moms who had great sleepers, too.  Talk about how awesome it is with each other.  Be amazed at how you had to wake your newborn up to feed them.  My genuine, sincere admiration and excitement for all of you!  It is good to know those babies do exist in the world!!

Just don't tell the rest of us in the "non-sleeper" category.  

My kids have never been great sleepers.  They have gotten the hang of it over the years, but it is definitely not their strongest talent.  They do not transfer well from falling asleep in their car seat to their own bed.  They do not go back to sleep once they've woken up from a nap.  Even if they only slept for 7 minutes and something woke them up (yes, I'm talking to you solicitor who is ringing my doorbell), they are pretty sure that was their nap for the day.  They do not love to snuggle up and nap in the afternoon.  They would much rather play.  Having "quiet time" is even a pretty big compromise in their mind at this stage of the game.    

Quite possibly the "parent"dox of my kids not loving to sleep is how much I love to sleep.  I mean LOVE.  TO.  SLEEP. Given the option to watch TV or go shopping or do just about anything, I will most likely pick sleep.  Every time.  I am that girl.  I am a person who needs my sleep to function.  

I am completely and totally in awe and have nothing but admiration for those who don't need a ton of sleep.  My sister and my aunt both fall into this category.  They can function on little to no sleep.  Wait, let me rephrase that.  They do more than function.  They thrive and perform and are successful and amazing and are actually NICE to other people, even if they haven't had much sleep.  It is all I can do to not rip off the cashier's face at Meijer when they ask me if I have any coupons when I don't get good sleep.  Just ask my husband.  He, unfortunately, bears the brunt of my grumpiness when sleep in not happening in our household.  Console him next time you see him.  Say a little prayer for him next time you hear in a conversation or see on Facebook that one (or both) of our children were up in the night.  

The thing that does work out well for him is that I am pretty good at getting up in the middle of the night with hungry, scared, wet, sick kids.  I don't really mind it at the time, so I take the vast majority of "night shifts" at our house when it comes to kids being up in the night.  I take 100% responsibility for this, as I have taken this on myself.  I can be compassionate and loving and caring and patient at 2:04am.  And 3:47am.  And again at 5:18am.  But come that next day...all bets are off.  I will be a horrible, grumpy monster.  Sorry.  It's all I got.  

The Eyes Say It All
When I used to where contacts, I would where my glasses on days when I had been up in the night with one or both of our kids.  I felt like it was somehow my warning to the world.  (Specifically, my poor, unsuspecting 4th graders at school...) In my mind, the glasses projected this message to all those I encountered that day:  "I am wearing my glasses.  These are my tired glasses.  I could not bring myself to shove a small piece of plastic in my already exhausted, bloodshot eyeballs.  Consider yourself warned.  And I am sorry."  Maybe I should have actually printed this on a business card, and simply handed it to people as I encountered them throughout the day.

I no longer have contacts.  I wear my glasses everyday.  Part of it is because I have astigmatism in both eyes.  Part of it is, well, see the Stages listed below.

My Own Un-Sleep Training
We read all kinds of books and watch videos and talk to each other constantly about getting our kids to sleep, even "training" our kids to sleep.  I have found, however, that my kids have also trained not sleep.  I cannot believe what a light sleeper I became when I became a mom.  I hear every bump, every creak, every rustle of a sheet.  I also hear every non-noise...i.e. when my kiddos were babies and I didn't hear them cry.  Are they still breathing?  Are they OK?  I remember when they would start to drop a feeding in the middle of the night, and it would take me 3 or 4 nights to adjust to it.  I would still wake up at that time, look at the clock, and wait for them to wake up.  Then they would not wake up, and I would lay there and try to calculate how many minutes of sleep I could get before they next woke up if I could actually fall back asleep right now.  And now.  And now.  And then there went 12 more minutes of sleep....

I have vague recollections of my family teasing my grandma about being able to "Hear a mouse wetting on a cotton."  As a kid, I thought that was the weirdest thing ever.  Why was there a mouse in my grandparents house?  Shouldn't they try to catch it?  And why did it pee on cotton?  And how did it know where the cotton was in the house, anyway?  I digress...  But I'm pretty sure I inherited that from her.  I feel your pain, Grandma Helen!  The mice have brought their cotton and moved into my house!


As a mom, I have often found myself wondering "When will the time come when I am not tired anymore?" Unfortunately, I have recently come to understand that being tired just comes with the title of "Mom."  I have come to accept that I will simply just be tired.  Always.  I have even developed a theory on this matter.  It is extremely scientific, and boasts lots of data and experiments to back it up.  (Translation: my own random thoughts and experiences with my own two children, put together at a time that I myself was somewhat sleep deprived.)

