Look At Me Not Sleeping

November 6, 2008

Update below.

I haven’t slept in four nights.

Which, you know, isn’t totally bad, considering that until about four weeks ago, I’d gone nearly five months averaging only three or four hours sleep a night, every night. New mothers don’t sleep. That’s just a fact.

But when you’ve passed that ‘fourth trimester’ grace period – wherein, it seems, Nature gives you a pass on needing sleep and proper nutrition and enables you to function like a superhero, leaping over the newborn weeks in a single bound, fueled by the nitro-force of a wicked hormone buzz – when you hit the wall, somewhere around week 13, the lack of sleep catches up with you and no amount of cinnamon rolls and double-shot espressos will set you to right. So you set about pursing sleep with a vengeance (so appropriate, that idiom – you chase sleep hoping to tackle it and wrestle it and punish it for so cruelly withholding its gifts) and when you finally get some (oh yeah) through some combination of spousal support and anti-anxiety medication you cling to it desperately, desperately, determined to never let it slip your grasp again.

And then when it does slip your grasp, you go to pieces.

Four nights it’s been; four nights of wrestling a vibrating baby who is development-spurting at the speed of light and spending his nights rolling and crawling oh god help me around his crib – or, when the victory squawking has become too much, in our bed – in pursuit of some invisible gold ring that I assume hovers magically just beyond his reach. Four nights of spending hours trying to get him to just be still, to just chill out, to save the gymnastics and the glee-clubbing until the morning, please oh god please, only to have him settle into something approximating a sleepy calm at the precise moment that the preschooler wakes up coughing and hollering about her nose hurting.

I’m so tired that I can’t see straight. And I just can’t see any solution. Crying it out doesn’t work because he seems to have an infinite capacity for wakefulness and so can outcry, outsquawk, outholler, outlast us with little effort. Bringing him into bed with us doesn’t work because although he’s more likely to take a few sleep breaks from his gymnastics practice when he can crawl up tight against my breast, he never actually stills, and so even though he snoozes while he’s cuddled up against me he also kicks me in the ribs and/or punches me in the head every few minutes and that’s, you know, not conducive to sleep.

The husband does all of the actual getting up, the hovering over the crib, the delivery of child to my side when it seems there’s nothing left to do, but still: I can hear it all, I can feel it all, and not even the Ativan helps when your body is shouting at you to tend to your baby. So what’s next? Do I just check into a hotel for a night or two – seriously, we talked about that last night – to catch up on sleep? Or do I just ride it out? How long can I go without sleep? How crazy will I get?

Mama said knock her out.

(And, and… how long can I go on just barely coping? I have an out-of-control inbox – I am seriously weeks behind in responding to e-mails – and an ever-lengthening to-do list and – worst – a backlog of things that I need/want to write about – my frustrations searching for my long-lost brother, my ongoing struggle to figure out how not to be dominated completely by my nearly three-year old daughter, some thoughts on raising children under the condition of post-modern capitalism, an anecdote or two about politesse as it pertains to penises, etc, etc. My brain is backlogged and cramped and sore and all this sleeplessness is making it worse. Is it possible for one’s brain to simply explode?)

Seriously. If my husband were to bring up the issue of vasectomies right this minute? I’d give him one myself.

Update: Last night (Friday night), he slept over eight hours straight. EIGHT HOURS. No idea why. Things we did differently: kept him up a bit more in the day, so that he had two longer naps rather than multiple shorter ones, put darker curtains on his nursery window to block more light, and put him to sleep in a snuggle (modified, arms-free swaddle) blanket. Will repeat these steps today and see if it works again. Whatever it is: AM SO ABSURDLY, MANICALLY GRATEFUL.

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    Domestic Extraordinaire November 7, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I, too, vote for the hotel. At least for one night anyway. What about a white noise machine? I have a hard time sleeping and blocking out noises and it seems to work for me because both of my girls go to sleep with radios on different stations and the master bedroom is in between the 2 rooms with dueling stations. Just a thought.

    liz November 7, 2008 at 12:40 am

    Another vote for the hotel.

