Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Truth About Sleep

This year, when I taught my Kindergarteners the unit on “Needs verses Wants,” I added a need that we had not discussed the prior year. Most kids could put together that, in order to survive, we need food, water, and shelter. The series, very sweetly, includes love as a need for survival. A little abstract, but I think the kids understood it. But there was one need that was glaringly missing from the material. Sleep. Sleep is not a “thing,” so I can understand how it was overlooked, but neither is love and they managed to work that in. I explained to the kids why sleep is important for your body, and what can happen if you don’t get enough of it- you can get cranky, make mistakes, even be more likely to get sick. I was an expert sleep advocate.

I have a confession to make. Things in the Fontana household are not going well on the sleeping front. AT ALL. If you asked me about it in real life, though, I would probably lie right to your face. Why? Because, first and foremost, I am very annoyed by people who constantly bitch about being tired. Just a pet peeve of mine. And a lot of mom blogs turn into a series of posts about exhaustion, which means I stop reading them. SO there’s reason number one- I just really don’t think people want to hear it. Reason number two, however, is a little more insidious. I lie about my children’s sleep habits out of pride. I feel like, somehow, I am failing as a parent, or like my kids are not “good” babies, if I tell you the truth. I like telling people how great my kids are, already I don’t particularly want to focus on their faults. I guess that is only natural. Also lately any discussion of sleep or lack thereof makes me burst into tears. Thirdly, not to be a know-it-all, because lord knows there is a lot I don’t know, but if you tell people your baby is not sleeping though the night, they tend to be full of unsolicited bad advice: “Put a little cereal in their bottle!” “Sounds like it’s time to just let ‘em cry it out.” “The only humane and natural choice is the family bed.” “How about some formula before you put them down?” No, no, no, and no. Sorry. Just no. Reason number four may be the biggest reason of all. Guilt. If you know me at all, you know how badly I wanted these babies, and how much I love them. You know about our fertility struggles and the pain of watching everyone around us get pregnant, and you know I still ache for those for whom infertility is at the forefront of their lives. I just don’t feel like I can complain about my kids. This is exactly what I wanted, right? Beautiful, perfect babies. Who am I to sit around and whine about a little lost sleep when I have so very much to celebrate? I should be grateful for every moment of their beautiful, perfect lives, even the moments that occur at 3 am.

So if you ask me, as so many people do, “Are you gettin’ any sleep?” I will cheerfully look you right in the eye and tell you, “Oh yeah, we are lucky. They are great sleepers!”

The truth is, our nights really look more like this: the darlings go down between 7 and 8, I crash at about 10. Dearest is on duty from 10-12, Olivia frequently wakes around midnight and he rocks her back to sleep. Usually. Unless she needs me. And lately she needs me a lot of the time. But he gives it his best shot. The rest of the night is mine, except when they both wake at once, then I have to get Dearest for backup. The other night, Liv was up at 1, needed to be fed and rocked. When I was done with her, I woke Soph to eat (she’s not gaining as fast as Liv, part of the reason was that she was sleeping through the night and dropping that night feeding), and rocked her back to sleep. I was back in bed at 2. Liv was up at 3:30, her caterwauling woke up Sophie. I got Olivia, rocked her while Dearest walked a furious Sophia up and down the hall. At some point we stumbled past each other and Dearest barked something about killing himself. I countered that if I didn’t get some sleep I was going to throw up. He said he was going to drive into a tree on the way to work. I secretly thought that maybe if I drove into a tree I could at least sleep for a bit while I recovered. We were both back in bed by 4:30. Liv was up at 5:30. I stared at the baby monitor and prayed that it was not true. I mentally begged her to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t wait for too long of she would wake up Sophie again. Fed and rocked her until 6. Soph was up for the day at 6:45. So for those of you keeping score at home that was about 6 hours of sleep, in very small chunks. We have nights that are better than this, and nights that are much much worse. But overall—I’m getting about 2 stretches of 3 hours and that’s it. I was on the verge of not being able to function at all when Dearest volunteered to take the 10-12 shift since he is usually up anyway.

There are moms out there who claim to treasure those middle-of-the-night snuggles with their precious bundles of joy. Who say, “I look forward to it, some quiet time with just the two of us!” To them I say: are you familiar with Stockholm Syndrome? Don’t get me wrong, I adore my girls, I enjoy the pleasure of their company (heck, I’ve only been more than 50 yards away from them TWICE in the 4 months they have been alive—true story!), but I could really go from 7 pm to 7 am without seeing them and be JUST FINE. OK, I reserve the right to peek in on them while they are sleeping just to be sure they are ok, but that’s it.

So guess what, world? I’m tired. My kids are not perfect sleepers. Well, one of my kids is. I keep telling myself that this is just a phase, even though it seems like it will never end it WILL, and Olivia is still a “good baby-” maybe she doesn’t want to sleep because she is so bright and alert and engaging that the world is too interesting to miss out on. Wanting to get a decent night’s sleep doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my kids and recognize how very very fortunate I am to have them, or mean that I am a bad parent. I made the choice to exclusively breastfeed my kids, which means no matter how much help I have, there is, ultimately, no one who can take my place. Are there days I think I might drive into a tree? Oh yes. But am I going to keep lying to people who ask me how the nights are going? Absolutely. Because you don’t really want to hear the truth.

1 comment:

gd said...

These are the things I need to know. I need to know them because 1. I care about you, and 2. Because if I ever have my own bundle (s) of joy...THIS IS WHAT I NEED TO KNOW TO EXPECT!

So, thank you. I do hear about other mommas with perfect little sleep-through-the-night angels and their babies' diapers smell like daisies and everything is hunky dorky and I CALL BULLSHIT.

Thanks for not doing that.

word verification: hypit. Like a frog hiccup, maybe?