Will I ever sleep again?
It had been 11 years since the last baby, and 13 years since the first. Then this winter, everything changed.
My husband and I were more excited than anything to start showing off our new bundle of baby boy to the world. And the world repeatedly asked one question: Are you getting any sleep?
Wait, what? Are you kidding me?
What I wanted to say was, “Today is the first of many days I feel half-way normal. I actually got dressed and out of the ‘I love my body just the way it is’ gym clothes and threw on a little make up.”
But as I sat there with this gorgeous little human I am madly in love with, all I could think about is — I must look like the sleep-deprived mother of a newborn that I am.
Sleep deprivation is a real thing. The realest of all things newborn.
It’s not an option. It happens. Your kid will gift you with this.
No. Matter. What.
It’s our schedule, not the baby’s – right?
The fact is, I have never yearned for sleep. And I certainly didn’t think the introduction of a new infant into my beautifully blended family would change my routine or throw me for a loop.
After all, my husband and I already had four kids between us. It wasn’t like we were new to the parenting game. We figured: We’ve done this before, and it’s our schedule, not the baby’s.
But about three weeks after we brought Jude home, the adrenaline started to wear off, and the lack of sleep started to seep in like a slow leak. And all of a sudden, I was completely flooded.
Flooded with emotion.
Flooded with tears.
Flooded with tiredness.
I remember like it was yesterday: My husband came home from work, mid-morning, like any other day. He walked upstairs to find me sitting in the glider, the baby in my arms, and with a look on my face like none he’d seen before.
We always chatted about his morning radio show and what was shared on air. We’d talk about the rest of our day. This time, I didn’t have much to say.
I started crying. I was so exhausted I didn’t care. I was so emotional I didn’t know how to cope.
Trying a class for sleep-deprived parents
My husband shared with his radio listeners how I was suffering from sleep deprivation. (Side note: How men can sleep through a crying baby is a blog post for another day.)
One of those listeners had a recommendation for a “life-changing” experience: A class for sleep-deprived parents.
Really? Life changing? I am already a mom, and I’ve done this twice before, and I don’t think much has changed in raising kids if you take a “back to basics” approach, like I tend to do.
But who was I to get cocky? I was the one in the chair in tears in the middle of the morning, desperately day-dreaming about sleep, while glaring at my husband like he was some sort of enemy.
A few clicks later, and HE had signed us up.
Sleep management is necessary, for you and the baby
Let me be clear: I am not a class-taker. It’s just not in my mom make-up. But I knew enough to know I could not go on the way I was.
So there we sat, in a room full of parents with tiny
sleep-snatching monsters bundles of joy. Everyone there was realizing the same thing: Sleep is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.
So I settled in and listened intently. Yes, there were benefits to not sleep training a newborn, but it’s critical to start good sleep habits at a young age. I took the tips on setting a schedule, swaddling, feedings, naps and bedtimes, and I and learned how to make them all fit into our family puzzle. Implementing them felt like management.
Every baby is different. And each day with the same baby is different. But building a foundation of positive sleep habits that worked was … well, life-changing for me.
It’s OK not to have the answers, ask for help
I realize that not everyone will be able to take the class that I did, but quite frankly, managing sleep deprivation SHOULD be a mandatory class for all expecting parents.
You do NOT have to do this on your own. It is completely and entirely OK to ask for help – from friends, from family, from whomever you can.
In my case, the investment in the class paid off almost immediately, because I felt like I had tools to navigate what is such an unknown crucible for new parents. And let me tell you, even if this is your second or third or fourth or more go-around with a newborn, embrace the idea that every time is different. You will face new challenges.
Our children think we know it all. They expect an answer to every question their little hearts can drum up.
But this entire experience reminded me that sometimes we moms are the ones who need to take a step back and recognize that we don’t have all the answers. And sometimes the best question we can ask is, “What do I need?”
Sleep. We need sleep.
Vanessa McAllister: Wife. Mama. Dreamer. Blogger. I am a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of gal. I love exploring, creating, capturing, and embracing every moment in life. I am a believer in big dreams. From motherhood to my career, it’s the zesty, heart-bursting moments that rock my world. Follow me on Facebook at Broadcasting Bliss.