Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Tale of a Year of Sleep Deprivation

Shortly after I gave birth to Silas, I realized I was never going to sleep again.

That might be a little melodramatic. We're still working on getting more sleep though. After a year of being somewhat sleep deprived, I'm going to try to reflect on what it has done to me.

I feel much less creative in my own pursuits. It is insanely hard right now to sit down and write. Nothing flows when I type and I feel like that shows with what I've written this year. I remember trying to think of an idea for a novel for NaNoWriMo in November and just couldn't. It's possible that after just two horrific attempts at plots, I'm out of novel ideas. It's more likely that sleeping in two hour chunks is not conducive to creativity.

On the flip side, I've been channeling my creativity into games to play with Silas and so while I don't write much, I'm still satisfied with my ability to create: in this case, it's mostly games that work for Silas's growing mental capacities.

One thing I never expected would happen is that after eleven months of waking up every two hours at night, I've tried crying it out with Silas. I have had a hard time following through. It is one thing for me to deal with Silas crying because he wants to play with something dangerous and I had to tell him no. It is another for me to listen to him wail, alone in his room, crying desperately because he just wants to be close to us as he falls asleep.

However, there would be nights where I would wake up every hour with him and I would be incredibly tired and depressed and just scared of the thoughts that raced through my mind in those moments of sleep deprivation.  It reminded me of the episode of Scrubs where Carla, having given birth a few months ago, tearfully exclaims that she wishes she could just throw her baby out the window or off the roof of the apartment. The moment was played partially for the laughs as we watch her husband's eyes widen in shock as he races to make sure the windows are firmly locked, but it was also a serious moment as Carla dealt with post-partum depression.

I understood that sentiment. I felt like I was giving everything I could to Silas and it wasn't enough and it was frustrating. How could he be so happy and calm during the day on so little sleep I would wonder? Everyone told me I had the happiest baby they'd ever seen, so who all was lying to me? People told me I was a good mother, but they didn't know that at 3 in the morning, I was crying and desperate, staying perfectly still as I held Silas, knowing that if I shifted my arms, he would wake back up and the crying would start again.

And I was caught between feeling like I'd abandon my principles by letting Silas cry when I lay him down in his crib to sleep and feeling like no matter what choice I made, everyone would judge me. If Silas was up all night, it was because I insisted on nursing him throughout the night and holding him and patting his back when he should learn to fall asleep on his own. I had no one to blame but myself.

If I let him cry, it was because I didn't give him enough of a chance to fall asleep on his own when he was younger and I had no one to blame but myself. If I let him cry, I was putting my needs above his and what right did I have to do that? And most of all, no matter what I did, and no matter how tired I felt, I had better not complain about it, because what right do I have as a mother to complain about the child I chose to bring into this world? After all, how many people would give everything for a chance to have their own child to hold and rock each night? And how many people would say the obvious solution is to not have a baby if you don't want to deal with the full baby package?

Ultimately, I don't have a good answer. Shades of all of these worries and doubts bother me each evening as we start getting ready for bed. Sometimes we have great nights - defined as Silas falling asleep nursing, transferring to the crib, and sleeping there until three or four in the morning. We've had three great nights this past year.

Most nights, it's not like that. Smiley joked that we're going to have to wait until Silas can understand basic logic and then explain that he can't sleep in our bed with us any more. Well, half-joked. Quarter-joked.

And the thing is, there's not really a black and white "solution" to sleep. Each family does what works for their family, and it's my goal not to judge other people for how they parent. I don't know their situations; I don't live their lives. I just know how paralyzing it is to feel like everything I do as a parent is judged, harshly, by others.

Whew. I didn't expect to get quite so intense about this all. I do suspect that it will get better. Sometimes, it can be hard to see the future when the best I can do right now is slog through another half-awake, zombie day.

And don't worry, guys.

I still REALLY, REALLY wish Smiley was on board with having another baby, like, right now. Because, seriously, I can't possibly be any more tired than I already am.

1 comment:

  1. I really genuinely love your writing, and I love that you're writing about this topic. As a non parent, I find your views engaging. For me, you're expanding a world that I know nothing about. And I think that you're being brave for opening up like this. Thank you.