Among the myriad of foolish “wisdom” well-intentioned know-it-alls like to offer pregnant women, “sleep while you can” may be the most useless.
For one thing, I FEEL LIKE A MANATEE THAT WAS ASSAULTED BY A BOAT PROPELLER. If something isn’t itching, it’s aching.
Every single position for sleep is uncomfortable after 6 full minutes AND JUST SHUT UP ALREADY.
The “sleep” I got the last few months of both of my pregnancies gave me a better understanding of sleep deprivation as a means of torture. I’d spend hours strategically arranging and rearranging pillows to support body parts that had tripled in mass only to drift off for a half hour before waking to do it all over again.
Finally, as the sun crept over the horizon, I’d succumb out of sheer exhaustion. I’m fairly certain I once went full Linda Blair on my 5 year old son when, after a particularly grueling night, he woke early demanding pancakes.
Post pregnancy, I was lucky – at first
I quickly found an arrangement that afforded everyone the maximum amount of shut eye, and overall, I had babies that slept well. But what sharply came into focus was that no matter how successful a night was, my biology had changed. The notion that my head could hit the pillow and not stir again until morning was a distant memory.
I’m sure there’s something primal about suddenly being aware of every leaf rustle and clang of pipes. Deep sleep means vulnerability. Those leaves could be lions. Clanging pipes, the arrival of a hurricane.
I’d startle awake, and reach out to gently place my hand on a tiny chest to feel it rise and fall. Often, I’d stir just seconds before the squawk of a hungry baby, ready to nurse before we could even open our eyes.
We had a rhythm. A dance. A connection across the darkness that was far more important than the deep slumber of pre-motherhood.
Now every evening is like something from “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
One night can combine any of the following issues. On the most exciting nights, it’s a round robin of different complaints staggered every 45 minutes. And when both children are really on top of their game, they cruelly get you right at that moment you drift off to sleep.
They’re not babies any longer. But it doesn’t matter. I’m never off-duty. And now, the nighttime needs are harder to predict. I could be called upon at any moment because:
- Someone is thirsty.
- Someone is hungry.
- Someone is hot.
- Someone is cold.
- Someone dreamed that they were dancing and WHY WON’T YOU DANCE WITH ME MAMA? WHY?
- Someone has to pee.
- Someone is trying to pee in his hamper.
- Someone peed (on me).
- Someone filled their bed with vomit.
- Someone vomited (on me.)
- “WHERE ARE MY DRUMSTICKS, MAMA!?!”
- Someone wants to watch Netflix.
- Someone who can operate an iPad IS watching the Disney channel. At 3am.
- Someone heard a noise.
- Someone thinks it’s too quiet.
- Someone thinks it’s too dark.
- Someone thinks the nightlight is too bright.
- Someone smelled popcorn.
- Someone is excited about Christmas/Easter/vacation/Friday.
- Someone is scared of a monster/dog/thunder/lightning/a book about a farmer who jumped out of bed and looked really mad.
- Someone fell out of bed (and didn’t even notice).
- Someone crawled in your bed to snuggle but is built like a 10 speed.
- “MAMA I WANT TO GO OUTSIDE.”
- Someone is nervous about school/the doctor/the dentist.
- Someone is positive they heard a dinosaur.
- Someone has an itchy bug bite.
- Someone’s legs hurt.
- Someone’s blankets fell off.
- Someone doesn’t want blankets.
- Someone’s pillow fell off.
- Someone does not have an adequate amount of pillows.
- Someone is sleep-yelling nonsense.
- Someone wants to have this conversation at 1 am: “Mama, are unicorns real?” “No. They’re only in fairytales.”
- “Oh. Like owls?” “No. Owls are real.”
- “Huh. Even the ones with the heads that turn all the way around?” “They all do that. It’s just how they are.”
- “Oh. Then what about dinosaurs?” “Ugh. They were real, and now they’re not.”
- “What do you mean?” “They all died.”
- “All of them? How?” “NOBODY KNOWS. GO TO SLEEP.”
- “Are we all going to die?”
The nights that make me drop to my knees and shake my fist at the stars are the ones that align to spell “HA. HA. HA?”
They’re the nights I wake up out of a sound sleep to find two peacefully sleeping children solely because my brain is panicked THAT I HAVEN’T BEEN WOKEN UP YET.
And worse than that? In as many years as it’s taken to collect that list, I’ll be just on the cusp of laying awake at night worrying about an adult. And while the mother from “I’ll Love You Forever” creeps me right the hell out, I get it. I doubt I’ll be driving across town with a ladder strapped to the roof of my car, but I’m sure I’ll be longing for the nights I was woken up by a curly haired kid who heard a dinosaur tapping on the window.