Posts tagged ‘sleep deprivation’

one eye open

When a child doesn’t sleep enough and is crabby, parents are crabby as a result. So why, when a child is well rested, are the parents still… not? Why can’t six hours of sleep be enough? Why can’t a mother brush teeth, read stories, nurse, slip out, work on the computer, straighten up, watch a movie and still get enough sleep?

If I want to be chipper, do I really have to skip the movie?



July 13, 2010 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

in the dim light of dawn

I’m a little too sleepy to figure out what the right phrase is for our nights lately. Can’t win for losing? Caught between a rock and a hard place? Whatever the phrase is, this is what our nights have been looking like: Echo, not having gotten enough sleep the night before, nurses to sleep in a matter of minutes (three or four), then as the night continues, if there is any surfacing on her part, whether it is an intense dream, or the covers slide off, or she hears a sound somewhere in the house, she calls out and I come in to nurse her back to sleep. Then later, when I climb into bed she cuddles up to nurse again. Then again every two hours or so after that. Finally, after the umpteenth nursing session, I say: Baby, I need to take a break. We just finished nursing both sides and I don’t want to nurse for a little while. Let’s just snuggle and fall back to sleep together. She screams, then nestles in, then falls asleep, then wakes herself up, then asks to nurse, then gets upset at my refusal, then nestles in, then falls asleep, then wakes herself up, then finally is fully awake. If it’s still the middle of the night I finally nurse her again, so desperate to get a little sleep, even if it is the half sleep of nursing. If it starts to turn light during the fall asleep/wake up pattern, Echo just stays awake and we get up with the dawn.

To sum up, she wants to nurse all night. If I nurse her all night I don’t sleep, if I dissuade her from nursing she doesn’t sleep, which of course means that I don’t sleep. This also means that Echo will be crabby throughout the day requiring lots of holding by me and… you guessed it, lots of nursing.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been in this place. My feelings about nursing, especially at night, seem to cycle in relation to her cycling interest. When she wants to nurse more than I think is necessary or appropriate, my feelings about not wanting to nurse become more intense. It’s nothing new. I wrote about it here. After receiving lots of empathy and new perspectives from this dear online community, my feelings settled a lot. I wrote about that here. But enough time has passed, I guess, for me to forget about my renewed faith.

Or maybe I’m just too tired to remember.

Logically I know I am not the judge of what is necessary for Echo, obviously she has a strong and counter opinion to mine. And I also know there is nothing inappropriate about nursing, no matter how much it ends up being. But in the middle of the night, how many times Echo nurses seems to matter to me. I start to think along the lines of: This isn’t fair! And we all know that this kind of thinking, with regard to parenting, is a dead-end. Parenting is nowhere near fair. It isn’t supposed to be fair. To even start down this path is to invite torture.

And when we got up this morning, that was how I was feeling, tortured.

And that’s how I was going to end this post. Tortured.

But then I had some tea. I wiped the sleep from my eyes. I felt my perspective move beyond the edges of our bed. I looked over at Echo watching a book on DVD and realized she isn’t mad. She could very well hold the perspective that I am keeping her up by trying to alter the way we do the whole sleeping thing. But she isn’t. She’s far better at honoring her emotions as they come up and then watching them float on by when they are done than I am. She isn’t replaying the night, attempting to justify her responses or her behavior today. She’s waiting for the next moment, ready to live that fully as well.

I can see now that there is no victim here. Just two people finding their way. (Well three when you count Papa, roused every few minutes by our middle of the night bickering.)

Then, searching for an image for this post I saw so many women. So many beautiful women nursing their babies. Big women, little babies, older women, large not-really-babies-anymore babies, all of them holding one another lovingly. Each nursing moment was captured with a tender eye.

I realized I could see Echo and I this way if I wanted to. If I saw each nursing session as a single graceful painting, instead of as the seventh session in a long line of too many sessions, or as something that keeps me from getting sleep, I would feel differently. If, each time we nursed, I was able to erase the thoughts about everything that came before, keep my mind from jumping to the moments ahead, and just be a single moment like those captured in the paintings, there might not be a conflict.

No conflict, just two people finding their way.

Just another mother holding another baby in the dim light of dawn. Like all the other mamas all over the world, all through time. And whether or not I am able to let my anger slip away as quickly as Echo does, or see every nursing moment through the eyes of an artist, just feeling a part of this legacy is a comforting thought.

