Once upon a time, I eagerly looked forward to bedtime…
After an exhausting day, I’d let my body sink into my soft bed – lined with warm flannel sheets – and I wouldn’t move until the morning. I was usually asleep the moment my head hit my pillow, and I’d awake feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. No matter how busy my schedule, I knew that I would at least have the nighttime hours to regroup and rejuvenate.
Sigh, those were the days. 😉
Flash forward to my life as the mommy to a newborn… As my husband Nate makes his way through the house, turning off Christmas lights and locking up for the night, I find myself sighing and facing bedtime with a certain dread. My bedroom has lost its spa-like tranquility. I face the hours of darkness with the same anxiety that one might experience before they set out to tackle a busy day at the office.
The nights are now long. I am awakened every two hours (sometimes every hour) by the sounds of baby Brady crying. And I respond – slowly as though being pulled through a dark tunnel – by stumbling out of bed to change a diaper and then to nurse. I am lucky if this is all that is required of me. Sometimes outfit changes are needed or extra cuddles are required before quiet sleep is again obtained.
Yes, nights are so long…
They weren’t – at first – but lack of sleep catches up with a person eventually.
Nate did his best to be supportive by taking on diaper duty throughout the night, at first. It quickly became clear, however, that he cannot function between the hours of midnight and 4am. He tried, bless his soul. It’s just that when he attempts to walk away from the bed, his feet turn to lead or his legs turn to jelly. I’m not entirely sure which is the case… All I know is that when I woke him up to change a diaper one night, he tripped over his feet, swayed a few steps like a drunken sailor, and then landed on the floor.
The good news is that, should he ever become a sleep-walker, we know that he’d never get too far.
There was also the time that I – while nursing Brady – asked Nate to run downstairs to get me a glass of juice. He managed to steady himself and then to walk over to my side of the bed, grab my empty glass, and then to head to the kitchen. He returned a few minutes later with an empty glass in his hands, and he asked sleepily, “Did you ask me to get the cats a glass of juice?”
“No,” I replied groggily. “I asked you to get me a half glass of juice.”
“Oh, okay,” he replied calmly as he turned around and headed back to the kitchen.
We laughed about it later. But at three in the morning, it seemed like a perfectly logical conversation to be having.
After a few more, similar episodes and several failed attempts to wake him up in the first place, I gave up and decided to take over nighttime diaper duty. (Don’t worry, my hubby more than makes up for it during the day, when he takes over that responsibility for me). 🙂
It’s not as though I don’t struggle with exhaustion during the nighttime hours too. One night, I woke up and was so tired that I saw double. Seriously, I opened my eyes to see two baby faces looking at me and crying for food. Then there was the night during which my gray cat Stitchy had decided to sleep on the changing table (which he’s not allowed to do, for the record). I walked over to the changing table with baby Brady and sleepily looked at the ball of gray fur, and I wondered to myself why there was a dead squirrel on the table.
At which point I calmly poked the ‘dead squirrel’ and discovered that it was actually my cat.
The funny thing is that I used to say, “Eh, sleep is over-rated.” These days, I’m fairly certain that it isn’t. I mean, if I could ask Santa to put a giant-sized box of sleep under the Christmas tree, I’d totally go for that and forego any of my other requests. (Although if he can’t bottle sleep, then some extra-strength under-eye cream to hide my dark circles would be acceptable as well).
It’s so easy, during this stage of mommyhood, to wish away these sleepless nights and to dream about the days when I can enjoy a full night’s sleep. It’s so tempting to look forward to the evenings, when I can slide into soft, flannel sheets and close my eyes to hours of uninterrupted rest. It just sounds so heavenly most times…
Last night was one of those nights. By 4am, I decided to just stop fighting it and succumbed to the fact that I was not going to get more than a few hours of sleep. I pulled a fussy Brady out of his swing and soothed him to sleep by letting him rest on my chest, a position he has loved since the moment he was born.
A few gentle, quiet snores let me know that he had fallen into a restful sleep after a night that had been long for both of us. I softly kissed his head and let my chin gently graze his fuzzy hair. I breathed in his sweet baby scent. And I realized that – even if these days are difficult – they are also the days that I will one day look back on with much nostalgia.
One day, he may decide to travel for college. He’ll get married and move into his own house, hopefully not too far away. He’ll be taller than me, stronger than me, and capable of making his own decisions. He’ll be a grown man.
And looking up at him, I’ll wish that – even for just a moment – I could go back to one of those sleepless nights, during which I snuggled him close to me in the glow of a bedroom’s nightlight. I’ll wish that I could cradle him in my arms just once more and feel the softness of his skin against mine. I’ll wish that he needed me for everything, for just one more night…
I know that one day I’ll wish for that.
So when he cries during the night and wakens me from sleep, I will greet him with a bright smile… with a gentle song… with arms that are eager to hold him. And even if I am exhausted, I will remind myself that these moments will not last forever. And while there will be plenty of time to catch up on sleep one day, these are the moments that are all too quickly just a priceless memory. 🙂