Sleep Deprived? I’ve Got Nothing But Love For You

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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.

Jenny Mundell

Jenny is a working mom of one adorable child and one (usually) adorable husband, both with whom she resides in Northern New Jersey. By day she works in higher education and occasionally teaches writing.

15 Comments

  1. I feel your pain. My daughter is 2 yrs and 3 months and she still gets up at least once or twice a night. 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep have been erased from my memory. If I get a full 4 hour stretch that’s a good night!

  2. I daydream of a night alone in a hotel too!

  3. That is my life right now! Our youngest son is 4 1/2 months old. When he was about 2 months old he was sleeping for 5 hours at a time at night. Then he had RSV and he has been sick (and not sleeping) since. We have gone through ear infections, a stomach virus, colds, you name it. Sometimes he is up every half hour. I figure I am getting a total of 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I have actually started to dread night time! I agree, even if you do not have any tips to solve the problem it is nice to know that I am not alone. Plus, I get plenty of time blogging on my tablet as I try not to fall asleep while rocking my baby in the middle of the night! Hang in there!

  4. I have been there and done that! Those sleepless nights still pop up know and then even though they are 8 and 12. There is light at the end of the tunnel and take a deep breath. You will make it! You are earning your warrior mom stripes!

  5. My son, now 8, wouldn’t sleep any where other than on my body for 18 months. He was up hourly otherwise. It was exhausting and I cried a lot. My daughter, now 4, slept better than her brother, but with an older child, there was no breathing room for me. Motherhood is a challenge for all of us. We need to give ourselves some flexibility and take some “me” time each day. Although “it’s just a phase” isn’t particularly helpful, I’ve realized that the only constant is change with regards to our children. Hang in there mama!

  6. I completely identify with you! I have identical twin boys who are almost 11 months, and I had the same thoughts and emotions as you’ve had several times when the boys had sleep challenges. I feel guilty any time I admit this, but my rage has also come out on my husband more times than it should have. He, too, is an amazing dad, but when it’s the two of you in the middle of the night and you have babies not sleeping well, who else are you going to yell at?! Certainly not the babies!

    You’re strong. I’m strong. We’re all strong. We can push through any baby challenge. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but find a mantra you can repeat to yourself during the tough times (I like to say “This too shall pass”). Hopefully that will help make parenting a bit more bearable. 🙂

  7. First I have a question, does anyone know why their child is awake? Other than sickness, are they hungry, cold, gassy, or has just gotten into a new habit?
    I raised two children, with the best pediatrician in the world.
    He was sixty-five, his office was his home, you called him at 4am and HE answered the phone.
    At 2 months my oldest was very colicky and gassy, he told me to steep 1 teaspoon of Caraway seeds in half cup of hot boiled water for 2 minutes, strain the water into a baby bottle add just a little bit of sugar for taste then fill will cold water until it is a tepid temperature. My baby drank that water and we never ever had a problem with gas or colic again. I gave them a little every time I noticed they were a bit bloated.
    At 4 months old she was up crying again, I knew it wasn’t gas, so I called that wonderful man and he said “that child is hungry she is not getting enough sustenance before bed.”
    Make her a bottle about 4 ounces and put a half teaspoon of rice cereal in there with
    the liquid. She slept from 8pm until 9am almost every day.
    At night you get chilly while sleeping and you add another blanket, sometimes babies just need to held with a blanket close to your body to take the chill away. Warm them up leave them wrapped and add a another blanket, not to heavy you don’t want then to sweat.
    The last and hardest thing was the habit breaking. If you know all bases are covered
    you go in to their room pat them or rub their little backs for just a few minutes, when they are calm you leave, do it less and less and will take about a week for them to sleep through.
    Do NOT bring them into bed with you I know it is a easy out, but in the long run both the baby and you will be happy.
    Now I don’t know anything about medicine and I would never ever tell anyone not to listen to their pediatrician. But, sometimes old fashioned remedies work. After all, our parents lived through them, and so did we.
    Thanks for letting me share. My Love to the new Margaret Josephine.

  8. Hi Jenny,

    I feel for you. We went through that with our first, except no fancy honeymoon period. We had our two girls one after the other because we just felt like we would never otherwise go back and have kids “again” because it was so hard! You will get through it though. Now I just tell mom friends “Get through the first year!”

    I love that your blog is “Working Moms Against Guilt.” I’m very in this topic and in finding out what (if any) is the effect of working moms on the development of their children. If you get a chance, I’d love for you to weigh in here (but also believe that if you can get a moment to sleep that’s a better use of your time).

    http://amandasteeley.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/working-mothers/

    Cheers!
    Amanda

  9. My 1st slept well until she was about 20 months old. Then she started waking up to 6 times each night. My 2nd was born shortly after that and has never slept very well. It’s really hard to be this tired and work full time. I also consider 4 hours straight “good” and I told my husband all I wanted for Christmas is 1 night alone in a hotel room so I could sleep. It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who has had these thoughts. For now, it’ll just be a dream since my second is now 16 month old and still cries harder if my husband is the one who goes to comfort her. Thanks for sharing this!

  10. Thanks so much for your responses, moms! I’m feeling the mom-support for sure and I hope others reading this do too. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in this fight to get a child to sleep. As an update, we went ahead with a sleep training program that seems to be working for us. Perhaps I’ll post on that in the future!

  11. Ohhhhh, my goodness. I think this pretty much covers it for all new moms, especially the ones who are back at work during the day. You sleep deprivation is a form of actual torture, right? Because it’s … well, torture.

    I have no advice for you. There’s plenty of that out there from experts. I can tell you that it doesn’t last forever (just feels that way at the time). And you do weirdly get used to it. My 4yo still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes, and sometimes I have to wake up when stuff blows up at work. I can handle it so much better now than I could have before going through the whole sleep-deprivation nightmare of early motherhood.

  12. I hear you, can totally relate! I have been on a 4 hour sleep average for over a month now with little relief, it is nice to know I am not alone!

  13. Fantastic article!! Thanks for sharing this post about Sleep Deprivation! It was very interesting and I really enjoyed reading it..

  14. I am with you, my brain is mush during the day, im hardly listening, i just pick up key words during meetings and nod in unison, then try to figure it out later. I consider 4hrs of sleep good and endless dreams of whole rested sleep when I could check in to a hotel alone! At this point developing flu, probably immune system is shot, and need the sleep badly now.

  15. You get kind of used to it, although today I feel like a zombie again and not even strong coffee is working. At least I have a somewhat less hectic job now, where I cannot forget about stuff like I did in my previous chaotic office. Less risk of being fired. 😛 You have to do what works best for you, because as I learnt in my previous job, nobody cares if you are a mother with small kids keeping you up at night. So I aim to stay in this less hectic job for at least the next year or two. 😛

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