No one warned me about reflux. As someone who has never experienced heartburn a day in my life, all I knew about it was what I had seen in commercials. Older dudes with some kind of burning indigestion. Not a single soul told me that this could, and did, happen to babies. And then it did. To mine.
All that shit people spewed at me about how I’d finally get to sleep again once my baby was sleeping through the night? Well, they all said it would be a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. Six months later, my kid was still up all hours of the night screaming his face off and I still wasn’t sleeping. No one was. It was good times. By the time we finally got that mess under control, the next day we had a second kid with the same issues. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the NEXT day, but you get the point.
When you’ve had kids keeping you up for nearly 3 years, you truly begin to believe you might never get a full night’s rest again. It’s something you fantasize about. You start thinking about sleeping the moment you wake up after dozing in the most unsatisfying way for all of about 5 minutes.
Like all parts of childhood, the reflux and the weird vampire-like sleeping habits changed, but not mine. I still can’t sleep.
On Saturday night, I was up pretty much all night. Not because I magically reclaimed my social life and was out partying, but because my 6 year old was absolutely hysterical at dinner, was hacking his face off, temping low, and went to bed without eating. He wasn’t quite to the point where I’d rush him off to the ER (took years of experience to learn not to do that), but to say that I was worried is putting it mildly. All night I checked on him and waited, hoping his condition wouldn’t deteriorate to the point where he’d need medical intervention. All night I sat awake worrying that he was awake instead of getting the rest he needed. All night, I just worried, because even though he isn’t a baby, he’s still my baby, and I still can’t sleep. The reasons have just changed.
It was during those hours of non-sleep that I had a realization. Even on the nights where I’m not up rocking a screaming baby, consoling a scared child, up worrying about my kid’s illness, I still don’t sleep. Not REALLY. Not like I used to.
I used to be able to sleep through anything. Vacuuming. Grinding coffee beans. Metallica concerts. My mom used to tell me I “slept like the dead.” It was glorious. Now, even so much as a creak in the floorboards wakes me up, and it’s because I’ve trained myself to be that way. Since the birth of my first child, if there is something wrong in the night time hours, I want to know about it. I want to be able to be there by their bedside if they need me. I want to be able to hear them softly calling me from down the hallway. I want to hear the faint sounds of barfing coming from the bathroom so I can go and comfort them
from a safe distance. If something is wrong, I want to wake up, not sleep through it, and so, I don’t really sleep. Ever.
Even when they’re older and won’t be calling Mommy from down the hallway, or needing me to come to their bedside to take their temperature, or needing me in the doorway as they hurl, I get the feeling things won’t change much for me. Now, when they’re little, even though I miss sleep, at least if they’re calling to me from down the hall, I know they’re safe here at home. Even though I worry, and I stay awake, I still feel comforted. When they’re out in the world, where I can’t hover and helicopter and take a few steps to check on them, I only know two things for sure: I will still be here, worrying, and not sleeping.
Is it strange to hope I’ll be so delirious from years upon years of sleep deprivation that I won’t care quite as much? A mom can dream!
Parenthood: Who needs sleep when you have worry??
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