Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Mother

A self-portrait taken in the wee hours of a Spring morning, with a wakeful and annoyingly cheerful Margot.

What parent doesn't like to get sympathy for how tired they are? When our kids were smaller and my husband would follow my declarations of fatigue with "I know, I'm really tired, too", I'd always reply, "Babe, it's not a competition, but if it were...I'd win every time". I know some dads like to be involved with breastfeeding by bringing baby to mama, changing the diaper, burping, etc. but in our house, I always felt that one rested parent was better than none...I figured if I had to be up anyway, I might as well do it all and let him sleep, so that he could attend to the kids in the morning.

We're well-pleased that our three kids mostly sleep through the night these days, all in one room. After a busy weekend of camping and late nights, we were feeling pretty confident that we'd get some good nights in this week.

On Monday we attended a birthday party where Jude experienced an emotional upset (i.e. a gaggle of girls telling him he was cute and that they wanted to kiss/marry him...J is excessively shy in new social settings, so this, in addition to the giggling that he perceived as the girls laughing at him, reduced him to tears out behind our van while everyone else had birthday cake)...we left early and quietly, but Jude was visibly upset throughout the rest of the day.

So, Monday night, he woke up weeping, having wet the bed, and ended up crawling in with us. This is rare but not wholly unexpected behaviour when his feeling have been hurt. My husband is a tall drink of water, and Jude is the 5-year-old needless to say, being in bed with 2 pairs of long legs didn't make for a great sleep.

So, LAST night, I was here alone. We'd had an incredibly busy day: we attended another birthday party (all had a wonderful time...homemade pizza, fresh-picked corn cooked over a campfire, organized games supervised by the neighbour's wonderful 11-year-old daughter...), then raced out to pick up 30 chicks at the local farm supply store. I know we're late. But we should be able to get them in the freezer by late October.

Raced home, got the chicks set up in the summer kitchen, then welcomed a high school friend, his wife, and their twin 9-month-old boys. Lovely visit! Quick supper of sliced tomatoes with basil, zucchini/carrot/potato/onion latkes, and scrambled eggs. I suspected that all three of my kids would be ready for bed by 7, due to busyness, late nights, missed naps...

Just as I was reaching to pluck Margot from their pre-sleep tumble/cuddle in Jude and Violet's bed, Jude and Margot whacked their heads with that sickening coconuts-bumping sound. Sigh. Comforted them both, brought Margot back downstairs for a little rub of arnica on her goose egg, and a bit of Tylenol just in case.

A half hour later, I was settled in with a cup of tea, my knitting, and the movie "Date Night" (cute and funny)...only to hear Jude get up, ramble down the hall to the bathroom...then back to bed. I decided I was chilly, so headed up to put on pjs...and had a shock when a dark-haired man sat up in my bed. Jude, apparently, had decided that our bed is his bed. Sigh. After a few more forays to the washroom for various vague 5-year-old reasons, he settled in.

Violet joined us at 4:30. Violet is not just a casual thumb-sucker. She takes it very seriously, and makes the same sound that Maggie Simpson does with her soother. That sound, close up and in my ear, is not conducive to sleep. At 6:30, my husband (God bless him) came in to tell me it was time to get up for my run. Not today, dear, I have a headache...

I crept up to the attic. You know when you've had one of those nights, and you're willing to sleep anywhere as long as you're left alone? On a couch cushion on your living room floor with a cardigan tossed over you? Well, that was me. On a mattress in the attic with a baby-quilt barely covering my shoulders, the sun glaring into my eyes.

Enter Doolin, our latest addition. Doolin is a charming little village on the west coast of Ireland. She is also a tiny grey and white kitten that joined our family this week. She began that full-body rubbing that begins at your feet, winds up the back of your legs, around your bum, up your spine, and ending in your hair, all accompanied by that quick kittenish "purr, inhale, purr, inhale" that increases in volume as she approaches your ear. Then that baby-sucking around the ear, paws kneading my hair, rubbing her whole tiny loving self over my get the picture.

At this point I gave up. And there you have it. Another Mother's Tale of Lost Sleep. I think of Tennyson's Ulysses, following knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bound of human thought...and wonder if there is anything more desired, or more elusive than sleep.


  1. Ah, sleep. I used to have it. I took it for granted. Now I get none, and miss it more than anything in the world. Just think, some day we'll be yelling at our kids to get out of bed! But until then, our gritty eyes will be peeled open by dark, strong coffee (or maybe tea!)

  2. i don't think i've had a full night's sleep in about 8 years..haha...i totally understand!! hope you can find time to take short rests during the day...


  3. Oh I have so been there.... there is not enough coffee in the world after a night like that.... I had to giggle at the "sleep anywhere even on a couch cushion in the middle of the floor"..... our bed is still pretty communal too.... which means often the man or I grab pillow, grumble at 4 year old sleeping sideways and head to the sofa... someday we'll miss this :)

  4. Oh I am so sorry you are having sleep deprivation... how tired you must be. My daughter used to wake up every 20 minutes for a feed when she was a baby... Now we all sleep through the night:)
    Wishing you a sleep filled night:)

  5. Oh my friend. I have been there, done that more times than I'd like to count. My daughter also sucks her thumb with such gusto it can be heard across the house. One of these days we will get a good night's rest and won't quite know what to do with ourselves!! Hang in there...

    Stephanie :)

  6. Your post made me giggle with recognition, even as I read it through my haze of sleep deprivation. To top it all off, I end up feeling terrible for my fury with the sweet lovin' kitten. I am also convinced that no man should be allowed to say, "I'm tired" around a mama of young children. Ever.

  7. A friend of mine, and a mama as well, reminded me that there is a reason that the powers of nasty in the world use sleep deprivation as a form of torture!
    I agree with Wabi-Sabi man should be allowed to echo the "I'm tired" with a mama present.
    Wishing you well for tonite.

  8. Hmm....if you ever get some 'real' rest and you find that elusive 'time' should write a novel. You had my imagination at every step.


  9. PS: It took 4 years for my daughter to sleep in her own bed and go to sleep on her own. I miss it now...but I have a 1.5 year old keeping me warm on the other side. (Our bedroom is ONE BIG BED!)

  10. I enjoy your writings very much. My kids are grown and altho I babysit two toddlers they do go home sometime before I go to bed!


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