March 3, 2010 at 8:15 pm 4 comments

so much more than a bad outfit

All the late nights without the thrill of smoky dance floors and flirting glances. All the sleepless nights without the glamour of intriguing conversations. All the up-all-night anyone could ever dream of, without the lazy sleep-til-noon luxuriousness. Instead it’s put the child to bed, stay up too late doing things like showering, working, watching movies, only to crawl into bed and struggle through several hours of nonstop toddler nursing, toddler sleeplessness, and toddler chatting.

It’s times like these when I find myself immensely grateful for my relationship with Nathan. Though still exciting, his love for me is not dependent on sexy glances thrown across the smoky dance floor, or being in the right after-hours spot, on the right night, saying the right thing, wearing the right outfit. Thank god. Especially about the outfit. Because sometimes? Sometimes I catch myself in an outfit like this:

That’s right. Dirty hair. No bra. And a heinous hot pink fleece blanket tied about my waist like a sarong.

I know my sister, while reading this, is quickly reaffirming any no-kids-for-me-EVER resolutions that sometimes float around her mind. It’s true Em, sometimes having kids means really, really, really, bad outfits. It starts at infancy. Echo cried whenever I put her down and I could really only stand one minute of crying. That meant one minute to pick an outfit and put it on. Which usually meant some pretty ugly ensembles, and even worse this one minute in the morning was my only shot, the day never allowed for any wardrobe changes. To make matters worse, engorged breasts meant huge wet stains on every shirt, every day.

I’m no longer in a wet t-shirt contest every day, but I still am not showering as often as might be fashionable. And though Echo affords me the opportunity to get dressed each morning, I still wear the same pair of jeans every day because, shopping with a toddler? Trying on several items while she crawls into the neighboring dressing rooms isn’t an event I seek out all the time. And, sometimes I end up swathed in an ugly hot pink blanket because I am sleep deprived, shuffling my way across cold winter floors, and not expecting company.

Often after surfing blogs I end up feeling startlingly inadequate. The photos show wonderfully designed living spaces, really cute outfits (on both kids and mom), and everything is clean, clean, clean. I wonder how they do it because I often assume (I’m sure incorrectly) that this is what their world looks like all the time. I’m not capable of that. Or maybe I’m not interested. Or maybe I am busy doing things that I’d rather be doing, including laying in bed at night talking with Echo instead of sleeping. (Because, I must remind myself, that’s a choice too. Crying it out while alone in a bedroom down the hall is theoretically a possibility.)

In any case, these choices lead to outfits like this.

Which brings me back to my relationship, because somehow, no matter what I have wrapped around me, Nathan is still attracted. And the circles I have under my eyes, because I nursed our daughter through a rough night, only make me more beautiful to him. He loves our girls like I do so any evidence of love giving is just the right look for his tastes. Phew.

And even if I am fully adorned in all the marks of full-on motherhood, I know he still sees something else as well. Though we have been in the past, and will be again, we aren’t dancing in the middle of a smoky dance floor, right now we stand on our worn kitchen floor, but he still sees the woman in me too and not just the mom. The feisty spirit and the irreverent intellectual. This allows me to wrap myself in heinous practical trappings, to dive headlong into the love of our daughters, because I don’t have to prove I am something else at the same time. He knows that already.

February 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm 8 comments


My heart is full with the loving responses I have got about my sleeping vs. nursing predicament. I am honored to hear your stories, to feel your support, and to receive your shining doses of empathy. My life both in the microscopic sense and the macroscopic sense has changed for the better due to your words.

On the local level, when I lay with Echo at night and she snuggles up for nursing, I am now aware that I am not riding a dangerous precipice, that nothing need be done right this minute, that I am not in crisis. I have this sense now because each comment that I read that says “I have been there” reminds me that this is only a moment of time that I am experiencing, just a teeny tiny blip on the graph of my whole life and Echo’s. There will come a time when I look backward at these days, and merely remember.

She will not nurse forever.

And for those of you currently nursing three children, or that have nursed four children in sequence without a day of pause, you inspire in me further strength. If you nursed all those babies for all that time, then I can nurse this one baby for all of our time together as a nursing team.

Perspective is what you have given me.

I also feel less alone.

