Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reminiscing Unfondly about Sleep Deprivation

I am [knock on wood] doing great. I don't feel depressed, mad, tired, overwhelmed, and out of it like I did the first ten years of having kids. I am sure this has everything to do with getting more sleep. If you are in the thick of sleep deprivation it might make you cry to think about other people getting a good night's sleep. I am not saying this to make you feel worse. I just want you to know that there is hope. Sure--it's many, many years away (depending on how many babies you have) but it exists. You might think you are inept at things, can't get it together, don't understand how other people actually do things.  It's not you, it's sleep. Just know that you are not functioning on full capacity and you won't for a while. I wrote this two years ago: 

I’m lucky because my youngest child, now almost 2, has always slept perfectly and easily. Before you decide to hate me like we hate those people who just can’t seem to gain weight, know that I have 3 other kids who have put me through the ringer. Christian and I are so over staying up all night with kids. We can’t take it. It’s as if little Ellen came to us knowing that one more round of crawling away from the crib on our hands and knees while holding our breath would kill us.

That said, Ellen is going through a phase. I refuse to think of it as anything else (like a permanent change–Don’t even SAY that). She’s napping irregularly and waking up all night. I blame daylight savings. And diaper rash. And a growth spurt. And, in a moment of desperation last night with a flashlight, pin worms. I also blame the devil. It really sucks. The crying, the numbness of arms, the obsessive adding and subtracting to figure out the hours of sleep you will or will not get, letting her cry for too long,  giving in and regretting giving in but wishing you would have just given in and put on Super Why 5 hours ago. As awful as it is, it does make me appreciate that it is not always like that anymore. It used to ALWAYS be like that. With little non-sleeping kids, you live like a zombie and you don’t even know it until you come out of the haze 11 years later feeling refreshed. And suddenly you have the time and stamina to foster dogs, sew dresses, and blog like a mother.

I’m sure I’ll miss my babies when they are grown (people always say you do). But here’s some food for thought: What if I don’t? I have an 11-year-old and while I occasionally feel pangs as he grows, I don’t miss him as a baby. Now he’s fun to talk to, has good taste in books and movies, can carry stuff, and knows how to make quesadillas. What’s to miss?

I just want to say that I get even more sleep now because I regularly take a nap while Ellen watches a show in the afternoon. I do have to stay up late in order to pick up my son--now 14--from games and activities but for the most part life is getting better. And I still don't miss having a baby. I mean, I like babies and I appreciate them and remember my babies as being cute but I don't miss it. So if I can spare you the guilt you feel when old ladies tell you to "Enjoy this time" I would like to do that. You should enjoy it if you can but if you don't--don't feel bad.

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. We're starting to contemplate having a fourth, and I'm wondering if I really want to put myself through all that again. Good to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

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  2. Pregnant with my 6th and my #1 is not quite 8. . . . I get really tired of hearing how fast it goes and how i need to enjoy these days, so thank you! its always good to hear that sleeping again someday is a possibility. :)

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  3. My 20 month old is the worst sleeper I have ever known. To the point that her sleep pediatrician said we'd done everything and he had no other suggestions. Ahhhhh. And thus we'll be taking a big fat break before #2. The sleep deprivation really is the hardest part of parenting, at least for me.

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  4. Wait until your kids start to date....back to not as much sleep. Sorry.

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  5. Thank you, I need to hear this - we are in thick in the sleep-less fog right now, and it's nice to hear that it gets better (eventually)

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  6. Wow, thanks for the tips. I'm hoping to sleep well soon.

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  7. I like this. I go back and forth. The majority of the time I really enjoy my kids and being their mom. Some of the time, especially when I am most sleep deprived (and hungry), I am not as appreciative.

    For the most part I think I enjoy it as much as I can. I have felt that way about most stages of life. I enjoyed it, or didn't, and generally (once I hit about 20 or so) tried not to do anything I would regret. For the most part that approach has worked.

    I really, really, really need more sleep though. I don't mind people telling me to "enjoy it because they grow up so fast." What I do mind is people raising their eyebrows when I admit that Lars is 8 months old and a completely unpredictable sleeper. Or when they say "Tired, you're tired? He looks old enough to be sleeping all night" (whaaa?) My babies have all been this way. Fortunately (so far) once they turned into toddlers and preschoolers they became predictable and slept most of the time. There have to be more parents out there whose babies don't have a great first year when it comes to sleep. I just don't meet any of them in person. Right??

