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“Sleep When the Baby Sleeps” and Other Lies They Tell You

Ah, May. “Better Sleep Month” brings with it tips and tricks from well-seasoned mamas on how to get a better night’s sleep.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first, so many well-intentioned moms prepared me for the newborn phase. There is no exhaustion like that of a new mother. “Be sure to sleep when baby sleeps!” they would cheerily remind me. So, when my son was born, I understood that I would be more tired than I’d ever been. What I didn’t expect was how long I’d be exhausted. My oldest didn’t sleep more than four hours at a time until he was 19 months old. My 13 month old is happily taking on this challenge, and is showing no signs of sleeping for more than three hours at a time. I keep telling him it’s not a competition, but he’s having none of it. 

My three year old dropped naps about two months after my youngest was born. Impeccable timing. It is hard having kids that run on such little sleep, especially when everyone around me seems to have children sent by the sleep gods. Scrolling through Facebook, I would see another mom gush, “My 3-week-old is finally sleeping through the night!” Are you kidding me? I literally just fell asleep with my eyes open after sitting my son down for lunch. I used to dread the question, “How is he sleeping?” when my boys were infants, but now I just laugh and shake my head. It’s fine. I’m fine. 

When interrogating prisoners, torturers use sleep as a weapon. Withholding sleep is a true form of torture, and one that moms everywhere endure. These tiny terrorists are trying to break me and they’re winning. Just kidding. I don’t really think of myself as a P.O.W. Kinda. Forgive me; it’s the sleep deprivation talking. You guys, I haven’t slept through the night in almost four years. That is not an exaggeration. I look back on pictures of myself before kids, and all I can think is how rested I look. I think back to the moms that warned me about the newborn phase and wonder how many shots of espresso it took to allow for such “pep” in their pep talks.

The other day I patted my friend on the back. She’s having a hard time adjusting to life with a newborn (don’t we all). “I love her so much, but I am so tired.” Oh honey. “Don’t worry,” I said, “It gets easier.” Around 1:45 the next morning, after waking up for another nursing sesh with my one year old, I realized what a liar I’d been. It doesn’t get easier, at least not during this time of service. What I should have told her is, “Don’t worry. You get stronger.” Because, yes, I am sleep deprived. I am hanging by a thread some days. But, I will never be this needed again. I will never be so necessary in their lives. It is my name that my boys call when they need comfort. As far as I’m concerned, that makes me a super hero. And for now, that’s enough.

So, let me provide all you sleep-deprived mamas with a few tips. 

  • Sleep when the baby sleeps! It’s fine, the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and other children will wait patiently. Catch a little shut eye.
  • Use White Noise: Turn it up until it drowns out the sound of your maniacal laughter when your toddler shakes you awake after your baby’s 4th feeding that night.
  • Try not to smother your husband with a pillow at 3:00 in the morning. I don’t know why he doesn’t wake up when the baby cries. I don’t know how it’s physically possible that he doesn’t hear, but try to forgive. He knows not what he does. 
  • Skip the mug. Stick a straw right in that coffee pot. There’s one dish you don’t have to wash. 
  • And finally, cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes. I just keep reminding myself that eventually my children will sleep. One of these days, I am going to get those full 8 hours. Until then, let’s meet for a coffee or twelve. 

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