Crazy thoughts I have at 2AM when The Girl won’t sleep

The Girl is still a shitty sleeper. Am I looking for advice? I am not. Know why? Because I have heard it all. I have read the books, I have talked to other parents, we have talked to the doctor about it. Please, please, please, do not offer me advice. I really don’t want to hear it. I just want to explain what it’s like being a working parent of a child who is a shitty sleeper.

These are the thoughts that run through my head from 2AM when The Girl woke up until 4AM when she finally, mercifully, fell back asleep.

“Why can’t she just stay asleep at night?”
“I am not going to be functional at work tomorrow.”
“Maybe if I read that No-Cry sleep book again, it’ll have a solution.”
“This book is crap.”
“Maybe there’s something hidden in her room that’s waking her up? Like an alarm clock? Or the boogie man?”
“Is she asleep? Maybe I can go back to bed.”
“Fuck, she’s not asleep.”
“Why the fuck is she singing Ring Around the Rosey? Jesus Christ it’s 3:15 AM.”
“Why isn’t she wearing a diaper? She can tell me she peed in her diaper, take it off, and ask for a new one, but she can’t STAY ASLEEP?”
“I can’t keep doing this. We need another solution.”
“How much water can I give her to get her to shut up without having her pee through her diaper?”
“Is she asleep?”
“Oh thank god, she’s asleep.”

After a night like that, I am grateful I have a boss who is also a working mom and knows what sleep deprivation is like, and that I have the flexibility to take a half day off and then work from home after a nap. I am also grateful to have The Hubs, who is a fantastic father and husband, and who gets the kids up and dressed and to school while I sleep in. I am privileged. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a single parent and have to do all this alone. Or to work in a job that doesn’t offer the flexibility mine does.

But I still wish The Girl would just learn to sleep.

Sleeping Through the Night

When you are deciding to start a family, there is a lot of stuff you know, but you don’t KNOW it and you can’t KNOW it until you actually have that baby. One of those things is sleep deprivation. You know you’re going to be feeding the baby at 2AM, but you don’t KNOW what that is like until you’re living it. Like, people say “You’re going to be so exhausted” and you believe them, but you don’t UNDERSTAND what they’re saying until you’ve experienced extreme sleep deprivation. It is a hell of a thing that I can’t even put into words really, probably because when you’re that tired, that entire period of your life becomes a blur that you can’t really remember properly because you were too tired to know what the hell was happening around you. This would be the #1 reason why I think we need paid maternity leave in this country, because ain’t nobody doing their best work when they’re that tired. Seriously, when you’ve been running on 4 hours of sleep a night for 3 months, is it even safe for you to be behind the wheel of a car to drive yourself to work? Do you want to be on the road with that person? I didn’t think so.

When we had The Boy, he came home from the NICU on August 1, and on the night of my birthday in early October, he began sleeping through the night. And when I say sleeping through the night, I mean 12 hours straight, every night. People used to congratulate me on it, and ask me what I’d done to get him sleeping through the night so quickly. I was like, “Damned if I know.” Really, I had no idea why he was such a good sleeper. But people would press me for my secret, as if I had learned some special wisdom somehow, like I was the Baby Whisperer or whatever. I actually had people say to me, “It’s because you’re such a good mom and you’re so laid back, that’s why he is able to sleep so well.”

Then I had The Girl. She’s now almost 2 and there are still nights she’s up at 2AM, just AWAKE and wanting to play or talk or whatever. She also screams in her sleep a lot, for no apparent reason. I’m guessing nightmares maybe? Perhaps she farted and it scared her? She is just a really really bad sleeper, always has been, maybe always will be. At first I sought out advice about how to get her sleeping better, thinking maybe there WAS some trick I could learn that would help her sleep through the night and if I just learned the right trick, I’d finally be able to get a good night’s sleep. But you know what? People have all kinds of ideas about what they think worked with their kids, but none of it may work for your kid. None of it worked for my kid.

One of the tenets of the Cult of Perfect Motherhood is that there is some body of knowledge out there that you need to acquire in order to raise your kids the right way, and in fact, that there IS a right way to raise your kids. And if you just find the RIGHT book, it’s going to teach you how to get your kid to sleep through the night, because there is a perfect motherhood out there, and you must try to live it. But, kids are all different. Some of them sleep through the night for no reason, and some of them don’t sleep through the night for no reason. Some of them walk early and some of them walk late, some of them have disabilities and some of them don’t. Some are great eaters and some are not. There is no one right way to parent your kid. Every kid is different and every parent is different. People can share ideas and advice, and it may be completely useless to you, or even destructive. And it doesn’t mean they’re bad parents, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means, every kid is different and there is no such thing as the one right version of motherhood.