Oh, Simon. You have been, on the whole, so far, an amazingly good sleeper, and I thank you. But sometimes you do not sleep. And when you don’t sleep, of course, neither do we.
The week before Thanksgiving was not really a week for sleeping in our home, so this issue of sleeping and not sleeping is on the mind at the moment. I’d thought I’d write a little, here, for posterity, about what that’s like for me.
It’s awesome! Hahahahaha *dies*
No, really. It sucks. A lot. It especially sucks when you go to sleep, wait until I’m very nearly asleep or have been sleeping just for a little while, and then wake us with wailing followed by the gradual realization that you’re not going to eat and go right back to sleep as usual. I’m not going to lie: that hurts, in a physical, whole-body despair sort of way.
And yet I shake that off, get up, and hold you. I take the until-4-AM shift, you see, and then Eric takes over until 9:00 or so, unless we have to get earlier going than that, and except for bringing you in to eat. I am more able to stay awake and functioning late at night (to read for graduate exams, say, or tend to an inexplicably awake baby), you see, and Eric is more able to be clear-headed and non-angry early in the morning (while reading for graduate exams, say, or tending to an inexplicably awake baby).
So we sit in my office chair or on our sofa, you and I, in an unusually quiet apartment. You are sleepy and fiddling with my pajamas, or asleep against me (sometimes it’s not that you don’t sleep but that you act as though your crib and our bed were both made of battery acid), or wide awake and smiling, wanting to crawl around and play. I am exhausted but calmed by the lights and the silence. I do a little work on my computer or write in my journal. I get a glass of water and maybe a snack. I read a novel. I play with you quietly and hold you. I feed you and, despite myself, smile at your beautiful face. You are soft and warm and wonderful, even in the middle of the night.
But still, it totally bites to be awake when every fiber of my being wants to be asleep. Then, when I hand you off to Eric, it takes me a while to get back to sleep because I’ve had to be awake enough to do what you need me to do, awake enough not to nod off while we sit together on the sofa (close to nooks and crannies where your face could get wedged) or while you play on the floor (and try to get to various interesting hazards).
When this goes on night after night, which fortunately is not often, eventually there’s a night when we can barely manage to pick you up, when I can’t go into the living room with you because I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep and drop you, or just plain forget that you exist. Nights when the safest place for you is screaming bloody murder in your crib right next to us, on and off, interspersed with one or the other of us trying to get you back to sleep in this wild haze, trying and failing to communicate with each other, holding on by a thread. I am a terrible sleeper, but on those nights I go in and out of deep sleep while you wail and weep deafeningly, three feet from my head. It’s like a bad trip.
A really, really bad trip.
And even on those nights, we try to help you out, and we wish you felt better, and we want to be able to hold you and comfort you.
Funny thing: when I started writing this post, the title sounded oddly familiar to me, and I googled it to make sure I wasn’t accidentally referencing some text I’d read. I finally realized that it’s the title of one of my own poems from nearly a decade ago. You see, back before I had children, I wrote crappy poetry (along with two or three decent poems spread out over many years). I fully intend to take up the writing of crappy poetry again once I have more time: it’s great fun, and a useful mode of emotional processing to boot. Anyway, I found this little time capsule from the early days of Eric’s and my relationship:
in the dark night’s middle
the dog sleeps dreamily
dreaming sleepily and twitching,
her lip pulled back in a silent growl
next to me a man is still, quiet,
nearly invisible to my eyes in the darkness,
apparently dreaming nothing at all
and I watch him a moment, dreaming
awake of the nights we’ve spent here
before I lean over to touch his forehead and curl up alone again.
My God, sleeplessness looked different pre-children, huh? It amazes me to think that, someday, waking in the middle of the night will again be an event of such solitude and self-involvement. Oh, twenty-one-year-old Molly, you have no idea what’s to come.