Freaking exhausted

“What are the odds,” people said. “Of course the second one will sleep.”

Oh, dear Aphrodite, I’m tired.

Peanut didn’t sleep well. As a newborn he work the typical every two hours. He extended his longest sleep to three, four, five, even six hours until he started teething. Some nights we was up, screaming in pain, several times an hour. I’d comfort him to sleep, and he’d wake three minutes later. When not teething he woke every three hours. For three years and two months.

Of course that won’t happen again.

When Peanut was a newborn, other moms commiserated. Then they dropped like flies as their children started sleeping longer.

“Yeah, it was hard, but six months is much better.” So I hung on until six months. Six teeth, no sleep.

“Once he turned a year he magically slept.” So I hung on until one year. Thirteen teeth, no sleep.

“Wean him at night and he’ll sleep.” I didn’t believe it, but at eighteen months was losing my mind and probably clinically depressed so I night weaned. Twenty teeth, solid food, no sleep.

His first pediatrician told me to read a couple of studies that offered stats and findings about how some kids are just not sleepers. And that all kids reach adult sleep patterns by age three or four. I made him promise there were no seven year olds in his practice who woke frequently. He promised. So I hung on past age two.

Peanut’s second pediatrician said her daughter was the same, and that after age two you can reason with a waker, and explain how other family members need sleep and they need to pull up the covers, close their eyes, and go back to sleep as long as it’s dark. I hung on past age three.

With no fanfare, warning, rhyme, or reason, he slept through the night at three years two months. For four months his nightmares woke him but he didn’t need help back to sleep. Now the nightmares leave him screaming in his sleep but he doesn’t usually wake.

“Of course the second one will sleep. What are you, cursed?”

Butter woke every two hours as a newborn. Then extended his longest sleep to three, four, five, six, seven hours. And then he got ear infections. He went to every hour waking. Then two hours, now three hours. After I promised to worship the goddesses of nighttime he went six hours. For a week.

And now we’re back to every three hours.

Some kids are not made to sleep well until their sleep cycles mature. They’re not waking out of habit or to manipulate or because their parents aren’t doing the “right” things. If you think that, in the words of William Goldman, “feel free to flee.” My cousins woke every three hours for three years. My nieces wake about that (they’re almost two). Peanut woke that often. My friend’s daughter woke that often. My pediatrician’s daughter woke that often. My friends’ son is still waking that often.

But I don’t want to wake that often.

I don’t really want to talk logistics. Both boys go to sleep easily, wide awake, in their own beds. This is not a nurse-to-sleep issue or a rocking issue, though if it were, I’ve read the book to address it. About half the time I can get Butter back to sleep with a pat on the back, so it’s not a nurse to sleep issue (though if it were, I’ve read the book to address it). If it was any of those, and you felt the need to judge, you may back away from the computer, bend over, and kiss my ass . I have no time for people who sleep judging my desperation. And if the words “cry it out” are dancing around in your brain, keep ’em to yourself.

My friends fall into two categories: people whose children wake often at night, and everyone else. The difference, I’m convinced, is not childfree vs. parent. It’s families of any stripe who sleep vs. those who don’t.

I don’t begrudge people who sleep and whose children sleep. Mazel tov, I say, and many more great nights to you. But I also want to cry with self pity and sleep deprivation.

I’d really just like to rest.

Really, really want to rest.

22 thoughts on “Freaking exhausted

  1. Then I prolly shouldn’t mention that I STILL don’t have a mature sleeping pattern. I didn’t know those even existed!

    Every time I read your sleep stories, I think about Monsters Inc. and the scream generator.

  2. ((((((((((Nap))))))))))

    You will sleep through the night again on a regular basis. I don’t know when…up to Butter, really. But it will happen, I *promise.*

    I know this isn’t useful-advice-y but I always found it soooooooo reassuring when people reminded me that it wouldn’t last forever. ( “It” being whatever sleep-depriving, emotion-bending issue that was happening at the moment when the kiddos were younger…)

  3. jc, the scream secquences in Monsters Inc. are pretty much me at 3am. For what it’s worth, the adult pattern sleep isn’t sleeping through the night, it’s just longer and less frequent REM cycles. If we cut kids the slack we cut ourselves, nobody would expect sleeping through the night.

    Ink, thanks. I do know it’ll change and I do know they’re only little once and I do know if I made it through once I can make it through again. Thanks for the hugs. Wish they were made of caffeine. ;-)

  4. I am so so sorry. Is it even possible for you to sleep during the day? Hang in there. Hang on to hope (and coffee)

    PS I always thought ‘Cry It Out’ referred to parents, no? ;)

  5. Oh.

    Oh, oh, oh.

    I wish I could buy you a coffee. I wish I could come spend the night and send you to a hotel for a night. I wish I could snap my fingers and create a developmentally-safe-BPA-free-organic sleep elixir.

