If given the opportunity, I can enjoy some epic, luxurious, long sleep. Or at least I could. I stopped sleeping approximately at the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy, and I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since.
While I was pregnant, I just couldn’t get comfortable at night. Lying on one side just wasn’t for me, and besides, the babe would start his nightly high-kicks routine as soon as I settled into bed. By my final weeks of pregnancy, I was sleeping about 2 solid hours a night, with 5-6 hours of tossing and turning.
And moms, if you can believe this, I kept telling myself: “I’ll get some sleep once the baby comes. Sure, it will be interrupted, but it will at least be real sleep”. Oh how foolish the first-time mom can be. In hindsight, I can remember the few mothers of small children I said this to who simply smiled and nodded in response. I mistook their kind desire to not burst my bubble as reassurance that my delusions were true.
We are now 5 ½ months into my son’s life on the outside, and while I, of course, cannot imagine my life without him, nor would I ever want to, I am still struggling to make peace with the whole sleep deprivation thing. I mean, what becomes of a champion who cannot hone their skills?
As I was discussing this with my husband, I realized that the emotions I’ve been experiencing about sleep and lack of sleep are quite similar to the emotions associated with grief, and so I present to you: The Five Stages of Sleep Deprivation.
Denial In my case, denial started before the real sleep-deprivation even began. See my aforementioned delusional belief that I would get sleep once the baby was born. Then, once the baby was born, and I wasn’t getting any more sleep, denial dug in even deeper as I told myself this would only last “a few weeks”, and then when it lasted longer, began to tell myself “it’s not so bad”.
Anger After realizing that the sleep-deprivation is going to last, and it is also, in fact, very bad, anger shows up. Since your child is too adorable and precious and smiley and cuddly, this anger is not directed toward them.
No, the anger is directed towards the partner who appears to be getting more sleep. They look so refreshed and rested with their more-than-three-consecutive hours of sleep, while you look in the mirror and see a haggard stranger looking back.
Whether or not they are actually getting more sleep is immaterial; this must be their fault.
Bargaining The stage in which you think of all the things you’d trade for a few solid hours. For me, this included just about everything I’ve ever enjoyed including but not limited to bubble baths, good books, wine, foot massages, and cheese. I mean, I’m not a champion cheese-eater (though I might be close), I’m a champion sleeper. Anything for my craft.
Depression The sadness of sleeplessness with no end in sight. In this stage you resign yourself to the fact that you are never going to feel rested ever again. This makes you cry. A lot.
Acceptance The final stage in which you accept that the price you pay for the greatest gift of your life, your child, is a period of sleep deprivation. You realize that this is normal and that every mom who came before you has experienced this and has lived to tell the tale. It will end. You will sleep again. Your brain function will (hopefully) be restored. Everything is going to be alright.
I’m still working on the acceptance stage. Some nights are easier than others. He is still only sleeping in 3-hour stretches at most, but as the weeks go by, my tolerance for little sleep is increasing. Before children I would have told anybody who asked that I required at least 7 hours of sleep to function. Now, give me one stretch of 3 with another hour here and there, and I’m good. I might not be a champion sleeper anymore, but now I’m something much better: my baby’s mother.
I may be a tired and haggard-looking mother, but like all moms out there I’ve been endowed with the super-power ability to function on smiles and giggles and that sweet smell of baby. Oh, and also on fantasies of a dark room with a big comfy bed, bedecked in clean sheets and fluffy pillows, and 8-10 uninterrupted hours to fall into deep, sweet, beautiful, glorious sleep.
What about you moms out there? How did you cope with the sleeplessness of having a new baby in the house? When did it get better for you? And for moms of older kids, will I actually start sleeping again, or is that just another one of my delusions?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ms V. in South Korea.
Photo credit to Daehyun Park. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.