    Lady M November 7, 2008 at 12:54 am


    What amazingly cute boy! I’m sure you’d think he was even cuter if he’d close his eyes now and again.

    courtney November 7, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Go to a hotel. At least one night, preferably two or three.

    It will revitalize you and help you cope and find solutions to his wakefulness.

    For your sanity, get some sleep.

    Jaywalker November 7, 2008 at 3:52 am

    I did the earplugs. They worked, I had to be shaken awake, which was great, after all that primeval ‘I must stay alert in case the sabre tooth tigre eats my young’ wakefulness.

    I do so feel for you. I wish we could all just take it in turns to do a night with your gorgeous baby – that would give you months of sleep! Terrible flaw with this internet community thing eh.

    Elizabeth November 7, 2008 at 4:09 am

    As a mother of three, one disabled, I vote for the hotel. And yes, your brain can explode. Above all, though, IT GETS BETTER.

    Anonymous November 7, 2008 at 7:44 am

    god, sounds awful, you poor thing!

    do everything you can afford.
    night nurses are great (I know a woman with triplets who got one for a week, she says it saved her marriage)
    and/or babysitter for your toddler so you can nap during the day
    and the hotel so you don’t have to listen to any of it!

    when i was in depths of sleep deprivation I lost perspective and fretted over my to-do list as well. but I can see now that I should have let the list drop. Sometimes, life wins, we lose, and we have to go with the flow to make it through.

    you are doing great to just be posting at all!

    April November 7, 2008 at 11:26 am

    i think the hotel is a very good idea. and the “Mama said knock her out.” made me laugh out loud. so cute :-)

    Amy November 7, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Oh, man. We had a decent sleeper for the first 3 months, and then 4 months hit. And it was hell. We tried everything (except CIO–absolutely NOT an option here). We had sleep charts a la The No-Cry Sleep Solution that we look at now and laugh at. We were so delirious we didn’t even realize how absurd the whole thing was. At some point, a few months later, either she slept better or I just adapted. She still is not a good sleeper at 2.5 years, but it’s WAY better than when she was a tiny baby and I have been able to function quite happily on broken sleep for a long time now.

    I have a feeling you’re dealing with a similar situation, and all I can tell you is to ride it out. All the things we tried did nothing but create stress for me and my husband. When I finally took a zen approach and let myself accept that the situation was only temporary and that the next phase would be different I felt a million times better. Between that and finally figuring out how to comfortably nurse while laying down and dozing off, I was human again.

    To all the people who say go to a hotel, HOW? I can’t imagine how that would have worked for us. The baby nursed many times a night–I have no idea how my husband could have possibly survived a night alone with her or how she could have gotten through the night without a tremendous amount of panic, stress, anger, sadness, etc. It just wouldn’t have worked for us.

    I’m not going to say “this too shall pass” because I roll my eyes every time I hear someone else say it. But it will change. Nothing is permanent.

    Mona November 7, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Hotel, definitely, but I also second the recommendation for PT help, be it a student or whatever. You need that how ever often you can swing it. You really do. It will make a world of difference. Good luck.

    Anonymous November 7, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    A mom’s helper for a couple hours in the afternoon. Usually a highschool student will do this for cheap. Get a couple hours of rest, preferably asleep, but even lying quietly is a start.

    Keep baby and toddler active during the day. They need to be tired by evening.

    Learn to co-sleep safely at night. When responding to baby keep light off, don’t get out of bed unless necessary, very little talking (just low murmuring if needed). Be persistent. He needs to learn that nighttime is sleeping time. In general, babies sleep better with their parents because they (eventually) follow mom’s cues. This is also sleep training for you. You will need to learn to sleep with him there. Going to a hotel may work for a couple days, but eventually you’re going to come home to the same situation.

    I have a really active little boy who needs very little sleep. This is the only thing that eventually worked. It was hard. He still needs very little sleep, but we got onto a schedule that works and he was only in our bed full-time for first year and then over the next two he phased out and now we never see him during the night.

    Good luck.

