I sit here at 4:00 a.m. writing about sleep. I can’t sleep.
My children are sleeping, my husband is sleeping, I don’t have trial or a hearing scheduled tomorrow…and I am awake. I wish I was sleeping, but I can’t seem to do it! Let’s just be honest about it…from the moment a woman learns she’s pregnant the first time, she never enjoys a full night of sleep ever again. Instead, we become little energy warriors. That isn’t to say we don’t ever sleep, it’s just not continuous, uninterrupted rest. It’s one of the most difficult parts of parenthood, particularly if you are a working mom.
It doesn’t help that every morning news show constantly airs reports about the importance of sleep and its direct relationship to endless health benefits and, oh yeah, life longevity! I mean, what if it’s completely impossible to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night? Are we doomed? I sincerely hope not, and I sincerely doubt it.
That being said, I do think it’s critically important to try and get the most/best rest possible to recharge your body. Listen energy warriors, whatever you have to do, however you have to do it, get your body some rest when you can for however long it lasts!
My parenting sleep story goes a little like this…
When my son was born, he was very uncomfortable in his tummy. He cried a lot, day and night, and it was absolutely exhausting. He was just so tiny (born full-term, but only 4lbs. 13 oz.). I can still vividly remember my mom and I sleeping on the nursery floor many nights, under two down comforters. We took turns getting up with the baby, but we were both up most of the night nonetheless. It was so tough to function on little to no sleep, especially for my mom who wasn’t on maternity leave like me.
With baby no. 1, it was just so new to me and I was desperately trying to catch up and figure it all out. I was so drained some days, that I would drive to my Yiayia/grandmother’s house, over 45 minutes away, and lay at her feet sleeping while she held my son. It was the most exhausting experience of my life. Just twelve weeks after my son was born, I was back to work. He still wasn’t sleeping at night, but I learned to adapt. I still had to be a wife, a mommy, and focus on my career that helped support my family. If you’re in the same boat, trust me, it will make you stronger… you will not break!
I felt like everyone around me kept giving me advice about how I needed to let him cry it out. Trust me, even though I didn’t want to, I tried on numerous occasions when I thought I didn’t have the strength to stay up all night. It never worked, no matter how long we let him cry. It was heartbreaking and didn’t help with the sleep problem. It only made me feel worse. The good news was once he got a little bit bigger, I was able to get him on a much better schedule. Still, he didn’t completely sleep through the night until he was well over 1 ½ years old. (Just in time for his sisters to arrive.)
The twins were a completely different story. Again, it took me a while to figure out a sleeping/night schedule with them. Eventually, I decided on a hybrid schedule that worked for us. Some nights, I would nurse them at the same time. (Even I categorize those moments as superwoman feats!) Other nights, I would nurse one at a time, while bottle feeding the other one in the boppy right next to me. Sometimes, I felt they each deserved one on one time, so I would feed/nurse them individually. Those nights were a lot longer, but we got through it, until we reached the next phase…Toddlers!
Toddlers have been our biggest night-time challenge. The girls started climbing out of their cribs at 18 months old, so we had to move them to big girl beds much sooner than I would have liked. It was a grueling transition to keep them in their beds when it was time to sleep. Their beds served as their first taste of independence and I have been constantly reminding them ever since that I am the boss. For the most part, the girls are doing well at night now. We have more difficulty getting them to sleep than keeping them asleep and I can live with that. It’s actually quite precious to listen to them giggle and talk in their room before they fall asleep. As long as they aren’t destroying their room, I usually let them go.
Our son did a much better job in his big boy bed than the girls at first. However, he did go through a tough period of night terrors, which have now subsided. He also went through a long period of time where he would come into our room at night. Although my husband was able to keep sleeping (the man could sleep through anything), I would be awake all night after he jumped in our bed. Between his tossing and turning, I just couldn’t sleep. I would find myself thinking about my to-do list for my family as well as all of my cases/clients. So, although it was tough not to snuggle with my little guy, I implemented a new policy. He could come into our room if he needed me, but he would have to sleep on the floor next to the bed. Although we have a four-inch shag carpet around our bed, and he always had a pillow and blanket, I don’t think it was very comfortable, so that solved that issue. Finally, at four years of age I think we’re working on an average of 6 out of 7 nights a week that he sleeps through the night. I can live with that for sure!!
Now, I can tell that my body is preparing me for motherhood again. I have always found it amazing during pregnancy how well God prepares you for a nursing/feeding schedule. After all, I am up and down all night, needing to use the restroom. I crave sleep, but it’s just not in the cards right now. Right now, it’s time for me welcome the interrupted sleep, not fight it. With baby no. 4 on the way, I have become much more zen about sleep deprivation. I also finally understand that God does not prep our husbands/partners for the baby’s arrival in the same way. In my experience, my hubby can fall asleep in seconds and it’s nearly impossible to wake him before he’s ready. It’s just the way it is and he’s tremendously helpful in other ways at other times of the day. In our house, night time is mommy’s domain. There are days, of course, when I am completely drained. On those days, I ask for help and he knows I really need it. Then I rest, briefly, but I rest.
At the end of the day, it’s all worth it. Our little miracles are worth it all. The dream of enjoying a large family and the daily joy of hearing the kids playing and giggling around the house is all worth it. Watching them watch me get ready for work or court, albeit a bit tired, is a great example for them. The girls always sit with me as I do my hair and make-up (including a generous application of under-eye concealer) and my son is always asking if I’m going to have a nice judge or a mean judge as I head out the door. I’m not sure where he got that one, but I think it’s so important that he has an idea of what I do for a living. Life is challenging, but it’s so good at the same time. We are truly blessed. Sleep will come later, no doubt accompanied by a much quieter house, which I probably won’t like at all.