Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mommy Dearest

He used to be such a good sleeper. Brag-worthy four- and five-hour blocks of time were spent catching up on restful sleep, allowing us all to recharge and face our days, all smiles and productivity. But for the past few nights - hell, maybe a week or two? - I haven't gotten more than three hours of sleep at a time. In fact, the three hour chunk happened only a handful of times over the past week. More often, these days, Zephyr wakes up every two hours or less, wants to nurse, and is difficult to lay back down (even though he falls asleep while nursing). During the day, it lately takes an hour to get him down to sleep for thirty minutes. Scott badly wants to help, but alas, he lacks the breasts that allow Zephyr to succumb to deep, lengthy sleep (when I take time for myself, it's always at the expense of Zeph's nap schedule).

I feel like I'm completely losing my shit, and I'm shocked at how quickly I go from a creamy Madonna to a hanger-wielding harpy when my precious sleep is compromised. Sometimes I get so frazzled that it takes an hour or more for me to get back to sleep (and by the time this happens, Zephyr often starts fussing again). Then I crumble into frustrated tears and wonder what I was ever thinking, deciding to have a kid.

I should put things into perspective, though. He is still the sweetest, goofiest, smiliest and happiest little baby I've ever met. He grins so big that it splits his face in two. He is not a difficult baby at all, not by any stretch of the imagination. The little guy is teething, and is covered in eczema that he scratches until it bleeds. He is merely guilty of being a baby: mutable, unpredictable, inconstant. He evolves at an hourly rate.

What kind of monster loses her cool at a tiny baby, just because he won't sleep? This one, evidently. During those wee hours of sleeplessness, I worry that I will never be good enough for my precious little changeling. I spend so much time in that dark place in my heart that tells me that I can never be the mother that my son deserves. I have spent the better part of my life obsessing about being the polar opposite of my intolerant, dictator father (the dominant parent in my family), but I am terrified that, if pushed, I might still have his capacity for violence. The worst thing that can happen to Zephyr is for him to be raised by someone who hates children.

In case you have already dialed six of the seven digits to call Adult and Family Services, I should let you know that I don't beat my infant with a hanger, or shake him, or anything like that (I have yelled at him, though, I'll admit it). It's just that my own anger frightens me. It's so early in this ride - how awful will I be when, in a couple years, he starts throwing tantrums in the grocery store? Or when actually looks me in the eye and talks back?

In the meanwhile, I will learn to take deep breaths. I will take Zephyr's nap-free days as opportunities to play more and count my blessings that he is such a joyful creature. And I will hope fervently to gain the grace that only restful sleep can bring.

(Note: as I finished typing this, Zephyr just woke up from a 3.5-hour nap. Just to prove me wrong and make me look a harpy fool. Little bastard.)


  1. Aw. All you can do is take deep breaths and give yourself do-overs. I lose my shit all the time - sometimes in private, other times (regrettably) in front of the kids. On challenging days or in challenging situations, it's very okay to just settle Zeph in his crib with some soft books and step out on the back deck for a little fresh air and quiet. Sometimes all it takes is a minute. Other times, a little weeding, mail-getting, surveying of the property... There's something important about experiencing the full range of emotions within a family - individually, and together. It's okay if you cry. It's okay if he cries. So long as at the end of the day, everyone's still as madly in love as you guys are. xoxox N

  2. How much longer will you be breastfeeding, do you know? It only takes a couple days of honest sleep deprivation to make me willing to punch strangers in the solar plexus. I shudder, for reals, to think of myself under those conditions. My husband will be covered in bruises and telling helpful neighbors that he ran into doorknobs or something. I've seen it on SVU.

  3. Oh, sweetie. I am so there with you. It's hard to appreciate even the world's most wonderful baby when you are so sleep deprived. I really miss 6+ hour stretches of sleep. In trying to put the baby down to sleep today, I accidentally fell asleep for over 2 hours in the afternoon.

    I almost cried reading this. Every kid who's parents crossed the line fears doing the same thing with their own kid. And of course we are going to lose our cool on so little sleep. I've whined and swore a lot recently. But one of my psych profs in grad school told me that as long as you are a good parent 80% of the time, your kid will turn out ok. The way I see it, that means that if we swear at them every fifth time we want to, we're doing ok.

    I think your sense of humor will be your release valve. Joking about wire hangers makes you much less likely to actually use one.

  4. "Little bastard" - [snicker]

  5. Thanks, guys. I think that once I can learn to let go of expectations (of myself and of Zephyr) that everything will be just fine.

    Kristie - I plan on nursing for at least a year, but will probably go longer for the health benefits. Many moms elect to nurse their toddlers once a day for that reason. And wait until your third trimester when you have to get up to pee five times a night before you assess your ability to cope with interruptions to your sleep!

  6. Hi there! I too hated the months of sleep deprivation and struggled with ugly feelings at times. But after that phase was over and I was getting sleep again, I felt like I wore 'motherhood' with much more strength and confidence. There's something about sleep deprivation that erodes your coping skills, sense of humor, and general optimism. They do call it 'bootcamp', after all. It will get much better.

  7. I have to say that everything but everything is doable with some sleep. The first 5 months of my daughter's life were a hell that I would never care to repeat, but after a couple weeks of solid bedtime behavior and long naps I feel absolutely philosophical about what a short time it was in the span of my baby's life and blah blah blah. The truth is This Too Shall Pass but it sure as heck doesn't feel like it when you are in the middle of the shiznit.

  8. I hope things correct. Sleep deprivation is a killer.

    My daughter was a really good sleeper at first. Then at about a year she became an insomniac and 16 years later she's still and insomniac.

    Actually, that's not true. We finally figured out that she runs on a 25 hour clock (or maybe it's 23 hours) and being an hour off she gets wildly out of sync with normal schedules. It's really messed things up for her... for example, keeping a normal K-12 school schedule.


Yay! Thanks for saying nice stuff about my baby.