How long has it been since you had a decent night’s sleep? I estimate my last relaxed, stretched out, uninterrupted bout of sleep happened nearly two years ago. Truth be told, it’s become a bit of an obsession.The last couple of months of pregnancy were accompanied by night wakings to visit the restroom, and various twinges. To be fair, I was pretty lucky, I was able to sleep (comfortably!) in different positions through most of the pregnancy and usually only woke up once or twice. Still. It wasn’t optimal, and I never got to sleep in because I’d need to get my blood sugar back to normal by eating first thing in the morning rather than lying around till a lazy brunch at 11.
The night my labour progressed, I remember trying to read a novel. I usually read myself to sleep, and rarely need more than five minutes to drift off. That night, I found myself unable to concentrate on even a page of the pulp fiction I was pursuing, despite it being as mindless as all the fiction I was reading at the time (nine months of pregnancy do not an intellectual reader make). When my husband woke up to see how I was doing, I told him, frustrated, “I just want to sleep!” We were off to the hospital soon after. That wish of mine has remained unfulfilled till today, one and a half years later.
The first blissful days after you have a newborn, night melds into day and the sheer adrenaline keeps you awake when you shouldn’t be. I’m hoping I have more sense than that with a second child; but, with a first, you tend to just watch your baby sleep, worried you won’t wake up when they need you, obsessing over whether they’re eating enough, warm enough, pooping enough, whatever. Just when you settle into something like a routine, along comes a regression, or a growth spurt, or whatever other term child psychologists use to explain the fact that your baby is arbitrarily throwing off everything you’ve gotten used to and stumping you with an entirely new set of traits. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And your sleep, or lack thereof? It’s nothing, compared to the sleep (or lack of it) that your baby generates.
In the interest of honesty, I should now mention that, since the age of two months, we’ve had a pretty good bedtime routine going. eM goes down for the night between 6 and 7:30, depending on how her day’s been. She may dream-feed if she initiates it, but she wakes up for the day at between 6 and 7am. Her naps have gone from 4 a day, to 3 a day, to once a day now, at exactly the ages you would have expected her to drop a nap. The naps, too, are fairly consistent – you can set a watch by her schedule. It isn’t something I initiated, per se. Rather, I observed her cues and facilitated her naps by ensuring she was in a bedroom half an hour prior to when she got really sleepy, so that she could start winding down and transition into sleep gently.
Until she was 4-5 months old, I also had to rock her while walking for between 5 & 15 minutes. Then, until she was nine months old, I could get away with just sitting with her in my lap and telling her a story, singing her a couple of songs – or, her personal favourite, singing one song on repeat four times. Just call me Mom FM. Soon after that, she started wriggling away from me, resting on her tummy, and putting herself to sleep. That’s how it’s stayed till today at nearly 1.5 years, with the rare exception when she’s feeling sick or in the need for cuddles, when she demands, “Mama, walk baby!” and “Puff!” (Cue ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ on loop).
Mostly though, all I really need to do, around naptimes, is keep her quiet and let her nod off (when we’re at home), or walk her briskly for a while (when out), and she drifts off into sleep. Following WHO guidelines, we intend to breastfeed for at least 2 years. This means I haven’t, in any way, dissuaded her from feeding in the night yet. Some nights, she doesn’t feed at all. Other nights, like when she’s teething, she feeds three or four times. Admittedly neither of us wakes up for these night feeds, she rolls over onto me and latches on, then pushes herself off. I can’t tell you precisely how many times she ate last night, I wasn’t awake for most of it.
And still, still, still, this quality of sleep is SO different to what I was used to pre-baby! I can go to sleep at 8pm all I want; I can dream my way through her feeds all I want, but I wake up at 6am knowing my body’s not gotten the rest it craves. Oh, to be able to turn over and fall back asleep without waking up till 11! I dream of checking into a five-star hotel, ordering room service, falling asleep watching horrible reality TV. And just not waking up until it’s time for brunch; when it’s time to order more room service and find more horrible TV to watch. I really don’t understand how moms who get even lesser sleep than me cope with it all. This is the one thing that I absolutely can’t compromise on, I’m barely human without at least six hours.
Sure, there are other things I’d like. Dinner out without a curfew. Going to the bathroom without an audience. A long, leisurely bath. But this, the dream of the ultimate night of Ambien relaxed sleep, seems like the one that’s most likely to restore my sanity. So that’s my mom fantasy. What’s yours?
Eight years into her journey from digital marketing newb to ninja, Akshaya has worked with the giants (Google), as well as startups (Anahat), and start-ups on their way to becoming giants (Zomato). She’s now working with the most challenging startup of them all – her baby girl – while freelancing. Every now & then, she gives up on the three hours of sleep available to her, and blogs at New Girl in Toronto.