    Colleen - Mommy Always Wins November 7, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    ‘Kay, I can’t read through all these comments, so ignore what you’re already heard – turn.off.the.computer. If what you need to say is actually important, you’ll remember it (without stressing about it) in a few days once you’ve rested. My youngest baby is nearly two, but I went through a bout of sleeplessness a month or two ago because I was overstressing about my freakin’ BLOG and wondering if I were social networking enough. BAH.

    I completely believe that babies pick up on our emotions – I wouldn’t doubt it if he’s feeling your stress, which is causing him not to be able to rest as well. Do what you have to do to get some rest, and maybe when you come back, you’ll see baby boy (who’s BEAUTIFUL, btw) has calmed down, too.

    Just a suggestion. :-)

    LAVANDULA November 7, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    catherine jasper is so precious.i don;t think the hotel would work because seriously would you be able to sleep away from him? you need some help my friend and all of the mums saying to get a night nurse are probably right.get yourself some help so you can sleep.and you made me laugh with the comment about giving mr bad a vasectomy yourself at least you still have some semblance of a sense of humour. hugs

    beeb November 7, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I second Hylands teeting tablets. The main ingredient is chamomile, which is a relaxant/sleep aid. You can buy them at the health food store.

    Anonymous November 7, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Not sure you if you saw Motherhood Uncensored’s recent post about this webcast for sleep questions (http://www.videonewswire.com/event.asp?id=51632) but thought you might be interested.

    Jaelithe November 7, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Oh, goodness. Hang in there. This is half the reason I haven’t had a second child yet. My first was such a terrible sleeper that I don’t think I slept for more than three hours at a time for the first year after he was born. I tried everything. Nothing worked with him. I just had to wait it out.

    I hope you can get someone to help you. If you could get someone to watch the kids during the day, AWAY from your house, so you could nap, or something . . .

    Mr Lady November 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    We THREW OUT the monitors, turned on NoFX super loud, and had tons of sex.

    It totally worked. We didn’t sleep, but we sure did feel better. :)

    Her Bad Mother November 7, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Mr Lady – energy for sex? MWAH HA HA HA HA HA! I’d need sleep for that and, um… there’s a bit of a chicken/egg problem there.

    Cloudy November 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Yesterday I took off “sick” from work, but dropped the baby off at daycare like usual. I got a whole day to MYSELF! and yes, I did feel like a bad mother, but I got shit done. You have to think of yourself, too.

    Tina November 7, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    by the way, i shoehorn his arms in the sack, and stuff his legs in too — it’s too small. i might clip under the arms to make it bigger, or take off the wings and attach it to a bigger sleep sack. i think he likes holding/stroking the fleece as a lovey, and being completely immobile. maybe your guy is ready for a lovey now? sorry about the crawling; i guess he’ll be extra verbal…….

    Ashley November 7, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I tried the night vacation away … I worried all night about how she was doing. Plus, in my case, my boobs hurt like a mo-fo when I woke up. I tried sleeping in our guest room … I still woke up with my super-mom-with-newborn-hearing. Thanks for that, Mother Nature!

    There’s no denying it. The first 14 months SUCKS. And then you come out of the haze at 14-18 months and completely forget about it. Which explains why so many siblings are 2-3 years apart.


    On the bright side, you WILL forget about this misery within the next year! *BIG HUGS*

    Kate November 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Totally un-P.C. suggestion, but have you tried Benadryl before bedtime? And I mean for the baby….

    Mechelle November 7, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Have you tried having him evaluated by an occupational therapist for a sensory related issue. I had a similar child (#2 and we still added 3 and 4) and if I had known then what I do now about sensory integration disorder our first 2 years together would have been much less stressful. I would highly recommend you have him evaluated and until then get some sleep however you can.

    Momo Fali November 7, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    When you said, “Crying it out doesn’t work”, I thought you were talking about YOUR tears. That’s how much I cry because I’m exhausted. I just assumed you were talking about yourself.

    Anonymous November 7, 2008 at 10:55 pm


    I vote hotel to regroup; Tylenol for baby post warm bath [big fan of Johnson's Baby Lavendar bath] and warm feed then to bed [I've been known to prewarm the crib with a hot water bottle if the room is chilly] and a full physical for Mom. Have you had your thyroid levels checked? I only could sleep 90 minutes a day with my first kid because my thyroid was flaming out, leaving me in full blow PPD. Blessing on you – this too shall pass and soon enough he’ll be a stinky teen. Oh yeah and get a baby sitter for naps or a night nurse for a while. Hugs!!