Before, awake in the middle of the night while Echo nursed, I felt like the only person not sleeping in the entire world. The cats snoozed, the dog snoozed, Nathan snoozed, the girls snoozed, and I did not. Now I know that, despite my loved ones blissfully dreaming around me, I am not alone. That you too are nursing your babes, yearning to stretch your back or roll over. Or, I know that even if you are sleeping now, you remember what it’s like to watch the moon move past the window, and you are awake with me in spirit.

Thank you.

And many of you, while reading the post, relived a past weaning experience with pain. I will not try to take this away from you, not because I think you deserve it   ( you do not), but because we all make decisions every day that we alone live with and no one can remove the emotions that accompany those choices.

Sometimes we make decisions with other people in mind, the aunts, grandmas, or friends that have walked the gauntlet before and want to ease our passage, or ease their own insecurities by watching us make a similar decision. These choices can rattle around in your heart as emotions that spring up with surprising sharpness when reading a blog post years later. Other times we make these difficult decisions wholly on our own, with much thought, and immense love. But because they involve a child, sprung from your body, and cleaved from your deepest dreams, even these independent decisions still carry pain.

It is quite understandable. Nursing is so tender a spot, that no matter what decision you make, to poke it again will certainly cause an ache.

January 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm 1 comment

not a baby anymore

I’ve been in a walking stupor for the last few days. I am simply not getting enough sleep. I start each night with prayers and high hopes and end it each morning deeper in the pit of sleep deprivation. It is no wonder that denying prisoners sleep is used as a method of torture because it is tortuous. I can handle a night here or there of not enough sleep, usually due to staying up too late with Nathan with a movie and late night conversation, but several nights in a row is unmanageable.

Here is where I point fingers and complain…  I am currently getting less sleep nursing my almost three year old through the night than I did when she was an infant. Yes that’s right… start the gasps… Echo is 30 months old, sleeps in our bed, and has been nursing eight to nine times per night (basically the entire night). I know this is culturally unusual. I know I would get more sleep, at least at this point, if she were in her own bed. I know it is “all my fault”. I know that there are some of you reading this right now that are filling up with incredulity and anger.

I also know that I will head to bed in a little bit and make all the same decisions again.

I’m not sure what my plan is. I only know that I am unwilling to turn nursing, which has been the ultimate form of unconditional nurturing love in Echo’s life for three years, into something contentious, and negative. I just can’t do it. I want to be an unwavering pillar of strength, consistent, and loving. I do not want to suddenly (at least in her eyes) sprout spikes and leap out of the darkness, angry and self-righteous. She isn’t doing anything wrong, merely following her own interests and desires. It is only because I have changed my interest that her behavior feels inappropriate or unwanted.

I know my body can handle this. I have not forgotten the amazing capability of the human body, something I marveled at during pregnancy. I felt I could climb mountains after giving birth. My own power, strength, and stamina is real. It would be easy to simply declare that my body can no longer handle the strain of nursing any longer, but it would be a lie.

Still, I am not finding it easy. In the morning my nipples are raw, my back is tight, and my hips are sore. I am also nearly delirious, crying at the drop of a hat, and recasting every single aspect of my life in a negative light. I am mad at Nathan (for any reason I can conger) and completely bereft of any emotional stamina.

Still I am unwilling to aggressively withdraw my nursing love.

I am not stubbornly staying the course either. I talk to Echo about stopping nursing, or at the very least nursing less. I have told her outright that I do not want to nurse at night. She agrees to this, saying she is willing to just snuggle through the night and nurse again in daylight, but somehow she doesn’t remember, or care, about this deal at 4a.m.

I also arm myself with a banana, a big bottle of water, and a large glass of milk, and offer these to her each time she nuzzles up to nurse. She happily and groggily accepts these new nighttime delights, settles back in, almost nods off, and then turns to me to nurse herself all the way to sleep. Again and again.

You could say it’s not working. Maybe it isn’t. But it also kind of is too. I am being my true, most loving (of myself) self by being the kind of mother I want to be. This is my version of lifting the heavy automobile off of the baby in order to save it’s life. No, Echo isn’t actually in danger, she certainly would live if I decided to never nurse her again. But I am accomplishing an amazing physical feat every night that I nurse her longer than is comfortable. I am not resting, but I can rest assured that our relationship is not threatened by a sudden, jerky change of mind on my part. And in the end, that is what is important to me.

I can sleep later, when she is twenty and living in a grimy apartment off campus (at least a little more!). I can catch up then when getting more sleep doesn’t mean breaking her heart and causing her to wonder who her mother really is.

January 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm 13 comments

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