Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dear Gwen: Special Edition

Dear Gwen,
I know, it's not even newsletter time. But we need to talk. Mostly, I need to talk.

Because I need to sleep.

Before you came along, I felt mildly apprehensive about the lack of sleep I knew I'd experience as a new parent. But I had no idea what you had in store for me. I like getting my 8 hours a night, but I can get by on less. Six is entirely passable. This was before I understood the vast difference between six hours of sleep in a row and six hours of sleep spread over eight or ten hours. Not all sleep is created equal, I guess.

My next terrible misconception is that things would get better after three months. They didn't. Like, at all. And when we finally decided to do sleep training at seven months, I seemed to have this expectation that since you went to sleep in 14 minutes the first night, you would take 13 minutes the second night, 12 minutes the third night, and so on until about 2 weeks later when you would just fall asleep mere seconds after I lay you, sweetly smiling, in the crib. And, you know, that you would just continue to do that every night (and nap) from then until you moved out. Yeah, NO.

So now you are 8.5 months old, very active and intelligent, and we are back at square one with your sleep. The fact that you can now pull to standing means that you are no longer safe to just "cry it out" in your crib, since the ability to stand brings the likelihood of falling, and since you haven't figured out that you need to lie down to go to sleep. Nor have you figured out how to get down from a standing position, since we're on the subject, so even if you were ready to lie down, you couldn't. This means our nighttime and naptime routine now includes the following:

- I lay you in your crib
- You stand up in your crib
- I pick you up and lay you down again
- You stand up again, with increasing agitation

Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you are hysterical and cannot possibly hope to sleep. What are you gaining from this experience?

I'd be perfectly happy to give up on the nap altogether, since you seem so opposed to it, but this doesn't please you either. Instead, you become the Whiniest Babe in All The Land, determined to destroy my will to live with your endless whimpering. WHAT DO YOU WANT? You don't want to nurse, you don't want to play, you don't want to cuddle, you don't want to sleep ... is whining just an end in itself for you? Because if so, we may need to review our Parent-Child Contract. And our tenancy agreement. Soundproofing, for example, may be in order.

Yesterday I thought the problem might be teething, so I even broke down and gave you Tylenol before your nap. Made no difference. It took over 90 minutes to get you to go to sleep. And then you slept for an HOUR. Gwen, this is not a good situation for either of us. You need your sleep (you really do!), and I need time to myself. I count on your naps to allow me to get some housework done, as well as having a shred of personal time. Having that time is what allows me to regroup and continue to take care of you when you're awake. Just as you are not in a good mood when you give up sleep, I am not in a good mood when I give up that time. It really works better for both of us if we spend that time apart, both refueling in our own ways.

I got to a very dark place last night, Gwen. It was 3:30am and you'd been awake for over an hour. I'd only slept for about two hours before you woke me. I had tried everything I knew how to do to get you back to sleep, but nothing worked. Over and over again I calmed you down, lay you in your crib, and enjoyed the two seconds of silence before your wails pierced the night again. Your dad, who was supposed to be up for the day in only another 90 minutes, finally had to spend another half an hour soothing you before he finally succeeded in getting you to sleep.

As I lay in bed, wide awake, listening to him walk across the floor with you, I started to ask myself some serious questions. I wondered if I was really cut out for this motherhood business anyway. After all, shouldn't I be able to put my own child to sleep? Or, failing that, be capable of the self-sacrifice needed to sit up with you all night and be cheerful about it? I wasn't able to do either of these things. Instead, I lay in bed and wished that you had never been born. I wondered if I was the only mother to ever question herself in this way.

Please don't believe that I would do anything to hurt you, Gwen, because I wouldn't. And the question of whether I am cut out to be a mother is obviously a moot one, since you are here now, not going anywhere, and I am a mother, ready or not. There's nothing anyone can do to change that. And I know that this stage won't last long, and that in years to come I will barely remember what it felt like to be so sleep-deprived that I imagined sneaking out to sleep in the car just so I couldn't hear your whining anymore. So sleep-deprived that I wished someone in this house was a drinker, so we could give you a slug of brandy.

