While You Were Sleeping…

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NOT a morning person…

I love my bed.

It wasn’t always this way. Growing up, I equated sleep with struggle. I was never a napper, and I remember some fierce bedtime battles with my parents. Even after I stopped throwing tantrums at bedtime (probably at a much later age than most children!), I found that I could function pretty well on less than eight hours of sleep. Sleep, in my opinion, was wasted time.

But these days, it often feels like the best part of the day is when I lay my head down on my pillow and pull up the comforter. And the worst part of the day is when the alarm wakes me at 5:30 in the morning, and I stumble out into the cold darkness to fix breakfast and lunches, and  contemplate how little rest I got the night before.

These days, I’m exhausted.

I expected to be exhausted right after Abigail was born this summer; those every-two-hour-round-the-clock newborn feedings warp time in a way I never understood until I had children. I look back on the months following the births of each of our daughters like I’m seeing them through a glass of water; they’re all blurred and I can’t remember much of what I said or did.

But I wasn’t expecting to be this crushingly exhausted four months after Abigail’s birth. Abigail’s a pretty easy baby and a good sleeper, logging in two solid naps during the day and roughly 11 hours of sleep overnight. The problem is that she’s still waking up to nurse several times a night. And sleep deprivation, I’m coming to find, is cumulative. Other factors may be that I have three other children to take care of, and I’m getting older. Whatever the reason, when Abigail wakes up twice a night to eat — as she usually does — I feel wrecked in the morning. When Abigail wakes up THREE TIMES a night to eat — as she occasionally does — I lose the will to live.

I know we’ll get through this; we have before. I know some people have it much worse. I know that my exhaustion is partly my own fault; if I could just NAP during the day, that might make things better, but I’m still a terrible napper.

So right now I’m like a dehydrated person who can only think about water; sleep is my obsession.  For instance, I’ve noticed that every member of our family has their own “sleep profile,” just as they each have their own personality and role in the family.

First, there’s Erick. Historically, Erick has been the sleep yin to my yang: He needs sleep, at least eight hours. If Erick had his own way, he would go to bed early and sleep late, and then throw in a couple of naps during the day. He can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. He’ll drop into a deep slumber while in a plane that’s taking off (How is that possible?!? I’m always gripping the armrests in an effort to keep the plane aloft). He always falls asleep during bedtime stories with the girls (“Daddy, wake UP!”). He once fell asleep at the table in the middle of dessert with friends at a crowded NYC restaurant (he’ll tell you that it was a late dessert, which is true but beside the point).

Fiona is the most like me, sleep-wise; she doesn’t need much sleep in order to function. She hasn’t napped in years, and it used to be a battle to put her to bed each night. We’d give babysitters instructions like they were Jason about to face the sirens: “Stuff your ears with cotton, lash yourself to the couch, and no matter what she says or how loud she screams, do NOT let her out of that room!” Things got much better once she had sisters sharing her room, and have only improved since she started school full-time. Now she’s pretty easy-breezy at bedtime: she’ll look at a few books and then drop off to sleep. A little slow in the mornings, but not a beast.

Campbell is the most like Erick as a sleeper; she needs a lot of it. She’s still a great napper, she regularly konks out in the car, and she falls asleep almost immediately at bedtime. One key difference between her and her dad: Campbell is our morning person. She’s the first sister awake in the morning (often we’ll hear her crowing like a rooster in an attempt to wake her sisters), and she bounces out of bed cheerful and ready to go.

Then there’s Georgia. Georgia equates sleep with party time. She never complains about naptime or bedtime — but neither does she sleep. Instead, we hear her thumping around upstairs, talking and singing to herself. I never know where I’ll find Georgia when I go in to get her from a nap: sometimes she’s on top of the changing table (where she may have changed her own diaper several times), sometimes she’s in a sister’s bed, sometimes she’s collapsed on the floor in a pile of blankets and stuffed animals. And because she stays up so late partying, Georgia is NOT a morning person. Usually we have to carry her downstairs, rumpled and half-asleep. We prop her up at the breakfast table, where she’ll sit and sob for the next ten minutes.

I find it interesting that members of the same family, who’ve been raised with roughly the same schedule, can have such vastly different sleep habits. When it comes to sleep, I’m definitely a believer in nature over nurture. Another interesting thing is that all three of these girls share a bedroom, and all six of us (including Abigail, whose sleep patterns are still too newborn to be determined) have to share a house. So, that’s fun.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s miles to go before I sleep.

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