    Lotta November 8, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Leave for a night if you have to. You don’t want to get psychotic. Really!

    Then call your Dr. and tell him the Ativan isn’t cutting it. And frankly you’re too loopy from not sleep to come up with the next step. Cause no sleep does not a good problem solver make.

    Your baby will not remember that you had to duck out to a hotel and sleep for 48 hours so you could get yourself back into a problem solving state of mind. Promise!

    Lotta November 8, 2008 at 12:14 am

    And I agree with the comments about the chiro!

    Amy November 8, 2008 at 10:53 am

    With all my heartfelt sympathy, I’m wishing that sweet dreams come soon.

    MaggieO November 8, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I assume you’ve already tried this and had it fail, but if not, BUY A BABY SWING. Put him in it for the night. Magic baby sleeping device.

    Sage Moonstone November 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Sounds like you're on the right track! My kids are 6 & 4 but I remember those newborn nights. My son has sensory issues so everything was 'hard' until we figured out what worked. We bought the dark shades, finally turned off his night time music, kept his day time naps shorter (i could go on here with a 12 page list). Some nights were so bad, I let him sleep in his car seat (little did I know then he had Acid Reflux, so it really helped him to feel less pain and be able to sleep himself). I bought the baby whisperer books and I think she's great–helps you to figure out what your child is asking from you when they are fussing all over the place like that! I'll tell ya they really aren't doin' it for fun (well, maybe sometimes.. lol).

    AND you're wondering what will happen if you don't sleep (and eat and take care of yourself) you'll end up with depression, chronic fatigue, adrenal burn-out and possibly fibromyalgia (well, at least that's what happened to me… ). One day you will go to bed and you WON'T get up.. doesn’t matter if the house is burning down.

    Hugs from one Mommy to Another!

    Jaywalker November 8, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Yay for the eight hours sleep. Maybe he heard the internet willing him to sleep? We can do it again!

    Her Bad Mother November 8, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    jaywalker – if you could arrange that, that’d be nice…

    Anonymous November 8, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    I found with my first daughter when I finally thought I was completely losing my mind, as if she knew, she would throw me a bone, and sleep……blissfully sleep..I ache for you…sleep depravation is absolutely the worst…hang in there…wishing you sweet dreams tonight!

    pam November 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I read another sleep deprived mom this week and she finally did the modified snuggle thing and worked like a charm.

    Shannon November 9, 2008 at 1:11 am

    He took my breath away he was so beautiful – if you lived in FL I’d come right over and hang out until you threw me out just to get my hands on him. Have you ever tried the baby swing? Conner was like that – couldn’t sleep with her she was so noisy as a baby (we’re co-sleepers) so we alternated between having her sleep on Scott or in the swing in the living room while I caught an hour or so in the bedroom and putting her in the swing in the bedroom right next to the bed. That swing just knocked her out (kind of like a baby ativan). She did settle down finally, though she does talk a bit in her sleep now and then.

    homeslice November 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    i remember as if it were yesterday thinking, “if someone offered me 8 hours of sleep, i would kill someone in exchange.” at the time, it didn’t even seem weird. i wanted sleep that badly.

    O'Neal (The woman in charge around here) November 9, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I’m not quite sure exactly if there is name for it, but it is the same theory that occurs when your child is deathly ill, complaining, puking, running a fever for days and you finally break down and decide to take them in to see the Dr and the MOMENT you walk through the office door and they enter into the play waiting room – BAM!They are magically all better! And there you are left mumbling something about fevers and the color of vomit.

    I don’t think it works if you take them the FIRST day that they’re sick, usually only after you have catered, nursed, and worried for a few sleepless days and nights. I’m guessing the same thing happened with Jasper sleeping, talking about child related things usually jinxes whatever it is you were talking about, but I’m glad SOMETHING worked and you got a *little* sleep! I’m also praying he has had a little baby epiphany about Mommy’s mood and his being still!

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