Last night the baby woke up every 2 hours.
9:04 p.m., “WHHAA!”
11:19 p.m., “WHHHHAAAA!!”
1:01 a.m., “WWWHHHHAAAA!!!”
3:27 a.m., “WWWWWWHHHHHHAAAAA!!!!”
5:09 a.m., “WWWWWWWHHHHHHHHAAAAAAA, WWWWHHHHAAAA, WWHHHAAAHHH!!!!”
I don’t want to get out of bed. I do not want to start this day, sure to be filled with non-stop child demands, at FIVE A.M. I don’t want to be exhausted while I carpool kids to school, do the laundry, read any one of those llama llama books eighteen times in a row, change countless diapers, grocery shop, cook dinner and clean up the playroom.
With my luck that friend will call today too. You know, the one whose baby has been sleeping for 12 hours straight since the day he was born.
I want to pretend that I am back in my pre-children days. The time when if I came home from work and was tired, I’d sleep until I wasn’t. I do not want to face this day, once again, feeling cloudy and slightly nauseous.
Did you ever notice how several nights of no sleep in a row makes you feel nauseous? I don’t want to feel nauseous.
All parents can attest to torturous sleepless nights.
The ones that seem endless and have you questioning, ‘what did I do, whose idea was this, and will it EVER end?’ And then you make it past those nights only to feel like a zombie the next day–a floating, short-fused zombie, whose being comes nowhere close to what one might call a “present parent.”
Sadly as the days pass you somehow come to terms with the fact that sleepless nights are not just for parents with infants. Once you’re beyond the infant stage there are teething babies, or sick toddlers, or big kid bad dreams, or even high schoolers who missed their curfews. This zombie we’ve all been, at all stages of the game, lives for the glorious idea of a nap or survives on caffeine.
I don’t want to be that zombie again. So I won’t. Because I have control over how I will be. I have control over my attitude.
Yes, present parenting is putting your phone down and watching your children play at the park like the amazing articles we’ve all read suggest.
But present parenting is as much about your actions as it is your attitude.
How can I find the inspiration to be a great parent during this time of exhaustion, when I want nothing more than one night of solid sleep? That is not a lot to ask for, is it? (Wait, the joke we made about putting the baby’s crib in the garage tonight is not a real option, is it?) Surely these nights of 2 or 3 hours of sleep have to be negatively affecting my health.
I just need some sanity.
Perspective. When my baby cries at night because she is hungry, or feels a horrific ache in her gums, or needs a reminder that I am close and there for her– I will be grateful.
When the crying begins again, no matter what the hour, I will change my perspective and choose gratitude.
At 3 a.m. I will go to my baby, for the 4th time tonight, and I will think of all the other women awake right now too.
I will think of the mother whose baby boy was born 3 months premature. That tiny miracle sleeps in the NICU while fighting for his life. I will think of how his mother is awake worrying and realize that she’d give anything to hear her baby’s healthy cry at home in his crib at 3 a.m.
I will think of the friend, who after several consecutive years of trying to conceive, has yet to know the joy of seeing a positive pregnancy test. I will think of how she lies awake right now wishing she had an answer from her doctors or the funds to start IVF or a crying baby in her house keeping her awake.
I will think of the woman who spends her 3 a.m.’s filling out the endless paperwork to begin the adoption process. She chooses the middle of the night for this task because she can’t sleep anyway–can’t get rid of the ache in her heart that keeps her awake.
I will think of how her first pregnancy ended badly, around week 20, and left her not only without a baby, but without a uterus as well. I will remember how painfully close she was to experiencing the joy of being woken up by her baby crying.
I will think of the co-worker who was never lucky enough to cross paths with “the one.” Who now, around the age of 45, is still the same nurturing, kind, and funny soul that she has always been, but feels that something in her is missing. She is lying awake too, wondering how her walls would sound with a crying baby between them, holding on to the hope that she will one day be called Mommy.
These women are real. They are my friends and neighbors and high school classmates and relatives.
They inspire me to be a better mother.
Their strength reminds me that motherhood is a precious gift not to be taken for granted.
They wake up tired too, but try to remain strong and hopeful. They battle to survive the day sometimes, too.
They go to work and smile at the coworker showing off her sonogram photos, and keep quiet when the newest mom will not shut up about her exhaustion, and try not to break down when answering the ever-present question, ‘So, don’t you want children?’
We are not privy to the story of every person we meet. These women don’t always share their challenges with the whole world.
It is their heartbreaking stories that help me find perspective. A different perspective, perhaps, than the one I fight to absorb when speaking to my friend with the baby who is an incredible sleeper.