Trial & Error- Tips & Advice For New Parents – Sleep? We Don’t Need No Stinking Sleep!
Kiss a restful night's sleep goodbye as a new parent. I'm not reinventing the wheel by telling you that, but I don't think you understand the magnitude of what that really means. Most new parents (myself included when I was a rookie) think once the initial nighttime feedings are done it'll be back to normal, with the exception of the occasional nightmare. Ha!!!
I've said in previous Trial & Error posts that guys don't have a lot of responsibilities throughout the pregnancy, other than running to the store for late night cravings. At some point in time in the immediate aftermath of childbirth... that ends. For me, it was delayed even further than it might have otherwise because my mother-in-law demanded she be the one that stayed overnight at the hospital after the birth. That suits me just fine. I left and went to Hooters for a few beers before going home, watching Sportscenter and going to bed.
My free ride came to an abrupt end once the baby was brought home. Well, not quite immediately after the baby was brought home. I fell for the oldest trick in the book. When I mentioned I was going to lay down to get a nap before taking over the feedings for the night, I was told, "Do what you want. We've got it handled.", and I fell for it. As a matter of fact, I slept through the evening and into the morning before feeling the wrath of what I'd actually done. I was suddenly the most worthless husband in the world. Whether a coincidence or thoughtfully planned by my wife, I haven't had a decent night's sleep since.
There are several stages of sleeplessness a parent will go through in the process of raising a child. Stage 1 consists of torture and pain so brutal you'd think the CIA invented it as a way to get terrorists talk. Come to think of it, babies are a lot like terrorists. They have constant demands, they leave a big mess, and if you take your eyes off them for one minute, bad things happen. These sleep terrorists are up at all hours. From the early days of feeding the baby every few hours, to inconsistent napping to sleepless nights caused by a sick baby, the lack of sleep builds and builds until you break. That's just stage 1.
Stage 2 is probably the toughest stage of sleeplessness to handle, because coming out of the baby phase, you thought you might be finished with sleepless nights. Wrong!! Now that they're older and they know how to say "no", you're going to hear it at least 10 dozen times a night for the next 12 years. Granted, they're not literally saying, "no", but they ARE saying it with their actions. "I need a drink of water", "I'm hungry", "I have to poop", "I have homework I forgot about"... the excuses are endless. By the time you get them to sleep you have 45 seconds to talk to your spouse before your eyes involuntarily close and you wake up what seems like six seconds later to kids ready for cereal and baseball games. Ouch.
Stage 3 is bittersweet. While your kid is a teenager, they'll never want to wake up. They go from never wanting to go to bed to never wanting to get out of bed in a span of six months. You'd think this might be your chance to finally get some sleep, but your mind is restless with your teenage child out on a date night. You won't be able to sleep when they're home. When they get home, there's generally an argument about a missed curfew, or coming home with a sleazy guy (or girl), or smelling like beer, and you'll be so amped up after yelling at a teenager that doesn't actually listen that you'll fall asleep about sunrise. At that time you'll spend the next four hours trying to get your kid out of bed for work or school.
Stage 4 is your fault. Your body is beginning to rebel against you. For the past 18-22 years you've been the sole care giver to this person, and if all goes well, they'll be out of your house and off your dime the day school (high school or college) is completed. Finally!! Sleep!! Wrong!! Your body is now at that point all bodies get to, where the aches and pains of growing older begin to catch up with you and wake you up at 4:30 in the morning. I never understood why my grandparents (and now my parents) got up so early to watch Good Morning America. Now I understand. Our bodies are getting back at us for the past 40-50 years of abuse.
No matter how you slice it, you'll never have a good night's sleep again. If you happen to get a night with a good 8 hours you'll never be able to get out of your mind that you were just able to get somewhat caught up on sleep you've lost in the past week alone. Your mind's playing tricks on you. I hope you enjoyed those restful nights during the last few weeks of pregnancy, because they'll be the last you ever enjoy.