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  8. "You might think you are inept at things, can't get it together, don't understand how other people actually do things."

    I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to read this quote. I was always so befuddled by the competency of other mothers around me when I was barely able to put one foot in front of the others during all those sleep deprived years.

    Sleep seems to matter more to some people than others. It matters the most to me.

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  9. I don't understand why I could thrive on four hours of sleep a night as a freshman in college but now I'm a zombie mom if I get less than eight hours. Maybe I'll realize it's worth it when my kid can finally verbalize how selfless and wonderful I am. Thanks for letting me stalk you in Macey's the other day, btw.

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  10. Love it. I love everything you write, but this one is special. :)

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  11. Huh. Parenting is exhausting and rewarding--I feel like I experience 100 different emotions throughout the course of the day. But, I wouldn't trade this life for anything :)

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  12. You know, I'm cool with one. He sleeps and therefore I can sleep. I don't want to tempt fate by possibly having one who won't sleep. I am in a spot where I can't believe people have more than one. How do people do it? And besides, this one is so great! (His kryptonite is his car seat. So I can sleep but I can't leave the house.)

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  13. i've resigned myself to the fact that i probably won't sleep for another 10 years. i just had my first 5 months ago and marvel that i function at a moderately decent level on a daily basis. sometimes i can't WAIT for kindergarten and i also can't imagine having number two until this one is at least 3.

    thank you for verbalizing what i hope to feel when my kids get older. you give me hope!

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  14. So true. I DO feel inept all the time. Nice to know it's not me, but sleep. I'm happy for you that you are out of the bad-little-sleeper-children woods.

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  15. Maybe in your next post you could speak to the secret fear I have that even when I get sleep I'll still be inept. I might be. Prolly. Could you give me some comfort about that?

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  16. Awesome. Thanks!

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  17. Great post! So true. I am only beginning to find my way out of the haze and loving it.

    And kids who are old enough to 'carry stuff' rock!

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  18. Anonymous9:24 PM

    My grandma had 7 kids all in the 1950s (two sets of twins included). She doesn't remember that decade. Jerri

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  19. After I had my daughter, I swear I couldn't tell night from day. Waking up every 1.5 hours in the night makes for a delusional following day. I seriously couldn't even keep track of the days. A few months in, my daughter got sick and the doctor told us to give her some Benadryl or something like that. She slept for 7 straight, glorious hours. In the morning, my husband and I had to go in and check on her, poke her, listen for breath, feel for a pulse, make sure she was alive. It was a miracle. A full night's sleep!

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  21. Sheesh thank you. My husband is trying to pressure me into having more kids. I have two boys, 3 and 5, and life is just so blissful and nice right now that I just know having a baby would complicate it. This is not to say that I won't, I just want to savor this while I can. Plenty of sleep, no diapers, and fun activities that only big kids can do (hello playtime/daycare at IKEA)
    Just a little longer please dear...

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  22. This comforts me, especially with a three year old who is still technically a baby and another on the way. I love the little stage, but I am excited for the real big kid stage.

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  23. Oh, sure, rub it in, why don't you?

    Someday I'll get some sleep.

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  24. Was that for me? Why didn't you dedicate that to your "stalker who accidentally-on-purpose had another baby last year at 40 and has now officially lost her dam mind from lack of sleep"? Listen, if you're 20-somethin, you'll bounce back. You'll find a way to make it through the day. If you're 40, just check yourself into the hospital now, cuz if you've got a non-sleeper, you are so going down. See ya in 2 years when I get out of baby jail! [ps,I am stealing this for my blog. RIGHT NOW.]

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  25. just gonna say.....enjoy it now - because as they get older, it is a big reversal - suddenly you NEVER get to go to bed at a decent hour...they are out - driving - and dating, there is NO sleep involved during that time!...yup, sucks - sorry!! But you can console yourself with this - at least you won't have teenagers and a baby at the same time! (slapping myself upside the head for doing THAT one!!)

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