Once my son was born, the concept of completing a full REM cycle was folklore. A lost tale about a time in my early 20’s. Sleep? Was that even a real thing people did anymore? I’d forgotten what it felt like. What stood before you now was best known for the classic "no pants, messy bun, and 3 day old shirt covered in spit up" combo. Sleep deprivation hits you hard and fast as a new parent and it grabbed me by my mesh undies and shook me up real good. With every sleepless night, I felt myself retreat from society, too tired to leave my house, too tired to have visitors, too tired to be a mom (or even a functioning human for that matter.) I was always irritable, always on the verge of tears and always…feeling like I was actually losing my mind. I yearned for his naps and then felt guilty at the half ass parenting I was doing. I didn’t have the energy to be cool or do cool parent things. I was simply surviving.
I’d love to say it got better after the first few weeks, but as well all know the first 3 months are riddled with nonstop growth spurts, mental leaps and nuisances like “the startle reflex”. And just as you think you’re in the clear…here comes more growth spurts, teething, sleep regression! The whole first 6 months was a blur. I’m hard pressed to admit that I don’t remember a lot of it. I remember squirting my downstairs area with some warm water and then POOF here I was. More than that, I was so on edge and exhausted, my husband and I were fighting nonstop. My temper grew as my patience shrunk. Half the time my husband would fall asleep on the couch, trying not to come in and wake me since my bedtime was 5 minutes after my baby's. Cheers to 7PM.
My son waking up in the middle of the night and doing normal baby things was one thing, but the real problem was my new mom ears. See once you get pregnant, you grow mom ears which give you mom hearing, which makes you hear EVERYTHING. Before I had mom ears I could sleep through a tornado. I once fell asleep in the middle a rave party in college. Cops had shown up, people were arrested, there were helicopters flying over us and there I was… snoring on a couch. But then came mom ears. Every night when I’d go to sleep, I’d subconsciously dial up the volume and subsequently hear it all, every single noise. My husband thumping his monster truck feet as he came to bed hours after me, the air conditioner kicking on and off or the neighbor’s car alarm going off in the distance. And of course the dogs…all THREE of our dogs. Ears flapping in the middle of the night, jumping on and off the bed to go outside, or even their gentle snores or breathing sounded like a roar. Didn’t matter how tired I was, I’d wake up. Those mom ears, scanning the airwaves for the quietest baby whimper.
So there I was one night sandwiched in between three dogs posed like a chalk dead body tracing. I hadn’t slept in 2 days. It was then my son’s 6th tooth started pushing through his tiny gums, and then that he was waking for the the 4th time that night. I made my way to him, holding onto the walls to keep from falling over. After a 20 minute nip session, I got him back to sleep. As I closed his door, and made my way down the creaky hallway to my room, I stopped. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to step foot in that room. I hated everything about my bedroom. A room that use to have peace and quiet was now the thing I dreaded the most. I started to cry. And in that moment, teeny tiny baby jesus reached his teeny tiny baby jesus arm down and directed my attention to the small ray of moonlight coming through the cracked door of the guest bedroom.This perfectly clean, quiet room with a big old bed and blackout curtains. “It won’t hurt to sleep here one night”, it said. I mean it was right across the hall from my son’s room, so I could dial down the mom ears. I tip toed in. It smelt quiet and cozy. I jumped into bed, stretched my feet and slept. Oh how I slept. I slept so hard there was a pool of drool on my pillow case that was stuck to my face when I woke up in the morning. And just like that I was hooked.
The next day I suggested I sleep in the guest bedroom again, “Just until his teething stops”, I said. My husband agreed. He too was excited at the idea he wouldn’t be woken up by the baby monitor and me getting in and out of bed over and over. Truth is neither of us were getting sleep, yet we had kept forcing ourselves to sleep with each other because of some crazy notion that it has something to do with how much we loved each other. This new arrangement? It was amazing.
Weeks went by and everything changed. I was refreshed, alert….alive. Felt like I could finally see the world again. The blurry goggles were off. Suddenly my house was clean and I was busting out fancy Pinterest dinners for my husband every night. We weren’t fighting because… I wasn’t irritable. I wasn’t crying because I wasn’t sleep deprived. Our relationship started to heal. We started laughing again and smiling. I know what you’re all thinking. But what about sex? Well for one, I actually have the energy to do it now. For two? It’s a lot more exciting knowing we have to sneak into each other’s rooms and then sneak back. It’s sneaky sex.
More than anything, for first time I feel like I’m turning into the mother I always hoped I’d be. We rough house and play games. We laugh and go to the park. I’m present and not hanging on till the next nap. Sleeping in different beds has completely changed my family and my life for the better. I know this isn’t forever and eventually my mom ears will deafen and I’ll creep back into my old stomping grounds, but for now. For now? Zzzzzzzzzz