Doze. Slumber. Hit the sack, catch some z’s, get a little shut-eye. Sleep. Doesn’t matter what you call it, we all sleep. Some of us do it in beds, others on couches or — as I did for the final month of my pregnancy — in recliners.
Doze. Slumber. Hit the sack, catch some z’s, get a little shut-eye.
Doesn’t matter what you call it, we all sleep. Some of us do it in beds, others on couches or — as I did for the final month of my pregnancy — in recliners.
Some of us sleep for the recommended eight hours a night. Some get by on five. Most of us, probably in college, have lived through at least one night with no sleep at all.
And here’s the thing about sleep: When you do it, you don’t really think much about it.
But when you don’t, it’s all you can think about.
Maybe you don’t sleep because of insomnia or sleep apnea. Perhaps, like me, you suffer from the all-too-common disease of NewMom-itis. Doctors don’t have a cure for this one, and I’ve heard of cases lasting 18 years or longer.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are more likely than men to have difficulty sleeping. They are more likely to have daytime drowsiness.
Now that I have a baby, I fully understand why.
As an overgrown, uncomfortable pregnant woman, I often complained about being unable to sleep. One wise mother warned me, “You don’t understand sleep deprivation until you’ve had children.”
Indeed, the first months of motherhood come in a foggy, sleepless daze. I was crazy without sleep: I would hear the baby cry in the night, only to run to his room and find him sleeping quietly. I wandered around the house, still asleep but walking nonetheless, looking in closets and hallways for the crying baby, unable to find him until I finally snapped out of it and woke up.
More than once, I began shaking my sleeping husband in the middle of the night as I dreamed that he was smothering the baby in his sleep.
Even when the baby began sleeping for longer stretches, the circles under my eyes began to fade but true sleep did not return.
Recently, I took an overnight trip without the baby. It was a nerve-racking, emotional experience. But on the upside, it reminded me what sleep is supposed to be like.
On this night, I slept for eight hours. I didn’t hear a baby crying. I didn’t throw back the covers, not knowing how long it would be until I could crawl under them again. I didn’t wake to check the clock, and I didn’t strain to hear if that noise was the dog barking outside or the baby whimpering inside. I didn’t search through any closets, dash through any hallways or shake my slumbering husband.
I didn’t even dream of babies.
I don’t remember falling asleep, and I woke up when my eyes simply wouldn’t stay closed anymore. I snuggled beneath the warm blankets and savored the chance to stretch in bed.
It was just that one night before I returned to reality. It’s a world I’ll come to know well in the next few years because, according to my mother’s counsel, sleep never truly returns. There will be bad dreams and sick children; slumber parties and broken curfews.
Sleep, I’ve found, is for the young. It’s for the unrushed, the unworried, the innocents. When you become a mother, sleep only stays long enough to get you to the next day.
When you’re a mother, your heart simply isn’t your own anymore. It’s walking around with your child, sleeping in his bed, making sure he gets the slumber of the innocent.
Elizabeth Davies’ column runs Thursdays in People of the Rock River Valley.