We didn’t see it coming, and that’s where the problem began. You see, it all boils down to one little word: expectations. And when your first kid sleeps through the night at three months like it ain’t no thing, well, that’s all you know.
I didn’t expect my second baby to sleep through the night at three months, per se. I knew he was a different baby, a different kid, that he would beat to the rhythm of his own drum. I had grace and patience for that, because I was a second time mom and I knew better.
When the four-month mark rolled around, and then five, and then six, I was convinced we were close. We had to be. Here baby, have some solids, let’s get you nice and full and tired. Seven months. Eight months. Nine months. Ten months went by.
And then I looked at the calendar and realized I had not slept through the night in one whole year.
For one whole year I have been tired and exhausted and irritable and emotional and frustrated and at the risk of sounding dramatic, just plain hopeless. I have been living in a fog, a 52-week haze of coffee and under-eye concealer and 3am arguments with my husband.
“It’s not so bad,” I tell myself.
“It could be worse,” I tell my friends.
And it could be worse, of course, he could be waking up several times a night instead of once or twice. But once or twice is still once or twice and once or twice means that every single night, for one whole year, I never slept longer than a couple hours at a time.
I’m a light sleeper, a bad sleeper, always have been and probably always will be. Which means that when I’m up at 3am to nurse a crying baby, I am UP, you know? My brain starts working and thinking and it is hard for me to fall back asleep. So I sit in the rocking chair and I pray, because I always start with prayer, and I thank God for the baby who doesn’t sleep because if I am not thankful in that moment, I start to feel sad and even a tiny bit angry. After I thank God, I pray for patience and grace and stamina and all of the things I am lacking because I am lacking so much. The second I say “amen” the wheels start turning. My brain starts thinking of 100 things—to do’s that are never finished, things I forgot, people I need to check in with, essays I need to write, e-mails I need to draft, is the meat in the refrigerator expired? Did we pay that doctor bill? How much money is in our checking account? Why don’t we have a budget? Did I put the laundry in the dryer? Who should I pitch for our next Coffee + Crumbs sponsor? What should we have for dinner tomorrow?
It is 3:13am and my mind is too busy to sleep so I am sitting on the couch eating a bowl of honey nut cheerios in the dark, making more lists and setting more goals and wouldn’t it be cool if I published an e-book of essays on my 30th birthday?
And I guess, when I stop and I think and am honest with myself and with you—this was the year I did not sleep, and this was also the year I had more ideas and worked harder than any other year of my life. Because when your mind isn’t sleeping, it’s working, and my mind has had ample time to work this year. For anyone who dare thinks I am “doing it all” let me assure you: doing it all has come at a cost. I have never ever been this tired.
For one whole year I have abused coffee, gotten headaches every afternoon, applied eight pounds of makeup under my eyes each day, and fantasized about hotel beds. While other people are dreaming about Paris and Fiji, I’d settle for an open hospital cot and a few Nyquil capsules.
Carson turns one in three days, and started sleeping through the night last week. And by sleeping through the night, I mean he sleeps till 4:30am. Six hours of consecutive sleep? I feel like a million bucks.
To all the other mommas out there with tired eyes and full hearts, let me assure you: there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I hope you are able to embrace the exhaustion as best you can. When you’re up at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, remember that there are probably thousands (millions?) of other mommas up with their babies too. The glass is half full, if you choose to see it that way, and you’d be surprised at how easily the ideas flow in the middle of the night when you’re eating honey nut cheerios on the couch at 3am. Dream big, momma. This too shall pass.