You know how people tell you to get as much rest as you can before the baby is born as you won’t get any afterwards? I kind of get it now. You can’t stockpile sleep and tap into it at a later date, but you can remember back to the days when you could get hours and hours of uninterrupted sleep with a smile. A good memory. I actually can’t remember the last time I had a real, good 8 hours straight of pure sleep. I WISH I could have rested properly during those last weeks of pregnancy! But I was literally up every few hours to pee or because I was thirsty, my heartburn was absolutely horrible, and it was really, really hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in! But now I wish I had just stayed in bed during that 41st week, with books and magazines and snacks at hand, forcing myself into such a relaxed state that I had nothing else to do but close my eyes and REST.
I’ve never been a good sleeper. Or I can’t remember when I was. I’ve always been one to sleep late and wake up early naturally and not be able to go back to sleep again. For years I was able to go out at night and go to work in the morning and be a productive as I needed to be. Years and years ago when I spent a year in Israel I would party all night with the other volunteers and kibbutzniks, go to sleep around 5 or 6 and be up around 9 unable to go back to sleep again. And don’t even talk to me about naps. What are they? I can count the number of naps that I’ve successfully had during my teenage and adult years on one hand. I’ve never really felt sleep deprived though (apart from those times that I was really burning the candle too hard on both ends – but that was easily remedied with a couple of “normal” nights of sleep).
You know how they tell you to rest after you have given birth and you are in hospital? Well that’s just pure BS. I was woken up all through the night by doctors and nurses coming to check on the baby and me. Next time I am going to give birth in a birthing center where I can go home with my baby within hours after the birth. It will be possible to get a little bit more sleep at home without all of the interruptions. Seriously doctors? Do you HAVE to do your rounds at 5am, just after the baby has gone back to sleep and we are about to slip into a slumber? Does my temperature really need to be taken every 2 hours?!
The first few weeks after the baby is born is the hardest in relation to sleep deprivation. I was prepared for it in a sense, but not prepared for literally being awake 23 hours out of 24 every single day. They tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, right? Well that is absolutely fine when you are a person who is able to sleep on demand, fall asleep when you tell yourself to. It doesn’t work when you are like me and need about 20 minutes to be able to put you to sleep. During those first few weeks if you are breastfeeding you are supposed to feed your baby every 2 hours. Not 2 hours after the last feeding, but 2 hours after the feeding starts. I guess I was lucky in the way that I never had to wake myself up to do it as either I would be awake anyway or Luna would wake me! And of course, once she was asleep there were always so many things that I wanted to do, especially shower or get something to eat that was actually cooked and not just a (unhealthy) snack.
You know what? You get used to it. It’s amazing what the body can do when necessary. It’s amazing that you are able to function on a couple of hours interrupted sleep, look after your baby, do laundry, shop for groceries, cook dinner, respond to phone calls and emails. And it does get better… Somewhat. Until you hit a sleep regression at 4 months when it all goes back downhill again. Our better was 4/5 hours-3 hours – 2 hours – 2 hours. Of course the longest stretch would happen in the evening, not when I was asleep. And we only got this because I resigned to letting Luna sleep in the swing. She hated the bassinet. She hated the swaddle. She spits a pacifier out. Luna loved, and still loves, to be held, cuddled, to nurse, and now to jump around in her door bouncer. She dislikes napping, being asked to go back to sleep when she wakes up wide awake and not being in our arms. You adapt, so we did. A baby needs sleep and so do the parents, so you do what you need to to get this sleep. If it’s the swing, then so be it. If it’s cosleeping, then so be it. I actually felt like we were all getting some sleep and it was great.
Then we hit the 4 month sleep regression. You know how bad it was when your child was a newborn? Well this is worse. Only you expected it when she was a newborn. It was also worse because she was literally waking up every hour, all night, and wouldn’t nap during the day. Granted I have a fussy child who literally resists sleep all the time, but this was out of control. From what I have read, around 4 months a baby’s sleep pattern changes into a more mature sleep pattern, like our own that we have now. However, when we wake up in the night we just turn over and go back to sleep again – a baby doesn’t know how to do that yet. So they wake up. It lasted all in all about 3 weeks from start to finish and I feel like it is finally getting better again. The only issue is that now the swing isn’t cutting it anymore. We are slowly getting there with the crib, a little bit longer every night and all naps, but the only way we all get some real sleep is when we sleep in the same bed. And the full size bed that is just fine for Cesar and me is now not big enough. Thankfully we now have a big room with more than enough space for a queen sized bed, so once we can afford one, it will be our next big purchase. One thing I am grateful for being in Flushing is that the rents here are still affordable and we have a big one bedroom apartment.
Also, Luna is one of those children who seems to be going through one continuous growth spurt, and when she is learning something new really doesn’t like to sleep. I don’t think I will get a real night’s sleep for a few more years yet… Right now I am just aiming and hoping for a schedule along the lines of 7:30pm – 7 or 8am sleep with night time feedings at 11:30 pm and 4am. And three one hour naps during the day. Not too much to ask for, right?!
I’m typing this at 10am, while my boyfriend and child are both sleeping peacefully. Why am I not taking advantage of this and napping myself? Because I know I won’t be able to. I’d therefore rather spend this time doing something productive, instead of tossing and turning for 20 minutes and getting frustrated when nothing happens.
And you know what? It’s all worth it. This is what we signed up for. And I firmly believe that as Luna is a fussy infant who wants to stay close to her mummy and daddy all the time she will be a calm and peaceful toddler, right? ;) And as much as it can be tiring to get up over and over again during the night, there really is nothing like holding your baby in those wee hours, in the silence, and reflecting on how amazing your life has become.