    But mostly I wish I’d known you and had this to read during Tankbaby’s first year. I had lots of sympathetic friends, but very, very few who really got it and didn’t suggest sleep training (including the therapist I tried to see to talk about PPD who lost me after the second visit when she mentioned letting her 15-month-old cry for 90 minutes). I could have written this post, and I agree with everything you said, but at 1:15 (and 3:20. and 4:12. and 5:41) a.m., I would be filled with self-doubt, wondering why I was the only one who couldn’t get my kid to sleep.

    If I tell you that the sleeping thing is a good 40% of why we’re hesitating about having a second, I know you’ll understand.

    In the meantime, may I fax you that coffee?

  6. I really do feel for you. Not getting enough rest is, by far, the biggest obstacle to positive parenting. A friend once told me that when political prisoners were asked what the hardest part of their captivity was, they responded unequivocally “sleep deprivation.”

    The only possible piece of advice I would ever dream of offering you is the notion that you will not find your answers in books or others’ experiences. Nobody knows your child or the hurdles you face but you. You are your own baby whisperer. I really do believe that once that knowledge is owned, things begin to shift. You may not be able to measure it but you will feel it. And it is this feeling that will help you, protect you and guide you.

  7. For the record I was a rock to sleep mom and probably would still be if my boys were still small enough to fit in the rocking chair with me! I don’t judge:) But, I also can’t feel your pain. I was blessed with babies that slept starting at 2 months old. My youngest has gotten in this nasty habit of getting up throughout the night and asking me if he can sleep in my bed yet. Any amount of interruption in my sleep – even if it’s to drunkenly mumble some semblence of no – is enough to make me exhausted the next day. So, my heart goes out to you. I will pray to the Gods of Nighttime in hopes that Butter doesn’t follow in Peanut’s footsteps.

  8. Its really tough. I had a sleeper and then a non- sleeper. We had the intermittent waking, trying everything, passing milestones until it was just ridiculous. He sleeps most of the time now but something (anything, nothing, who knows why)can set him back and we are having a bad week. It reminds me of how hard it can be and even now, it is hard to imagine, but this is in no way as hard as it was and in no way as hard as it is for you right now. My sympathy to you and ferverent best wishes for good nights to come.

  9. Eldest slept through the night very early in life, but when he was teething, it was a nightmare. Baby is opposite. I never even knew he was teething, and then suddenly, he had teeth. However, he has rarely slept through the night, although today is his 1st birthday(!!!), but I almost never hear him because I use earplugs (in order to be able to sleep in the same room with hubby, who snores louder than a jackhammer). Hubby gets up with baby to change the diaper or whatever. It’s probably unfair, since he has to work 40 hours a week, but since I have to deal with the kids all day, we’ve agreed that it’s probably best if I’m well rested for that marathon instead of on the edge of being abusive from the lack of sleep.

    So… maybe enlist your hubby for overnight care and invest in some earplugs for you? I don’t know. Works for us. Even if you did that every other night, it might be helpful.

  10. I totally feel your pain. My son is a rock-to-sleep child, so no judge here. He is slowly beginning to sleep without being rocked, but he still needs back rubs until he is asleep. He has only been sleeping more than 3 hours at a time for a few months now. And now it’s sleep from 8-10, then until 4, then until 6. So I basically sleep 11-4. Not easy being a mom.

    I am in horror of the idea that the next one won’t sleep. It is one of the reasons I keep saying I’m not ready for a second. Because I want to be able to sleep again this decade.

    My sympathies to you for your years of not sleeping.

  11. I could cry when I think about all of the uninterrupted sleep I used to get before having kids. I’ve read almost every sleep book ever written – the good, the bad, and the ugly – though none really worked any magic. My son is 2 1/2 and is having a rough time transitioning to a big boy bed. He was always my good sleeper, but even HE didn’t start sleeping through the night until he was about 18 months old (but always with a 5:30 wakeup call). My saving grace is that he consistently naps every afternoon, something his sister never did. My daughter, who is almost 7 years old is just now starting to stay in her bed some nights. She almost never slept through the night without requiring some sort of help from me. She has never required as much sleep as most kids (or as her mother, for that matter). At bedtime, she often grumbles how much she HATES sleeping, and I reply, “I know. You’ve hated sleeping since the day you were born.” Never knowing who is going to wake you up when is pure torture. Hang in there.

  12. @Yuliya, yes, the parents cry it out even though we won’t let the babes cry.

    @Falling, I wish I were doing caffeine, but in the hopes of making him sleep better I’ve given up even decaf. And let me just warn you: the month Tank finally sleeps all the way from bedtime to dawn, you must carefully watch the birth control. Butter was conceived in the first week Peanut slept 9 hours straight for six days in a row.

