Sleep, oh precious sleep, why for art thou eluding me? Why must you be so broken? Why must I sleep so lightly?
Oh yeah, that’s right… I have children.
New mothers and women who are thinking about having children, listen up, and listen good. Accept it now. Sleep for you is over. You might get the odd night of deep slumber, but it won’t last. This I can guarantee you. Trust me, having children is the worst thing that any woman can do for their sleep pattern. And it really doesn’t matter that I happen to have two teenagers. They are STILL waking me up at all godly hours of the morning.
If you are a mother yourself, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Sleep is something that disappears from your life before your children are even born.
The sleepless nights begin the moment that “thing” comes into existence.
When I was pregnant with my son, sleep was incredibly elusive. There was this “thing” wriggling about inside me, all night. During the day, he was quiet, calm — likely asleep himself. However, the moment I laid down for a little shuteye… BAM! TIME TO PLAY!
And the alien effect… Not only is it incredibly creepy to actually “see” this bump migrate from one side of the body to the other, it HURTS. Trust me, you don’t ever want to be awoken in the dead of the night by the alien trying to burst forth.
(Elenor Ripley, you can back away from me now. That alien was one of my own making.)
And sleeping when you’re trying to push something out that’s the size of a bowling ball… ARE YOU KIDDING?
The only reason I was able to get any sleep at all during that pain fest, commonly known as labor, was because I had an epidural, numbing every inch of my body from the tits down.
Epidurals are GOOD! Epidurals were my friends. I had an epidural during both times that I was in labor. And you know what makes them good, right? The body can do what it wants, and you don’t feel a thing. I’m serious!
I remember quite clearly the hospital midwife telling me to push whenever I felt a contraction. A few seconds later, she asked, “Why aren’t you pushing?”
“Oh… Was that a contraction?” Honestly, I couldn’t feel it. However, I did feel all the bruising once the epidural had worn off and the slimy hedgehog was out.
I can’t decide what’s worse: squeaky or porky?
Sleep eludes the new mother the most. Here is this ever-hungry, constantly crying thing that wakes up only a half an hour after you put them down. And when that child does sleep… There was a reason that we nicknamed my daughter “Squeaky” when she was born. And my son wasn’t much better. I swear that kid was trying to eat his own hand while he was asleep.
However, in those precious moments when they are actually asleep, the parent collapses into bed, only to be awoken in what feels like five minutes later.
(No, no, alarm. You lie. It hasn’t been three hours. No way. It’s only been three seconds.)
The joys of no sleep don’t stop there.
It’s the toddler invasion.
The toddler is up at the crack of dawn and they’re like the Energizer Bunny: they just keep going and going and going and going…
Most mothers are able to get a few moments of Zzzzs when their child goes down for a nap. Me? You have got to be kidding. My son grew out of his daytime naps before he was the age of 1. No joke. I swear he was solar powered. He was up the moment the sun came up and refused to go to bed, on the constant go, until the sun went down.
For most people around the world that doesn’t sound too bad, he was sleeping through the night. Perhaps I should enlighten you as to how far south I actually live.
At the height of summer, during our longest day of the year, the sun rises at 4am, but doesn’t go down until 10pm. People, I hate getting up that early. I might be a morning person, but 7am is a much more respectable hour. Complicate matters by the fact that in the summer, I’m lucky if I’m able to shut my brain off before midnight. (I swear I bear a hint of that solar-powered blood myself.)
To make matters worse, the Summer Solstice for me is only days before Christmas. Someone please explain to me how one is supposed to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus when you have a child that won’t go to sleep until the sun sets, and it sets that late at night?
(Thankfully, this particular issue is no longer a problem for me, but still…)
So, one finds the moments to sleep when they can. TV became a brilliant baby-sitter. Not ideal, I know, but after having a solar-powered son, I totally understand it.
Get sleep when you can, but put the chocolate under lock and key.
