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Parenting and Sleeping, An Oxymoron?

Updated on March 16, 2015

When I was pregnant with my first child I got a lot of advice. I don't recall any of it being solicited, and not much of it was especially useful, but some it was just unbelievable.

The people who would spout some variation of "sleep now while you can," or "sleep whenever the baby sleeps or you'll never sleep again," fell into the unbelievable category for me. I mean come on?! It's just a baby and I am a (then) thirty two year old woman, I'm pretty sure I can handle both of our sleeping situations. Holy Crap was I wrong.

There are so many sleep stealers that plague parents, and for the pregnant woman, it usually starts before the baby even gets here. At some point in pregnancy you will not be able to find a position that is comfortable to sit in, stand in, squat in, or sleep in. You may find that you can get comfy for short periods of time but have to constantly adjust your position to maintain a relaxed state. This is why you will start to lose sleep before your tiny person even makes their appearance.

Then your precious bundle of joy comes home and the shit really hits the fan. If you are nursing you will be feeding the ravenous beast every two to three hours, every day for weeks. If you are bottle feeding the schedule stays the same but you can hopefully shove a couple feedings off on the other parent, still not a lot of sleep going on and now you have bottles to make and clean. Ugh. After a couple/few months of that feeding frenzy, you might get a break with five or six hours in a row where your baby will snooze at night, unless your baby has colic like my first did. She didn't sleep for more than three hours at a time until she was almost five months old.

As soon as you get into a schedule or complete whatever variation of sleep training you do, there will be other sleep stealers like growth spurts, teething, sickness (yours or the baby's) and the awesomeness of the time change. Daily dozing will be interrupted by the dog barking at nothing, or the UPS man knocking at the door, or you farting too loud.

You will find yourself making decisions based on how much sleep you could be giving up. For example, There's a great new show on at 10pm and it's an hour long, but your small person usually wakes up between midnight and 2am in a fit of teething tears. Do you hit the sack at 9pm so you're somewhat rested for your job in the morning, or do you throw caution to the wind and watch the very adult show that has nothing to do with Elmo or Mickey Mouse? I have found myself standing in the middle of my living room, just having put the baby down for a nap, and torn between laying down on the couch for some desperately needed shut eye or sorting the massive pile of laundry that is threatening to take over the entirety of the downstairs.

Oh sweet slumber, how you taunt me.

I have mornings when there is not enough coffee on God's green earth to make me alert and functional. I have actually fallen asleep on the toilet, bathroom tissue in hand. The first time I traveled on a plane alone after having a child, I fell asleep so hard that the stewardess had to shake me awake, after we had landed and all the other passengers had disembarked.

I used to relax my way into sleep, maybe read a little, do some deep breathing, or meditate. I would take my time to fluff or flatten my pillow and adjust the sheet, pull the blanket around me just so, roll around to find the perfect position to drift of to slumber. Now, I practically attack the bed and have just enough time to wipe my face with a towelette, plug in my phone, and snatch the covers off the floor before I flop onto my pillow and pass out. I try to get to sleep as quickly as humanly possible now because I never know how long it might be before I am ripped from dream land. I used to ease my way in and linger in a deep, settling sleep until morning, now I dive in and the slightest whimper will rouse me.

I've heard rumors that one, far off day, I will be able to reclaim a semblance of my old shut eye habits. I'll believe it when I sleep it.


1st Nap Together

Mom and Lo just after she made her appearance
Mom and Lo just after she made her appearance

Sisters 1st Nap Together

Lorelei and Scarlette
Lorelei and Scarlette

How I Feel Most of the Time

Sleepy Scarlette
Sleepy Scarlette

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