Thursday, August 6, 2009


At our house, we went for three and a half years without rest, without functional sleep. What I am able to recall of that painful time has a hazy grain shot through, and I know we lacked the necessary energy to enjoy the good moments the way we wanted. And we did have good moments; it was period in which I gave birth to both children, my brother-in-law married, we bought our first house... but we stumbled through much of it.

My most vivid memory of the toll the sleeplessness took happened early on, before Peaches' birth, when the Rooster was less than a year old. I remember on a Saturday late morning, marching in to the bathroom where my husband stood shaving, bitterly bemoaning to him, as I held my arms in cradle shape and the Rooster cried, "YOU said YOU would take a turn, honey, please! You said you would! I'm soooooo tired! It's your TURN!!! PLEASE!!" My husband sat down the razor and touched my arms gently. "Yes, honey," he said to me. "Look at your arms. You are not holding the baby. It's my turn. See?" He pointed to a bouncer on the floor, where Rooster wailed. "You just need to find a quiet place and go to sleep now. I will try to rock him. It's my turn. I have him. You sleep."

Now that we get reasonable sleep at least a few nights a week (though never more than four, I'd estimate), in some ways things feel harder. Oh, certainly not overall! Certainly I feel lucid enough at all times to know whether or not I am holding a child now. But I've diminished my endurance. About a year and a half ago, a parent introduced us to the joys of melatonin for the Rooster (vile curses to the heartless pediatricians who silently sentenced us to sleep torture as if they'd never heard of melatonin themselves), and shortly after that we sleep trained Peaches. Still, obviously, neither of our kids will win any sleep trophies. About three nights a week, sometimes more, they have nightmares, or accidents, or illness, and the Roo is prone to waking up at three in a hyperactive frenzy.

The sleep I do get in a seven or eight hour night reaches deeper levels, and to pry my eyes open at two or three or four feels more arduous, and rising to deal with situations sometimes feels impossible. Where I used to feel like I slept with one eye open, that I listened to and for my kids while I slept, ready to bound out of bed during the nursing ages especially, and while I went at least a decade of waking exactly a minute before my radio alarm turned on, now I feel like I am pulled from sleep like someone drowning pulled from the sea.

I am tired. This is more than a statement, it's become my apologetic mantra. It's nearly my identity. I am very tired. So tired that last night my husband ended up sleeping with the Rooster. I woke up when our boy marched in full of rough and tumble in the wee hours, but I couldn't manage to raise up my head. The words I thought to say came out like grunts, and the next thing I knew, it was Peaches coming in, having managed to sleep until nearly dawn, wanting to know why she saw daddy in bed with her brother.

I might get more sleep than I during our darkest time, but I'm losing my touch; the cumulative effect on me means that I am more exhausted than ever.

I find myself thinking about sleep the way I used to think about boys in my teen years. I fantasize about sleep, I manipulate situations to try to get closer to sleep, I try to figure out the mysteries of sleep, here I am even journalling about sleep. One thing that I come back to again and again is the idea of sleeplessness impacting cognition. I lose my pens a hundred times of day now, sometimes when they are behind my ear, in my other hand. I forget names of people I've known for YEARS. I can't remember why I called you once you answer the phone. Should I really drive a car?! Probably not, but I have no choice. And what about medical schools?! It horrifies me now, absolutely horrifies me, to think of young, new doctors trying to save lives walking around sleep deprived. I don't know why, but this idea plagues me regularly. And Gitmo? Sleep torture? Yes, you bet, it's torture.

So, how are you this morning? You might have to tell me twice. I'm tired.


redheadmomma said...

I did okay with little babies/toddlers who didn't sleep very well, but when I started to get a consistent amount of sleep, and then things slid backwards? I was as groggy as you're talking about - being pulled from the ocean. That's totally it.

I wish you lots and lots of restorative sleep, friend. XO

pixiemama said...

I'm exhausted too. I can't do one.more.thing. Not another. With a little side of bitter.

My verification word is: frible, which reads "Fribble" in my mind, which reminds me of my youth, working at Friendly's, where I believe they called the shakes "Fribbles." Of course, I never get to leave my house to eat anymore (unless you count me shoving something into my mouth in the car, running late to some meeting or appointment.) A very chocolately chocolate Fribble would make me happy for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...