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.

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RENEE BEAUREGARD LUTE has authored a number of poems, short stories, literary reviews, essays, and interviews that have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Bellevue Literary Review, ROAR Magazine, and Literary Mama . She is the author of the chapbook Five Stories (Red Bird), and holds an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University. She lives with her husband and two beautiful children in Issaquah, Washington. If Renee could have coffee with any writer, living or deceased, she would probably pick Erma Bombeck.

3 responses to “Mister Sandman, give me a drink.”

  1. Elle says:

    You want some advice? No, probably not. You probably could write a book with all the advice you have ever received. But I’m going to give it to you anyway. As I see it you have two options: 1.) Can keep her in bed with you until she is two or 2.) You can try the gradual method. Since I think your husband will probably be the least thrilled about number one, I’ll go straight to number two. I have to admit, I don’t think that is the actual name of the method, or if it even a method at all, but I got it from a parenting book (so it must be right). It’s quite simple really – you put your child to bed, tell them how much you love them and that you will be back to check on them in one minute. You leave, even though she is crying, come back in exactly 1 minutes and tell her you are checking in on her and will be back in two minutes, and keep adding time on like so. It will still be rough the first night but it will get better, I promise. I think if you wait until they go to sleep they freak out when they wake up and you aren’t there. Now, I said it and my conscience is free. You can totally go on with your life and disregard. 🙂

  2. Connie says:

    True story. The pediatrician we ended up choosing as the ones we would allow our children to grow up with is the one who said, “DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO IN ORDER TO SURVIVE.” We’re the ones who work, take care of these kids, drive 1 ton death machines in public, and have to function for the sake of more than just ourselves. This stage of Maddie’s life is temporary, but that also means this time in her life is only temporary for you and Zach as well. You do what works for you and the sake of your family.

  3. Kavita says:

    “I wait a minute before dramatically flinging the quilt off of me in an effort to impress my husband.” had me laughing out loud.

    A funny read for me, who’s been through the grind, but it must be quite a torture for you. If there’s one thing I can assure you of, it is this – this shall pass sooner than you think, partly because you’ll get used to it (evil chuckle). Kudos to you for making light of this situation (hey, this post is listed under humour).

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