Here are the stages of my Theory of Interrupted Rest & Endless Drowsiness (TIRED).  

Stage 1
Learn in classes and read in baby books newborns sleep 18 hours a day.  Great!  Think that is totally manageable.  Think your baby will be the one who sleeps through the night at 5 days old, anyway.  (I know some of you reading this really DID have that baby...AMAZING!  I am totally impressed! Pretty sure you have some sort of magical powers. one another out.  Talk to each other about how magnificent it is.  Concoct some way to capture it and pass it out in labor and delivery rooms across the world.)

Stage 2
Actual newborn lives in your house.  Realize they do sleep 18 hours a day.  In 26 minute chunks.  And never actually at night.  Become irate at the person who coined the term "sleeping like a baby" and associated it with sleeping well.  

Stage 3
Get first night of real sleep.  Panic because you wake up and realize that you woke up on your own free will, and Baby did not wake you up.  Race into nursery to make sure Baby is still breathing. Come to the painful realization that "sleeping through the night" now means anything over 6 consecutive hours.  Feel pretty confident this "tired thing" has just about run its course, though.

Stage 4
Baby plays first (of many) practical jokes on you.  That full night of sleep was a one time deal.  Next night is back to your lovely little nightly rendezvous at 12...3...6...

Stage 5
Baby starts really, actually, consistently sleeping through the night!  Hallelujah!  Begin to think you will get back to sleeping through the night for real.

Stage 6
Baby becomes toddler and moves into big kid bed.  Woo hoo!  Realize child can now get up out of their bed when they wake up.  Early in the morning.  Or at any time of the night.  Boo hoo.  Teach child to stay in bed, or at least in room.  Back to hoping for more sleep.  Realize being tired wasn't just a "baby" thing.

Stage 7
Toddler becomes preschooler.  Arrive at a place where sleep is pretty consistent.  Then it hits.  Illness.  Nightmares.  Bed wetting.  New baby in the house.  Something.  Something comes along and messes with this beautiful sleep thing you've finally gotten pretty well established as a family.  

[Please note...the next few stages, overall, have noticeably less description, as I have yet to live through them as a parent myself.  They are based on: 1. my recollections of these stages as a kid (Insert apologies to my parents here...), and 2. stories relayed to me by friends or family who do have kids at these ages.]

Stage 8
Preschooler becomes school age child.  The actual process of going to bed becomes more and more prolonged and drawn out.  They can't fall asleep because they are worried about friends or homework or the talent show.  They want to have a later bed time because they "aren't a baby anymore!" (oh, if they only knew that their bedtime as a baby was 11:00pm...)  They want to negotiate with you to stay up and watch just one more show, play one more game on their iPod, read one more chapter of their book once they are in bed.  Begin to see tiredness as a way of life, not just a "little kid" thing.  (When I was teaching 4th grade, I did get some great insight into this stage from parents of kids in my classes!)

Stage 9
School age children become teenagers. Lay awake at night when they are not home, listening for the garage door to open and hear them attempt to "sneak" safely into their beds.  Lay awake at night when they are home, listening to them and their friends make way too much noise while they attempt to be "quiet," while eating all your food and laughing, talking and just being teenagers.

Stage 10
Children go to college.  Try to sleep because the house is quiet, but can't sleep because the house is quiet.  Too quiet.

Stage 11 
Finally adjust to house being quiet.  Children move back home.  Realize these "children" are on the same schedule they were as newborns, meaning they are up all night and sleep during the day.  

Stage 12 
Children finally move out for real.  For real.  Have come to the point where sleeping until 7:00am is "sleeping in" and often wake up randomly throughout the night.  Stinkin' hormones...

Stage 13
Have grandchildren.  See that life really does come full circle, as your own child is now embarking on this journey.  (See Stage 1)  Smile, hold your sweet, sweet grandbaby, and give your own child a chance to catch a quick nap.   


I know sleep can be a touchy subject for some people.  There are as many theories, books, articles and websites out there as there are moms and babies about how to "best" handle sleep. This post is not meant to promote or discount any theory or style when it comes to sleeping, or stir up heated discussions about the "right" way to get a baby to sleep. That is not the point of this blog.  My hope for this post, and for all posts, is that it may bring a smile to your face in the midst of a hectic day, and that it may help you see that you are not alone in a challenge you may be facing.  There are enough "experts" out there on one thing or another when it comes to parenting, and I will most definitely never claim to be one myself.  I simply hope to encourage and lift you up as you make your way through your own journey of motherhood.

I know you are tired.  Hang in there.  Keep at it.  You are loving your kiddos through it all, and that makes you amazing.  Cherish the good nights of sleep.  Treasure precious naps.  If you were able to stay awake to read this entire post, you are a rock star!  You are even more than that...You Are a Good Mom!

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