I know the Rules of Mommyblogging demand that I end this post with the "it's all worth it!" disclaimer, maybe even throwing in "motherhood is SO rewarding!" for bonus points, but I don't feel that way today. I don't feel rewarded. I don't feel like it is all worth it. I feel like sometimes, it sucks. Sometimes, no matter how much I give and give and give, you treat me like crap and then scream in outrage about it. I feel like I am barely hanging on to my sanity, and I really don't like the feeling that I'm always one missed nap away from losing my mind - and yet, what alternative do I have?

Please, Gwen, I am doing my best. I'm still new at this, and I know I'm not perfect. Please, just meet me halfway. Allow me to take care of you, and then allow me the time to take care of myself. I promise I won't steer you astray. You're my daughter, and I love you, but I can't do this alone.



Jen said...


You are not the only person who has had these thoughts. And please don't think you're a bad mom for it. 3:30 am is a miserable time, and so lonely at that. Even though Anderson is most times a good sleeper, I too, have had those moments of sheer frustration where I thought I could really just walk out the door and not come back. It doesn't always feel rewarding. I really hope Gwen's sleep improves soon so that you can feel rested.

I've actually had a friend over during my last bout of mastitis to take care of Anderson (who was having a super-needy-clingy-I-can't-put-you-down-day)while I slept. It was so worth it. Highly recommended for one's sanity.

Anonymous said...

You certainly aren't the only person feeling this way. Not even the only person feeling this way today! Our last two weeks have been like this, and I've had a few nights that involve such choices as:

"I thought by six months, this would be easier. I thought this got easier!"

"Can we put him back? Do you think he'll fit?"

"I don't want to be a mother any more."

Sleep deprivation is used as a torture method in war, remember that. I find that every time we get to a stage where we are finally getting enough sleep, we're abruptly sucked back into that vortex of sleepless zombie-hood, it gets even harder to deal with and feels less just than the last time.

God, sleep. I would love to sleep eight hours in a row. Even six. Hell, right now I'd even settle for four!

Anyway, I totally hear you sister.

Amberism said...

I've laid in bed, wide awake, and thought that same thought. You're definitely not alone.

And *hugs*. I know how much it sucks to not be getting the sleep!

Anonymous said...

Oh Laura. I feel your pain. At Christmas when I was staying at my parents (without my husband for a few nights) he called one night after I'd been trying to get my OVERTIRED (read: had taken 2 30 minute naps in a 14 hour day) baby to sleep for over 2 hours. I told him that I didn't want to be a mom if that was what it was like. I felt absolutely horrible.

Honestly, every single mom (every. single. one.) that I've talked to says they think these things and that it's normal. Sadly. I don't want it to be normal to wonder, like Rachael, if I can stick my daughter back in my womb, or like Jen, to want to walk out and never come back. But it is normal, regardless.

I guess we moms just have to stick it out together, huh? ((((BIG HUGS)))) to you. Know that I'm across the country probably awake at that same time of night with my own Gwen refusing to sleep :)

Kat said...

When I see you next I will give you a mickey of really good brandy. Works like a charm, so my mother says.

sarapants said...

"After all, shouldn't I be able to put my own child to sleep? Or, failing that, be capable of the self-sacrifice needed to sit up with you all night and be cheerful about it? I wasn't able to do either of these things. Instead, I lay in bed and wished that you had never been born. I wondered if I was the only mother to ever question herself in this way."

No, no, and no. We've all been there, we'll all be there again....and thankfully, we will all forget about those nights. Someday. Love ya, Sister-Lady.
Also? I don't think there's a sane mother out there who can be awake all night and be cheerful about it!

Anonymous said...

Oh oh oh, I'm so sorry, I know I know I know. It sucks. Remember, sleep deprivation is a torture technique. Not that Gwen is trying to torture you.

There is a lot about motherhood that is ugly. I remember leaking from almost every orifice in my body, crying "is this all there is?" I think that's when I started blogging and sending out frightening emails to anyone. I don't know if it helped - I really can't remember. You know, being sleep deprived.

*hugs hugs and more hugs* Hang in there. Life isn't fair.


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