Earlier this week, we had a rough night in the parent ‘hood, resulting in a disappointing five hours of sleep for Mommy. The next morning, I stumbled down the stairs in a stupor, attempted to insert an IV drip of Seattle’s Best Coffee, and started to cry when Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday started playing on Pandora. (In my defense, it is quite a haunting song.) I was a basketcase, completely incapable of coping due to my lack of sleep. Here’s the thing- back in the day, the occasional bad night of sleep never used to vanquish my competence and transform me into a zombie. But after 15 long months with a baby who didn’t sleep through the night, I have become irrevocably addicted to sleep.
Those months of staggering through sleep deprivation hell have left me desperate, and on those rare nights when I fail to amass enough snooze time, I feel my system start to shut down. The sad thing is, even on nights when I log a solid eight hours, I am always hungry for more. One morning, my daughters woke up at 6:00, and I woke up disoriented and lethargic. I felt almost hung-over, aching for just a few more precious ounces of vodka, I mean, sleep. What’s wrong with you, I chastised myself. A year ago, you would have killed to sleep all the way to six! But it was no use- no matter how long I slept, it simply wasn’t enough.
I have found that, like an addict, while I prefer a high-quality product, I have a sliding scale and crave even inferior goods. Certainly I would prefer eight to nine uninterrupted hours, but I will take whatever I can get, regardless of quality. In the early hours of the morning, I go to great lengths to snag the “flash nap”– 3 minutes of disjointed dreaming– and even its ugly stepsister the “45-second-sleep-then-jerk-back-awake” experience, reminiscent of a bad flashback. I have been known to retrieve my toddler from her crib, fetch her a sippy cup of milk, and then fall back asleep for another five minutes while she sprawls awkwardly atop my ribcage. Much as your pothead brother prefers the impeccable kine bud smoked out of his buddy’s thousand-dollar bong, he’ll happily take you up on that backyard boogie perched on the busted Coke can. Desperate times.
I’ve decided this newfound obsession with sleep stems from a lack mentality of sorts, thanks to our year and a quarter of chronic sleep deprivation. This mindset of scarcity reminds me of my former grandmother-in-law, who grew up in an orphanage and hoarded knick-knacks her entire life. Her pantry was filled with boxes of food that had expired a decade earlier, because she simply could not throw anything away. I suppose I can’t seem to throw a minute of sleep away either, after having been deprived of it for so long. (Sidenote: I hereby abstain from a discussion as to why I did not sleep-train my daughter during this yearlong torture. You will have to go elsewhere to get your Mommy-Wars on.)
When my second child, the sleep-deficient one, came along, her older sister was already 5 years old. I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and knew that at some point we’d return to the stage of life where our children could be trusted to slump on the sofa in front of Nick Jr. while my husband and I greedily gobbled up a few more hours of sleep on a Saturday morning. But I also knew that even after a child outgrows predictable night wakings, they have bad dreams, or the occasional potty accident, or a cold than causes them to cough until they vomit all over their beds, or a weeklong vacation in which they refuse to sleep on the pull-out sofa and set up camp sideways between their parents’ faces. You may periodically return to a baseline of uninterrupted sleep, but as it goes with all things parenting, there’s always something.
I’ve heard this urban myth about teenagers who like to sleep all the time, and I feel a glimmer of hope. I vaguely recall lying in my own bed until 11:00 a.m. during high school, refusing to move until Rick Dees’ Weekly Top 40 had concluded. (Is that still a thing? I heard that Sirius killed the radio star or something. Or maybe it was Apple.) But I have also heard, “Just wait until they’re teenagers! Then you lay awake at night waiting for them to come home!” Har har. Thanks a lot, killjoy.
So I guess I’ll wait for that sweet spot, when my kids have reached the age at which they are old enough to enjoy hibernation, but are too young for a late curfew. Like say, 14. Except for the fact that they are 5 years apart in age, so I expect I am perpetually screwed for the next 16 years. Oh well. I guess there’s always retirement to look forward to. Except for the night-wakings due to urinary incontinence. I guess I’ll start subscribing to my husband’s favorite mantra, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”