Sleepin’ on the Job
The title of this chapter is somewhat of a misnomer. Any parent will tell you that sleep is not something easily come by for quite a while after you bring a new baby into the house.
Actually, it all starts in the hospital. That first night is nerve-wracking. These days the hospitals rarely (if ever) have nurseries full of babies in plastic bassinets lined up in front of a huge viewing window like they did when I was little. It’s all about rooming-in with your baby from day one. Which, in my opinion, is preferable, but it does change how you sleep that first night as a mom.
Little Miss was born at 9:16 p.m. Around 10:30 I was sewn up, our family had gone home to get some sleep after meeting her for the first time, and the room was quiet. Little Miss had fed and was quietly resting in my arms. The nurse helped Husband take the baby and then helped me get to my feet. I’d had an epidural, so standing was a questionable task that that point, but I managed. The bathroom was only five feet from the bed, but the trek between the two seemed arduous at best.
After I showered we made our way to the recovery room on the other side of the OB level and got situated in our “home” for the next two nights.
It was around midnight before I was comfortably arranged in my bed, surrounded by about half a dozen pillows. The bed was surprisingly comfortable, and I was – not surprisingly – exhausted. Little Miss was sleeping in a bassinet against the wall next to my bed. She hadn’t made much sound at all since entering the cold, scary world. She was, as the doctor said, a “mellow” baby. (Too bad that didn’t last.)
Husband folded out the chair that turned into a bed next to my bed and we both attempted to get some rest. Though Little Miss hadn’t made much noise since her birth, she wasn’t exactly an immobile sleeper. Every once in a while she’d stir in her sleep and every time she did, my eyes would pop open.
Is she hungry? Is she going to cry? Is she able to breathe? Does she need her diaper changed? Is she okay?
By the time all the questions went through my tired mind, she’d settled down again. I forced myself to relax and closed my eyes again. After what felt like about an hour and a half, I snapped my eyelids up and strained to hear her breathing. She was only three feet away, but I couldn’t hear her! Was she okay? Was she still breathing? Should I call the nurse? Little Miss moved slightly in the bassinet. I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to force my heart rate back down to a normal level. Glancing at the clock I realized it had only been four minutes since I last checked on her. Four minutes?!? Seriously?!?
That’s how the whole night went.
The second night in the hospital I wised up: I asked the nurse to take Little Miss to the nursery so they could take care of her and watch over her and I could get some much-needed rest. I got about four straight hours of sleep that night. It was wonderful to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that very capable and trustworthy people are caring for your newborn.
Once we got home, though, there were no nurses willing to wheel Little Miss into a secluded room far away from my bed, where I couldn’t hear her and could instead sleep peacefully. It was just Mommy and Daddy.
Oh yes – there were also the phantom babies.
Phantom Babies is something I experienced for somewhere around the first week of having Little Miss home. In cars driving by, the fan in our window, the barking of a dog several blocks away, Husband”s snoring, and any other nighttime sound, I’d hear a baby crying. Thinking it was Little Miss, my heart rate would elevate and my eyes would pop open, my ears pointed toward her nursery.
When I’d finally convinced myself she wasn’t crying, I’d try to go back to sleep…but almost invariably, in order to get myself to relax enough to fall asleep again I’d have to tiptoe into the nursery and check on my Little Miss. At that point she was too small to see her chest moving as she breathed, so I’d gently lay my hand on her torso and wait to see if she was indeed still breathing.
This went on for several nights, which meant I didn’t sleep well, even when Little Miss was sleeping. (“Sleep when the baby sleeps!” everyone says. Good luck!) At one point, feeling silly, I mentioned the phantom babies to Husband as one cause of my exhaustion. His response: “You hear them, too?!?”
It took until Little Miss was seven and a half weeks old before I felt, for the first time since her birth, that I’d caught up on sleep. It only lasted a day, but it was a glimmer of hope in what otherwise seemed so hopeless. I’d honestly started wondering if I’d ever feel rested again.
It’s amazing what your body can adapt to. God made mothers’ bodies capable of getting only 6 hours of sleep – in three separate segments – in a 24-hour period and still being able to carry on an intelligent conversation, operate a moving vehicle safely, and possibly even get dinner started.
Yes, I’m tired again today. And I’ll probably stay tired for the next month or so before I feel I’ve caught up on sleep again, only to be tired again the following day. Taking care of a baby is exhausting. And I’m already prepared for the fact that taking care of a toddler will be the same. I don’t even want to think about the teenage years yet.