When I became a new mom, sleep became my obsession.
Was my baby sleeping enough? Maybe she was taking too long of a nap, which may make it hard for her to sleep at night… Was it acceptable for her to nap in a stroller? Were we taking enough precautions to prevent SIDS? Should we sleep train? If so, when?
These are just a handful of questions that raced through my head for the first 22 months of my daughter’s life. There are many opinions on sleep training and whether or not it is a good idea. But for parents who decide to do it, there is usually a specific day when it is determined that enough is enough and whatever needs to be done will be done so that everyone can get some much-needed sleep.
For our family, that was sometime in the beginning of December 2012. I received an odd package next to my mailbox. It was a plastic bag filled with envelopes with a note from my mail woman saying that although she was also a huge fan of Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba, stickers can’t be used as stamps.
I opened the bag and realized what she meant. I was so tired the night before that I had used Yo Gabba Gabba stickers instead of stamps for my holiday cards. The worst part was I distinctly remember doing this, but for some reason in my sleep-deprived state this made total sense.
That’s when we decided as a family that enough was enough. We needed to fix this sleep situation with whatever it took; even if it meant the cry it out method. We were going to do it right away. Tomorrow night, we would start sleep training me.
Yes, I realize I am the adult and when parents talk about sleep training, they are usually referring to their kids. But my daughter didn’t need to be sleep trained. She may not have slept like the perfect baby described in one of those sleep training books, but she was generally a happy and well-rested toddler.
I, on the other hand, hadn’t slept longer than four hours since she was born. I spent my days half asleep and cranky. I drank ridiculous amounts of coffee. I spent my free time reading articles on the Internet about development and sleep habits in healthy babies. I wanted to make sure my daughter was healthy and getting enough sleep. My obsession with my daughter’s sleep had become a crutch used to hide the real problem: I am a procrastinator who is unable to go to bed early.
Starting in college, I developed horrible sleeping habits. I stayed up as late as I wanted and if I was tired the next day, I missed class or sleep binged on the weekends. My junior year of college, all my friends started using this weird thing called Facebook. I wanted to know what everyone was talking about so I started an account. Each night before bed, I would spend countless hours on Facebook looking at my “friends” profiles. I was now able to look at pictures of the girl who called me fat in elementary school. I looked at party pictures of my crush trying to decide if he was dating that super model-thin senior or not. I spent more time editing and rewriting my status updates than I did on my college essays. Then, at around 3 a.m., I would fall asleep in bed with my laptop, go to class the next morning, and come back to my dorm and pass out.
This continued on long past college. I never saw it as a problem because it worked for me. Eventually, I became engaged and Facebook was replaced with wedding websites. Then, I got pregnant and most of the night was spent googling and worrying if my unborn daughter was going to be born with four heads. Once my daughter was born, I spent her sleeping hours making sure she was still breathing and googling terms like “SIDS,” “Is my baby’s poop normal?” and “How do I not break my baby?”
Instead of sleeping when my baby slept, I worried while my baby slept. Then, when she was about six months old, I started writing. I was able to pour all of my anxiety into a creative outlet. This worked for a while, but then I realized my other problem: I have no idea how to manage my time. I couldn’t stay up till 4 a.m. the night before a deadline. Well, I could, but I would have to wake up in a couple of hours because my daughter doesn’t have a snooze button.
I decided my New Year’s Resolution was to get more sleep. I was really excited about it, because I love sleep. Usually, I make resolutions about excersize and weight loss. This year would be easy. All I had to do was sleep.
Much to my surprise, my resolution to get more sleep has been one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I have gotten a full eight hours of sleep once in the two months I have been working on sleep. It requires the kind of self-discipline I do not posses at this time. I wish someone could just stick me in a crib and let me cry it out. Unfortunately, I keep myself awake because there is always more to do and even more to know and for some reason, I feel that I can’t go to bed until I have done and read everything.
Some nights I do get to bed at a relatively decent time only to be awoken a couple hours later by a sick child. I never know when I will have to wake up, but my daughter goes to bed each night at the same time. So the solution is quite simple, really: I need to go to bed early.
I am far from achieving my goal and feel like I am dealing with a giant jigsaw puzzle. Some answers are as easy as creating a bedtime routine. Others are complex as, ‘Why do I feel the need to waste time on the Internet?” I don’t have the answers to these questions or a solution, but in the months of working hard to sleep, I have made some observations.
When I am well rested I laugh more. I eat better. I have energy to work out. Tasks that took me hours when I was tired magically get done in twenty minutes. I don’t fight as much with my husband. I cry less and the world is brighter. I remember to play fetch with my dog. I have excellent spelling and grammar. I always remember to floss. I am present with my daughter. I wake up at 7 a.m. and think, “Hey, toddler roaring like a dinosaur in the next room, show me what you got because I am well rested and ready to deal with whatever kind of tantrum you decide to throw at me!”
I wake up knowing that although I was unable to get all my little tasks done the night before and have no idea what my first boyfriend did last weekend, I somehow know everything; and I do. I know that sleep is the key to my happiness and although it’s hard for my stubborn self to admit, my dad really was right. Nothing good happens after 10 p.m.. The good stuff happens at 6 a.m. when your child screams “Mommy!, you sprint into their room because you are well-rested and the second they catch just a glimpse of you, their smile lights up with pure, unadulterated love.
So, if you are reading this late at night, please go to bed now or tomorrow — you may be too tired to notice your child’s first smile of the day.
Janitor at Mom Blog PoopPeePuke.com
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