Over the past few weeks, my daughter has more or less stopped sleeping through the night. Every few days she surprises me and makes it all the way through. Some of these “wake ups” are easy- just a pat or a short rock in the chair and she’s out. The majority however have been marathon sessions of waking up, falling asleep, waking, falling asleep just long enough for me to lay my head on my pillow, then waking. Just for variety, some nights there is even waking up to play. Her middle of the night playing mode often involves sticking her pacifier at my mouth and giggling at me, as I look back at her in despair.
For fairness, I am positive several nights of waking involve teething. She does have her two top teeth coming in, and everyone has told me those are the most painful. Most adults I know, including myself, wouldn’t handle that kind of pain without knocking ourselves out with vicodin until its over. So I don’t blame her for being miserable about that.
According to all of the baby books I own and at least ten different internet resources, she is also waking up because she’s nine months old. This is yet another special stage of baby development (there are lots of these). Seemingly every few days there is a major milestone being hit; (crawling, pulling up, clapping, waving, etc). She has also figured out that I am on the other side of her bedroom door, and she’s not thrilled about it (object permanence/ separation anxiety). Essentially, the amount of brain development that is going on in her little head is causing her to wake up and, thus, wake me up. This makes sense to me, because I have watched her “sleep crawling” around her crib, eyes completely shut, on many occasions. Knowing these developments are going on is only slightly comforting at 2 a.m. In my hazy, sleep deprived head, I tell myself this is just a phase and it will stop some day soon. Some nights (technically are they mornings?) she stands in her crib screaming and then hops with delight as I come stumbling into her room. Sometimes I am lucky enough to get her to lay back down. Other times, I lay her back down and she gets sooo upset that she shakes, nose running, tears flowing. Sadness for both of us.
So, there have been many nights of rocking in the dark. The last few nights I have been contemplating how mothers have survived for thousands of years on such little sleep. Seriously, if you type in the terms “sleep deprivation” into Google, you get hundreds of articles about how detrimental it is to your health; depression, weight gain, brain damage, genetic mutations. Mothers, especially new mothers, should barely be functional, if even alive really if you apply these studies to them. It’s usually just laughed off as just another part of raising babies. It is a common joke I heard when I was pregnant “ get your sleep now while you can”. All of the mothers in the baby groups laugh at the fact that we are all tired. But really, here we are taking care of babies, trying to mold little humans into functioning individuals, when we ourselves are, according to the internet articles, deteriorating. I find that really interesting. If we are deteriorating, we’re pretty damn resilient. One of the recurring thoughts I have at night is that sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture to interrogate prisoners. It really is. I guess what I am going through is not that extreme, but it’s close enough. What a weird thought to have as I rock my child to sleep, but I do make that connection often. Sleep is for the weak, I often say to myself as I open my eyes to see another sunrise through my window. Another day to start. I get up, thinking about all of the sleep I wish I had. Then I open the door to the baby’s room, and her little face smiles back at me and… somehow… it’s all worth it.