    @MacDougal that is the only piece of advice I’ve ever taken to heart, and you’re only the third person to offer it. Do what your heart tells you to do and ignore everything else. Pure gold as advice goes.

    @Heather, I’d rock them both to sleep if I could stay awake that long. Wishing you long sleep, too.

    @Fie, I’d have to pump so much I’d be awake longer, anyway. And Spouse doesn’t wake well. And Butter doesn’t want him. Blerg. Wish it would work and glad it does for you.

    @Cara I’m sorry you’re having a bad week. Don’t be offended, but it always makes me feel better when a parent of a good sleeper has one who doesn’t sleep well, because then I can silent the nagging doubts—put there by a–holes who tell me it’s my fault my children don’t sleep well—that it’s me. I know it’s them, their biology and temperment. And that it will change. And I hope this is your last bad week ever.

    @Letmestart, thanks.

    @Sarah, that’s why we waited as long as we did: there was no way I’d consider another child while the first wasn’t sleeping. Then I was so deliriously happy when he did that things got a little out of control if you know what I mean. Unplanned, the sleep, the euphoria, the consequences of said euphoria.

    @Margie, “Never knowing who is going to wake you up when is pure torture” is exactly what I could never articulate. The stress of anticipating a bad night is a good ten percent of the awfulness.

    @Jenn the Great, I wish you lived closer because you never fail to make me laugh. I might just try it.

  13. Fatigue. Did I really know what it was like when I was pulling all-nighters to finish a final project? There was always a nap on the other side… now, not so much. Maybe if I’m lucky. So, I understand. I do. My oldest didn’t sleep through the night till, well, if I’m honest she still doesn’t (and she’s five). But now when she wakens at 3:30AM (which is the time my husband gets up for work) I can send her to him for a snack. Then she typically rests quietly and tells herself stories (I figure it’s good for her imagination and her self-soothing). My youngest, she is a ‘better’ sleeper, but not by much. And I’m tired of people saying it’s because you let them sleep in your room if they need to or because you nurse them at night…psshhtt. Anyway, all that to say, I really do get it. I want my children to trust me. So, I must be trustworthy. If that means getting up when the cry at night to pat their backs and tell them it’s going to be okay, then that’s what it means. Wishing you a night of uninterrupted rest — but maybe not too many in a row. :)

  14. Let’s make a deal. If one of us finds out the magical secret first we will share okay?????? Because I have had 18 hours sleep in the last four days. I’m right there with you. Maybe Santa cam help???

  15. No judgement here. Just wanting to find the magic cure so that you can get some sleep. As if motherhood wasn’t hard enough, to have to do it when you are a zombie really sucks ass.

    Hang in there. It won’t last forever. And maybe, they will be so tired too, that you’ll never have to deal with it again…


  16. @LP there is something to the dread of knowing it’s not going to get better next weekend or vacation or after the presentation is turned in or after the semester ends. Hope you sleep. But every time I wish that for myself, I wish it’s not at the expense of that trust. Because it’s been a lot of work building that, and I’d hate to lose it for 12 hours of amazing, blissful sleep.

    @Jen If I find the secret it’s yours. Free. To tell everyone you’ve ever met.

    @Maria I’m sure they will sleep and I’m sure it will be before this kills me. Anything else: all bets are off.

  17. Oh, sweetheart. You are cursed! Evan was like Peanut, and I was really hoping you were going to get a night-sleeper with Butter. You, poor thing. Do you need a caffeine drip?

  18. I am only now catching up on some blog reading. Why? Because my 2yo Little Lion wakes 3-4 times a night and my 8mth old Blossom is waking every 2 hours. I hear you, I feel the throbbing in your temples. I can relate to the sagging of your eyes.
    We will get there.
    We will.
    I promise.

  19. Nap, I feel your pain. I am a sleeper. I need sleep. And lots of it. Preferably at least 7-9 hours a night. I adore naps. But neither of my boys has ever been a good sleeper. I blame my husband. He doesn’t need much sleep. He can go on 4-5 hours many times and be just fine. For days. Nino didn’t sleep through the night until I weaned him at 2 and a half. But he still only sleeps like 9 hours at night, with no nap. Diego is 3 and a half and yes, I still nurse him and maybe that’s the problem, but he wakes up at least 3 to 6 times a night. He also doens’t need a lot of sleep. 9 hours at most.

    And yes, I am jealous of the people who say their kids sleep 12 hours a night. I can’t even imagine a life where I had several hours each night to do whatever I want after my kids go to bed, without it impacting my ability to function like a normal human being the next day. We need to start a support group of something. For reals.

  20. Maybe when they move out? I have on again/off again sleepers, the youngest being three. Right now, the six and eight year old suffer from nightmares and since I’m a light sleeper, I always wake with them. I’m tired too. You’re not alone. (also, I work shift. but that’s another crazy, stupid story).

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