When I was pregnant, people would tell me, “Say goodbye to sleep!” One particularly bitchy woman said it frequently, with a stupid grin on her face, like she was enjoying picturing my impending misery. I never liked her.
Let me just say, I am CRAZY about sleep. I mean that in the conventional way: I enjoy sleep a lot. But I also mean that literally: When it comes to sleep, I am crazy.
Portions of my pre-baby life involved long periods of involuntary sleep deprivation along with occasional bouts of insomnia. Once I got the hang of sleep again and had a life that involved a normal day-night schedule, I was not looking forward to giving that up.
People’s warnings were pointless and unhelpful, because you can’t imagine the kind of sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby. It’s impossible to warn anybody, and there is no reason to. It’s not like you can build a slumber stock-pile.
After the first difficult few weeks, we got into a pretty good rhythm, and then I started responding to a full night of sleep like a superstitious sports fan responds to a win. “I was wearing the blue shirt, the night he slept for 5 hours in a row, better put that on.” Anything we did the night before a good night of sleep, I repeated. I have always been terrible at establishing any kind of routine for myself, and I was often irritated with myself that I couldn’t. At least, I thought, I’m too lazy to develop OCD. Not for Chris, though. I developed a schedule so strict, it would have been the envy or a military establishment.
7:00 PM: Bath with soothing lavender baby bath – NO! You got the Target brand? That’s not soothing enough, Dammit! What were you thinking??
7:15 Dry off with the hooded puppy towel, the TV tuned to “soundscapes” (soothing tunes for the high and anxious).
7:30 Dress in special overnight (wishful thinking) diaper, long-sleeved onesie, cotton socks.
7:45: Warm bottle in darkened room, fan on, white noise machine on in the background, glowing sea horse playing lullabies.
8:30ish: We have sleep. Steal away stealthily, like ninja mom, ease the door closed.
8:30-11:30: Hover nervously by the baby monitor.
Now that he’s a toddler, the ritual hasn’t changed too much, no bottle, diaper or sea horse and bed time is a little later. We’ve ditched the lavender baby bath or Mr. Bubble, but the rest is pretty much the same. And I still stay with him in his room until he falls asleep. Of course, I wonder if that’s weird. If I’m hovering, if I’m making him too dependent. I know people would have opinions about it, so I tend not to mention it. The thing is, I like it. It is this quiet time we have always had together. We sit together and talk for a little while or read stories, then I just sit near him and read or write until he falls asleep. Now that he can talk, I get some of the cutest little insights into who he is during these times.