It’s 3:30 in the morning. My son is awake and screaming for the third time since 10 p.m. My husband is pacing around the room cursing our pediatrician for not giving us better sleep advice regarding our otherwise healthy child, and simultaneously accusing me of doing something “wrong.” My head hurts. I’m thirsty. My eyes are dry and stuck together. I grab my kid from his crib and nurse him back to sleep. Two hours later, the same scene arises. This has been going on for six weeks, every two hours, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. And did I mention, I went back to work after maternity leave four weeks ago, so “catching up on sleep” during the day is no longer an option (Sidenote: Does anyone ever really do this? Who actually “sleeps when the baby sleeps” during the day?!)? I start fantasizing about sneaking off for a night in a hotel (alone) and sleeping for eight uninterrupted hours (eight? I’ll even take five!). I can’t focus at work. I spend a good portion of the night despising my husband and half-hoping he smothers himself with the pillow he’s using to cover his head and ears to drown out baby cries (Disclaimer: My husband is an awesome dad and generally an all-around awesome guy. This does not make him exempt from my searing sleep-deprivation-induced hatred of, well, pretty much anything and everything, nor am I exempt from his.).
Flashback to six months ago. My husband and I return home from the hospital after delivering our beautiful baby boy. Just a few weeks later, the kid is sleeping THROUGH THE NIGHT. People want to know how it’s going, how he’s sleeping. We tell them, “Great! Eight hours a night!” We get a lot of evil glares. Someone accuses us of “force feeding” the baby to get him to sleep at night (Is that a thing? I mean, really?) . We are, perhaps, a bit smug and probably too cavalier in our responses.
And then… enter the fourth month sleep regression, or, as I like to refer to it, the month my son decreed, “No one shall sleep again!” I go back to work and figure that this is the new normal. I’ll learn to adapt. If I have to nap at every stoplight on my commute and hope no one notices I’m sleeping with my eyes open during our bi-weekly staff meeting, fine. So what if I can’t remember what I was saying two minutes ago? Who cares if I just start crying out of sheer exhaustion? Feel well enough to pay attention to and (gasp) love my husband? Splech, who needs that guy? Isn’t that just “mom brain?” I mean, I’m a mom. A working mom with mom guilt. Isn’t it my job to martyr myself for my child to make up for the time I’m away from him?
I write this because I suspect I’m not the only one who has been here or is here right now. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, sometimes it’s helpful to know that there are others in the trenches too. Yes, this is “normal” (whatever that means). No, your baby doesn’t hate you. Yes, we will all sleep again someday. Yes, it’s totally fine to feel like punching people with babies who sleep well in their well-rested faces. You are not alone in feeling this way.
I am here, my sleepless sisters, standing with you at 3 a.m., eyes dry, hair wild, half-asleep, angry at the snoozing world around me, armed with two boobs, a bottle of milk or formula, and a bad attitude, not to give you advice on how to get your baby to sleep, but to tell you that you can do this, mama. Whatever you choose to do (nothing, wait it out, cry it out, co-sleep, sleep train, magic sleep spell, voodoo priestess, etc.), you are not alone. This is the battle cry. You are not alone. Sleep will come again. You are not alone. I am not alone.