Did you know that sleep deprivation, like waterboarding, is considered a form of torture in international courts? That makes sense because as I sit here with my coffee at the kitchen table littered with plastic licensed Disney cups, half-eaten string cheeses and cracker crumbs, I gotta admit, I feel traumatized.
First, I want to say that my toddler didn’t always sleep like this. Early on I established a routine: dinner, a bit of play, warm bath, pajamas, milk, and then bed. It was great. He slept from 7 to 7 every night and I felt like a real smug bitch. “Oh, your child doesn’t sleep well? That’s too bad.” I’d nod sympathetically silently thanking God for making me such a capable parent and giving me a child that isn’t a direct descendent of Cain.
That’s all over now and last night proved it.
How is it that my son is now wide awake, bumbling around the living room while I feel like I got hit by a truck full of sedatives and some of those sedatives got in my mouth and then I rolled down a hill and landed face down in a lake of NyQuil? How is it that a child who woke up approximately 1,400 times between 9PM and 5AM seems rested, refreshed, and ready for the day while I’m about to put an ad on Craigslit for a sister wife? My only requirement is that she’s uglier than me, can bake, and likes getting up with kids.
The fist time he woke up was at around 9:15pm. I’d just fallen asleep so a sensor went off in his baby head to to summon my presence immediately.
“Why don’t you just ignore him?” Great question. I’ve actually tried that and instead of giving up like a child in say, an orphanage might, he just escalated until all of the other children (yes, I’ve done this more than once and am still failing) were also awake and crying. My home sounded like the rapture.
I did what all the books say. I went in, keep the light off and tapped him on the back. “Hey there little buddy,” I said to myself, “It’s time to shut the fuck up. Mommy loves you.” What I actually vocalized was “Ok…ok….shhhhh” while rubbing his back for a moment before walking backward out the door.
He responded by standing up in his crib and screaming until I think his head popped off. I sat by the door for a second and told both God and Satan that I’d worship whoever helped me first.
It worked! He stopped. I laid back down and had just closed my eyes when I heard him again. The small whine gearing up for a full-scale fire engine howl.
No problem. This was just the second time. I went back in and this time had the good sense to give him a little crotch squeeze to test diaper wetness. In the two hours since he’d been in bed he’d managed to completely fill up one of those expensive overnight diapers full of chemicals to suck moisture away from your baby’s downstairs pats. I feel guilty those diapers because I wonder if whatever they’re made out of of is poising his future sperm. Maybe his children will be born with Huggies logos on their faces or something.
How was he so wet? Part of me wonders if he has diabetes because I remember in the Babysitters Club books Stacey’s first diabetes symptom was excessive pee. Note to self: check that book out from the library for research.
I changed his diaper even though I know the fresh breeze on his junk will just wake him up further. He’s starting at me in the dark and although I can’t see him very well I know he can see me clearly on account of his toddler night vision.
I laid him back in bed. “Your genitals are dry now, baby. Go to sleep.”
One thing that continually surprises me about toddlers is how physically strong these babies are. You know how ants can lift 300x their weight? Toddlers are like that. Their bodies are composed of the following: a steel ball for a head, a protruding stomach where they store food in lieu of eating regularly, and solid lean muscle from the neck down.
If a toddler doesn’t want to lie down, you’re not going to make them. They will twist and contort and they’re not afraid to break one of your wrists.
Do you know how long you can rub a kid’s back in their crib until you can no longer feel your arm? 18 minutes.
Alright. Maybe a little milk to help settle him down. I know this is a mistake. Feeding kids at night is like getting a gremlin wet: it always ends in chaos.
Fifteen minutes later, he’d had milk, been rocked in the glider aka hopelessness chair, and it was coming on midnight. Just as I was considering tapping out and getting my husband (who has to be for work at 5AM), he began relaxing against me.
Time to attempt a crib placement. The second his body hit the $99 mattress he sleepily rose like a phoenix from the ashes and began crying again. “I need your body heat to sleep, mother.”
“Why don’t you just cosleep?” BECAUSE COSLEEPING SUCKS AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. If I wanted to sleep with 3 inches of bed to my name and a foot in my face, I’d join a an orgy harem. At least them I’d probably be issued some flowy see-through Princess Jasmine Hammer pants. And I have other kids. If one sleeps with us, they’ll all want to and then I’ll be forced to abandon them for a new life.
There’s always moment during a disaster of a night when a parent goes from trying to do what’s best to throwing in the towel and declaring a 24lb person the winner. At one point you just have to accept that sleep isn’t part of your path. It’s not your destiny. I did that at around 2AM.
The rest of the night was a blur. All I know is that it’s sometimes easier to abandon the idea of night being for rest and just wait for the sun to show its stupid face.
We try to rationalize why a child might only sleep for 30 minutes at a time between midnight and 5AM. Teething? Maybe. Getting sick? Possibly. Just wanting to hurt you? Who knows. Maybe the room is haunted. Maybe there’s paranormal activity disturbing your baby’s spirit. Maybe your house is built on ancient burial grounds and under a curse. Maybe your baby will never sleep again until you burn some sage and hire an old priest and a young priest to bless him. I don’t know.
The only thing I do know is that I can’t open my eyes all the way. My head hurts. The sun feels too bright like it’s showing off, and I hate everyone a little bit.
Today at school drop off there was a mom ahead of me in a black coat and I kept thinking, “Look at her in her shiny black coat like she’s the Queen of France. You think you’re the Queen of France, don’t you? Car all clean like you’re something special YOU AIN’T SHIT!”
My face hurts. If I allowed myself, I’d probably cry just a little bit. It’s not just the one night of sleep deprivation. It’s not knowing how many nights this will last while simultaneously feeling like it’s probably your fault.
Today I’ll operate on autopilot. I won’t change my clothes because since I didn’t sleep, technically it’s still yesterday which means this outfit is still good.
Note to other moms: Spare me the fucking advice, please. And to those of you with great sleepers, I’m happy for you, but the time to throw that in the faces of the suffering isn’t 7AM after a night we’d rather forget ever happened.
Anyway. My coffee is cold now so I’m going to heat it up. Have a blessed day.