Sleep is for the Weak

Warning: This post is 1% book recommendation and 99% bitching about not sleeping. I don’t have justification for this level of bitchery, but what’s the internet for if not airing your grievances in 1,000 words or less to everyone you know and a million people you don’t?

So there’s this book called Sleep is for the Weak. It’s full of very funny blog posts from other Mommies, and it helped me get out of my cushy glider and write again. It also inspired this post/ gripe about not sleeping. So… good/bad. And sorry/deal.

I didn’t know you could get black eyes from being tired. I’ve seen my sister exhausted (she has three kids), but my sister is the second coming of Brooke Shields so even when she’s exhausted, she doesn’t look like she has mascara tattooed under her eyes. I look like I’ve been in a bar fight. My paleness does not help the matter.

I felt prepared for the being tired when Dane was born. My husband and I took the childbirth class, where we discussed strategies for fatigue and were given a magnet reading Fatigue Makes Everything Worse (WakeMed: deeply, truly, thank you.). To our great pleasure, after ten weeks, Dane was sleeping twelve hours at night and taking three hour naps. Jon and I congratulated ourselves on being the best parents known to man, while karma, sitting quietly at the end of the bar, chuckled.

Dane’s scale back started around three months. He would sleep nights, but only nap during the day in the pack and play, and only if I punched the vibrate button every 20 minutes. In a week or so, those naps dwindled from three hours to one and then it didn’t matter about the vibrate button because, hey, who needs a nap, Mommy? I tried the crib, and then, in desperation, the crib on his tummy (which I rationalized was safe because I had a VIDEO monitor and I kept the VIDEO function on at all times, as though Summer Infant had created a monitor that would not only show me my child but also shout at regular intervals his heart rate, oxygen saturation and blood pressure). For a while, I just stuck him in the sling and tooled around, but even that fell off after a few weeks. So finally, I was reduced to holding my fuzzy monkey baby for hours at a time to get him to nap. And still, I thought: I’m getting ten hours at night. Brook Shields with the three kids over there did it. I’ve been meaning to catch up on Teen Mom 2, anyway. Right?

Uh-huh.

February brought what my sister called a tummy bug and I called a nuclear meltdown, and then Dane’s four month growth spurt.  The rolling over started shortly thereafter, and my twelve hour nights went to seven and then three, and all of a sudden I began to question both why my child hated me and the existential reasons for having children in the first place. And still I stuck with it, thinking: this too shall pass and it’s just a phase and it beats a Mexican jail on spring break. Right?

Oh, so misguidedly, misguidedly wrong.

Enter karma: At the four month check-up, we discovered Dane had failed to gain the appropriate amount of weight and his weight curve had flattened and then taken a nosedive (I had a dream that he had LITERALLY FALLEN OFF THE WEIGHT CURVE. Yes: chaos ensued.). Up to that point, I’d felt good about the whole breastfeeding thing. My husband had even come in the room and mooed at me (Don’t ask. I don’t know how I don’t strangle him in his sleep.). Between March and April, however, between not sleeping, being anxious about not sleeping, not eating because of anxiety and not drinking enough water, not to mention being just plain irresponsible with my milk supply, my body forgot how to, you know, NOURISH my child. And in all seriousness, I know there are worse things, but having that particular conversation with the pediatrician – the one where she holds your hand and says your milk is low and for all I know, expired, sour and fermenting – sucks. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to formula. But breastfeeding was the one mommy thing I knew how to DO, and I had the temerity to think I was GOOD AT IT. And I’m an ex-engineer and TYPE A, for God’s sake.

So now, after spending two months going back and forth with the pediatrician, lactation consultant and my O.B., I’ve fetched up in May pumping like a maniac, mainlining water and trying to manage the massive mood swings cause by Reglan, and, finally, our baby is back to sleeping through the night and even taking a few naps (for which I am eternally grateful. I haven’t watched Grey’s in, like, a month). But here’s the thing: like I said, I was ready for the fatigue-makes-everything-worse newborn phase, but nobody told me about the four to five month mark. It’s like the college boyfriend nobody would tell you to break up with, but once you do, they’re all like, oh, we’re so RELIEVED. And I wonder: what else do I not know? And do I really want to?

I don’t have a happy ending to this post (or really, even, a conclusion), but maybe I’ll end with some advice from Brook Shields with the three kids: that it does, in fact, get easier (when they’re in grade school), and when all else fails: Power Through. And in the public interest, for all the people who believe they will ever sleep after having a child, let me enlighten you: (a) Yes, you should have broken up with him your sophomore year, (b) Yes, four months post partum is too soon to wear your skinny jeans (unless you are Giselle, in which case I hate you and we aren’t friends) and (c) it does get better. I hope. And if not, call me because bitchery is, in fact, my middle name.

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