I have been sleeping a lot. Being pregnant, it is part of the deal. My main symptom in my pregnancies has never been morning sickness, but extreme fatigue. And so, I sleep. My husband gets up with our 3-year-old son so I can sleep in. He takes him to the park so I can nap. He’s a doll.
But in addition to actually sleeping, I have been thinking about sleeping — from when I can get it, to why I can’t sleep sometimes in the middle of the night, to getting a new, special big-boy bed for Benjamin so he won’t feel the new baby took his bed.
But what has really been on my mind lately is an ever-growing anxiety about how little sleep we are all about to get once the new baby arrives.
We finally have a kid who sleeps, and now we are about to do it all over again. Yikes.
Now, no new parent sleeps well. The baby needs to feed every few hours and this is part of the deal. But most people know it will subside at some point and the household will fall into a certain rhythm. But for us, with Benjamin, it took years. Perhaps it was our fault (I always think it is my fault), but I think it was just who our son was. It was his make-up, part of his neuromuscular issues. He wasn’t able to get comfortable in his body. We tried everything, and still for almost a year, he’d wake up nightly, screaming and flailing his body for almost two hours, ending up in our bed, until we all collapsed. I am surprised my husband could make it through his work day or that I got my son where he needed to go. We were wrecked.
When we did try to sleep train him, by letting him cry it out, there was a knock on the door at three in the morning. It was the police. Seriously. They said they could hear him all the way down the street. We explained what we were doing. They suggested keeping the windows closed, but it was summer and tremendously hot. They didn’t care and neither did our neighbors, who had called them. I was devastated and embarrassed, struggling to help my child learn how to soothe himself, only to be chastised that I was doing something wrong and disturbing other people. Thank goodness Benjamin happened to be wearing his policeman pajamas that night, with a little sheriff’s badge on his shirt.
The next day, I slinked out of my apartment, mortified that one of my neighbors had called the police on us (though all of our immediate neighbors claimed they heard nothing) and headed over to The Pump Station for some advice. Please tell me what to do, what to buy, what class to take, I pleaded. My new parent exhaustion dripping from my whole being. And I did as they said, and tried it all. And none of it worked. Or if he did finally sleep through the entire night, he woke up at an unseemly hour. We were spent.
My husband read something once on some parenting board, by some other father, that said the days are long but the years are short, so when you are up in the night with your child, just try to enjoy, because it will be gone before you know it. And so we did that.
I tried to savor the rocking in the glider with him in the dark, or the quiet singing, or the three of us in bed together when Benjamin would finally just collapse in our room. But though I savored it, it didn’t make getting though the day any easier.
Nature almost got it all right. We can grow our children in our bodies and then even nourish them from our bodies. But just when they need us the most, when they are newborns and at their most fussy, is when we are the most tired. Perhaps if I had had my children when I was in my 20s instead of pushing 40, the lack of sleep would not have such an effect on me.
Finally, when he was ready, he slept. And then so did we. Our house is quiet now at night. It’s peaceful. It’s a gift.
And here we are about to do it all over again. By some definitions, that qualifies as crazy.
I know that sleep cannot be banked, but I am sleeping now, even when I am not so tired, while I can. Because when my child calls for me in the middle of the night, I will be there, and not because I am worried about the neighbors, or the fuzz, but because this time is fleeting and I know now from experience that we will all eventually sleep, it just may take a bit, but I will do my best to enjoy the long road of getting there.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get some shut-eye.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.