I used to have a infant who slept through the night. We’d put her down at 9:00pm or so, she’d sleep until 6:00am, and then I’d pull her into bed with me, feed her lying down, and we’d nap on and off until 10:00am. It was phenomenal. When other mothers told me that I looked/sounded/seemed great, I didn’t reveal my secret, because a.) I am always a little worried that someone is going to kidnap my baby, and this would only make her more attractive to potential kidnappers, and b.) it seemed a little naughty. No one else got to sleep in with a newborn, so it must be some form of illegal. In response to these women, I shrugged my well-rested shoulders and said, “Well, I really love being a mom.” Now, that part is still true, but the rest is not. Madeline doesn’t sleep anymore. She goes down at 9:00pm, and screams and screams. Then she falls asleep, and wakes up anywhere between two and eight times throughout the night. Last night was one of the really, really bad ones.
Many studies have been done on the effects of sleep deprivation on the human brain. I’m not aware, however, of any study on the effect of being woken every thirty-five to sixty minutes by a shrill, screeching five-month-old. Well, here are my findings.
9:00pm: I feel bad for this poor, crying child. I really do. I hold her hands as she flails around in her crib, tossing her head from side to side, desperately kicking at her lullaby-playing stuffed monkey. She finally falls asleep, and I sneak out of her nursery, closing the door behind me so my husband and I don’t disturb her. We’ll watch an episode of The West Wing, because we like to do everything at least a decade behind everyone else, and then we will go to bed.
10:00pm: She’s crying again. I’m working on my laptop or reading or playing Words with Friends, so I don’t really mind getting up with her. In fact, I kind of like it. I’ve missed her for the near-hour she was asleep.
11:30pm: She’s just whimpering, now. I replace the bink that’s fallen out of her mouth, and I push the button on her lullaby-playing stuffed monkey. I hold her hands until she falls asleep again.
12:45am: Okay, it’s not cute anymore. I was sleeping. I wait a minute before dramatically flinging the quilt off of me in an effort to impress my husband. (“See what I do for our family? I was sleeping, and now I’m not, and I’m going to tend to our baby. Remember this next year on Mother’s Day.”) I repeat the hand-holding, I repeat the replacing of the bink, I push the monkey’s button again.
2:00am: For real? I was sleeping. Sleeping. I am pretty sure I was in the middle of a dream. What is your issue, baby? The bink again? Just bored? What?
2:45am: Oh my Jesus. She cannot possibly be awake again. Why is she screaming? She’s still got the bink in her mouth! And how is it still in her mouth when she’s screaming? I’m moving. Moving to Alaska. I bet it’s quiet there. And dark.
3:30am: We should have soundproofed the nursery. Except that doesn’t sound safe at all. I was dreaming about Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I have an inexplicable crush on (it’s fine. My husband looks like him, so it’s not like I’m dream-cheating or anything), and Madeline has ruined it. She’s ruined a Philip dream for me. Whatever, Madeline. And where is the bink? Ah. It’s been tossed somewhere under her crib, where I am certainly not going to crawl at 3:30 in the morning, because I am not suicidal. (At 3:30 in the morning, when I am more than vaguely delirious, there are absolutely monsters under the crib, and I don’t care to see them.)
4:45am: I can’t do it. I cannot physically get out of this bed. “Zach?” I whisper. I give the corner of his pillow a hard tug the way I do when he’s snoring, and he opens one eye. “Zach, I need you to get up with her. I’ve been up with her all night. She keeps crying and she won’t stop and I don’t even know what to do right now.” I’m breathing heavily and staring at him like I might just freak out, and this is the moment that Zach shines like a Philip Seymour Hoffman-looking prince on a white stallion.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got her. Get some sleep.”
Sweeter words were never spoken. Zach picked her up and carried her around for an hour. (An hour!) This was some task, as he had to leave for work at 6:30. The carrying her around did the trick, and we were back to our regularly scheduled programming.
6:00am: I pull her into bed, feed her, and we nap till 10:00.
These nights are harder. There are moments when I feel a little bit less like Super Mom and a little bit more like I’d like to run away and join a baby-free circus, but I won’t. I love this screaming, nocturnal baby, and I love this guy who occasionally snores and who frequently keeps me sane.
My God, Madeline, please sleep through the night again.