Here’s a quick word of advice for any first-time parents of a toddler: NEVER go to take a nap leaving the Easter chocolate within reach of your 3-year-old. And I should point out that “on the kitchen counter” is not out of a 3-year-old’s reach. The top shelf of the pantry is not out of their reach. THEY CAN CLIMB!
My son was very considerate of others, though. He did leave my husband and I an Easter egg each. Never mind, it was one of those tiny ones that are smaller than an inch, but that’s beside the point. OMG, my son was bouncing off the walls for hours.
It’s sad to tell you this, but the sleep pattern doesn’t ever get better.
While the toddler is up at the crack of dawn and on the constant go, the preschooler makes a much better alarm clock than a real one. He just throws your husband’s inhaler at your husband’s head when he thinks it’s time for Daddy to get up.
And for those who have been enjoying those sleep-filled nights… Just wait for that one night when your 5-year-old comes into your room in the middle of the night and wakes you.
“Sweetie, what’s wrong?” you’ll ask through the sleepy haze.
“I don’t feel so well,” will be their answer, followed promptly by projectile vomit — covering you, the bed, your pillow, the wall, with a tiny spec on the ceiling. How it got on the ceiling, I’ll never know, but I don’t really care either. Sleep was never going to come back after that.
And let’s not forget the child that insists on sharing the same bed as you after they’ve had a nightmare. I can tell you from experience that my bed is not large enough for two adults, an 8-year-old who was nearly 9, a 5-year-old, and a cat, with a second cat hiding under the bed. How do I know this? It was a little event known as a 7.1 earthquake. I think my husband got kicked out of the bed by little feet a few times.
When your children are school-aged, you might have the chance of getting some sleep, with the exception of those night-time sick visits, but then your beautiful children become teenagers.
Teenagers… They sleep until midday, and they’re up ALL night!
There is a saying:
Women are from Venus.
Men are from Mars.
Teenagers come from a different universe.
This saying couldn’t be more true. I keep wondering if that alien that tried to burst forth from my stomach before he was born has finally shown his true monstrous nature. But when it comes to sleep…
It’s amazing how I can hear my 16-year-old’s alarm clock from down the hall, through two closed doors, and it wakes me up, but it takes either my husband or myself to stand right next to his bed, blaring in time with the alarm clock, before he even registers that his alarm has gone off.
And for those of you who think that you won’t continue to get visited by the I-don’t-feel-so-well vomit monster… At least, now he manages to projectile into the toilet instead of all over the bed, the wall and the ceiling. It’s much easier to clean now — occasionally.
However, I can’t say the same about the 13-year-old. Only the other night, we hear this scream from down the hall; she had sat up and promptly projectile vomited all over her bed. At that point, it was divide and conquer: hubby takes the bed, and I take the teenager. So much for my night’s sleep, because I have to help wash blankets in the bath tub. (We tried to put the duvet inner in the washing machine… Oops… I foresee a long night in front of the TV while I sew what is left of the duvet back together.)
Remember that young child who insisted on curling up in your bed when they’re scared or just wanted a cuddle? Well, my bed isn’t big enough for three people the size of adults either.
“But your bed is more comfy and doesn’t smell,” my daughter said.
“There’s a reason for that: you vomited in your bed.”
The joys of being a mother… To think, I was crazy enough to put my body through the no-sleep hell twice.
I know I have years to come of sleepless nights. Some women who are older and much wiser than me, the ones who have finally manged to move into that next phase of grandparent status, have informed me that the source of the lack of sleep shifts to worry-filled nights: wondering what your teenager is up to with his or her friends — in your car; concern for the early-20-year-old child just learning how to hold their liquor; anxiety as your baby moves out of the house and sets up their own; the long, awaited phone call at 3am, telling you that you’re a grandparent; and the rude awakening from the toddler grandchild who makes a better alarm clock than a real one when he comes to visit. These are all things that I get to look forward to.
Regardless of all the sleepless nights and tired, grumpy natures… You know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love my children with every inch of my being.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2018