Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chronicles of a Sleepless Mama

Here is a glimpse into my 3 years of sleep deprivation, due to a disorder known as “sleepless baby syndrome.” It's been a rough few years- my son has had a very hard time sleeping through the night due to constellation of reasons I won't get into right now. Perhaps they are "excuses" not reasons? In any case, here you go...

During the first 6 months:
What you think: This is totally normal, right? All the other mommies talk about their fatigue too so we must be on the right track. Just give it some time.

What you feel: A mixture of exhaustion, joy, and love. You love this bundle with your whole heart figure that sleep will come eventually.  Everyone keeps telling you it will work out and you believe them.

What you do: You kindly take in advice from others and try techniques to help baby sleep. You have hope that those swaddling and shushing methods actually work.

What you look like: A proud mama, with the sleepless badge of honor. Hair in a ponytail, rocking the yoga pants because you are tired with a baby, of course.

At 12 months:
What you think: Wow, nighttime is really hard. I didn’t think it was supposed to be this hard. Every other baby seems to be sleeping well at this point. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe I have the wrong color night-light or the sheets are too scratchy? 

What you feel: Tired, but probably within the normal limits for a mom of a 1-year old.  After all, you are caring for your family and it is hard work.

What you do: You start investigating baby sleep a little bit more and realize you need a temperature monitor in the baby’s room and maybe some room-darkening shades. You get a night-light with a red hue because that’s shown to help. You double-check your white noise machine since we know if it’s TOO loud, it can hurt baby’s sleep. You rub baby down in lavender oil because, why not? You play music that is clinically shown to induce sleep. You know a routine is important and have it posted on baby’s door for all to see. You know this HAS to work.

What you look like: Not quite put-together. A little behind the rest of the mommy crowd, most of whom can manage to shower and get dressed these days. 

At 18 months:
What you think: Maybe I just have a stubborn baby. I have tried everything. Everyone tells me I need a good nighttime routine and I want to punch them in the mouth. I KNOW, OK! It’s posted on the door!

What you feel: Exhausted. Resentful. You hate other moms not for their beauty, but because they are sleeping a LOT more than you. You regret your husband putting you in this position in the first place. You aren’t sure how he can keep going, but you are spiraling out of control.

What you do: You seek out doctors’ opinions and start looking into more extensive sleep programs. You pay people to help you at night. Even if you DO get a decent stretch of sleep time, it is impossible to sleep because of your anxiety about NOT sleeping. You are just waiting for baby to wake up.

What you look like: It’s starting to really show now, the bags under the eyes and a slight grayish tint to the skin.

At 2 years:
What you think: None of my friends have this problem. All the babies in the world are sleeping except mine. The universe hates me. I might as well get some work done instead of lay down because I will be up again in an hour or two anyway.

What you feel: You dread the nighttime. Most days, it is hard to put one foot in front of the other. Your shoulders are heavy. Your body hurts all the time.

What you do: You want to give up. Motor skills are altered, slower. You know you should get outside and wear the kids out so they sleep bett….oh wait, that doesn’t work. You want to exercise to feel better, but can’t muster the energy. You look to take any pain reliever or sleep aid because you have run out of inner coping skills. You consider counseling.

What you look like: Now you look pale and grey from the sleep deprivation and stress. You try to hide it, but usually don’t make it past the concealer. Nothing fits because you can’t exercise so you buy cheap, ill-fitted clothes for the time being.

At 3 years:
What you think: I really can’t take this anymore. Friends, family and doctors don’t even try to help anymore because this is hopeless. I have a cranky kid who doesn’t nap and keeps waking up all night. There is no way I am having any other children. This is ridiculous. I guess I have to hang in there until he’s 18 and then kick him out so I can recover, if I live that long. (Really, it gets this bad.)

What you feel: The word exhausted doesn’t even cover it. It’s really hard to smile with any bit of authenticity.

What you do:  You seek out new doctors. Consider getting your baby (now in preschool) a sleep study or having his tonsils out. Maybe that will help, right? You pay a lot to have other people watch your kid. You get counseling. You stay up all night on the Internet, oh, and soothe your kid back to sleep every other hour.

What you look like: In a word, ragged. In a list of synonyms: frazzled, fragmented, shoddy, broken, dilapidated, frayed and rough.

I will stop at the 3 year mark, and notice, how large the font is at 3 years. Because it is RIDICULOUS. I wonder if any of you can relate to my condition. If so, please comment and I will send you personal condolences. The only comfort I can give my fellow zombie moms is that I FINALLY found the magic formula for my son's sleep. OR, he was just finally ready for it. OR, it was just pure luck. I'm not really sure. But things are getting better right now and I am embarking on a healing journey to restore sanity to my brain, rest to my muscles, and love back into my heart. True sleep deprivation is an awful feeling and has all sorts of horrible medical consequences that maybe we will explore later. I will also share the advice I got from my child's sleep specialist in an upcoming post...IF it continues to work, that is!



  1. Ann, I absolutely get your frustration. My kids will go through spurts of waking up at night, for no apparent reason! Even when they do sleep, the longest they will sleep in til is 630am! Doesn't matter if I put them to put at 7pm or 10pm, they are up at the crack of dawn! Similar to you, I frantically searched the internet and asked friends...so I changed their diet, they activity level, etc etc (and ps, they have had a "bedtime routine" since day one, so that's not it), nothing changed! (and my kids are on a good schedule as they go to daycare 4 days per week). Even on their most active day possible, they do not sleep in. It frustrates me something terrible when I hear moms say they toddlers/kids sleep in until 8-830...do you KNOW what I would do to sleep in until that time!?!? Hence I totally get your 'want to punch them" thought process lol. I would love to know what your sleep specialist had to say. The beginning part of this month was "good" for sleeping, but the past few nights I have heard the 3 yo up and at 'em. From one tired momma to another, I get it. I swear I'm the most tired caffeinated person there is (aside from you haha!). Can't wait for the next post, I love your bloggie! :-)

    1. Thanks for the comment-yes, I would also kill to get my kids to sleep 8-8! I also want to kill people when they tell me about the importance of a routine. Duh. I've done that since birth. Nothing seemed to work! Also, I realize that in normal pediatric development, kids often wake up at night. But I have one "normal" sleeper and one "abnormal" sleeper and the difference has been killing me. I don't know if I have good advice for you Alicia, but my main problem was apparently extreme mommy attachment that kept my son waking up. He must have just been ready for the change when I tried a new bedtime routine and it just clicked this time.