A Never-ending Struggle
Little humans don’t like to sleep. And for good reason. I mean, everything to them is so new and exciting. Whereas, I’m counting the hours until I can sleep. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I know others share my desire, but not these tiny, abhorrent creatures. They don’t concern themselves with our plight. This is mostly because all of these whining, miniature people are selfish and self-centered. Our differences in sleep is why big humans and the little humans who still poop in their pants will never get along.
Sleep depravity begins in the hospital, where new parents who’ve just struggled through god-knows-how-many-hours of labor get the joy of meeting every single hospital employee who works on the floor. Somehow, someone new tends to walk in just after you’ve closed your eyes for the first sleep in what feels like, and might actually be, days. In our case, these people may have been nurses or doctors; they may have been administering tests or drugs; they may have been homeless people dressed as doctors doing drugs. My wife and I don’t know. It was all a blur. But yet somehow at the end of your hospital stay, you’re expected to safely drive your child-who-absolutely-is-way-too-small-for-its-carseat back home.
When my wife and I brought our first child home, the loss of sleep was what I feared most. However, I soon learned that when you bring a newborn home, all they do is sleep. Like, 17 hours a day sleep. At this point we were happy to have our little bundle of joy sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed. But then one day a baby thinks, “Okay, I’ll make dad’s life hell now (and mom’s too, I suppose). I’ll start being awake and screaming at all hours of the day because the world revolves around me.”
I’m a Man
As a man and a first-time parent, I thought, “I’m definitely going to be responsible. I’m not a deadbeat. I will absolutely wake up with my wife for nighttime feedings.” Then, one night, it occurred to me, “Wait, I can’t do shit for this baby in the middle of the night. I don’t have lactating nipples (We didn’t bottle feed at the time). Why am I suffering too?” So I started to sleep through the crying and feedings in the middle of the night. Only, it’s not really sleep, is it? I still woke up, even if I didn’t get up. “Why can’t I sleep in another room?,” I thought. “Am I allowed to sleep alone on the couch each night?”
I know what you’re thinking, boo-hoo dad. What about mom? Well, my answer is, she isn’t writing this, so her feelings and point-of-view aren’t taken into account. Okay?
When the child advances to the crib-in-their-own-room stage, you think it’ll be better, but it’s not. Now when you hear crying, it’s not as loud, but it’s more of an effort to go to the other room. And by this time, I was called back into duty. Our daughter would usually require 15 minutes to an hour of frantic, dead-armed back patting to get back to sleep. Each hand would get a shift, rotating every minute or so. I would just stare into the darkness and either think about nothing or pray for sleep. It was painful. I discovered I have very little mental willpower. I would absolutely crack as a POW after a couple of days. But it was a bad system we had. It’s basically the system you have when you try the cry-it-out method but can’t actually tolerate your child crying for longer than 10 minutes.
And we had it good. When our child was in the crib, we were in bed, sans monitor. To repeat, we have never had a monitor! God bless those parents who do. I couldn’t imagine waking up to check a video monitor all night just to see if my child is still alive. “Huh. What was that? Oh, the baby moved again. Is she alright? Yeah, she’s ok. No SIDS yet. But it looks like her leg is stuck. Yeah, shit, it’s stuck! Wait, no, she’s fine. But just go in and check on her to be sure.” That just sounds like torture.
When you finally get your routine down and your child goes to their crib willingly, just don’t do anything to mess up that routine. A trip to Europe meant that our daughter has never slept in her crib again. We now have to co-sleep with her for an hour or so on the guest bedroom futon. Sometimes the co-sleeping lasts all night, which is interesting since my daughter insists on placing her feet on my face all night? Is this a thing with all kids? Am I alone in this? Our brand new toddler bed for her has never been slept in.
This has only been going on the past year-and-a-half.
The Depressing Conclusion
If we hadn’t had a second child I think my sleep could have fairly returned to normal by now. But one crying child usually wakes the other, which sometimes sets off a circular chain reaction of hell. I will say this though – with the second child there is no more back patting and the cry-it-out method was implemented very, very early.
But still, I’ve lost a lot of sleep. I know I can never get it back. I believe I’ve aged twice as quickly as I should. And the biggest problem is, I’m a night owl. I always have been. I like to go to bed past midnight. But a child is an alarm you can never shut off. A child forces you to change your sleeping habits or suffer. I am a fool, so of course I still sometimes suffer.
Staying up late is pretty much out – but so is binge drinking. Taking care of myself when I’m hungover is difficult. Taking care of other little humans when I’m hungover was apparently the greatest challenge of life. My one attempt was poor enough to ensure there were no repeat performances.
In the end, my sleep will come back to me, I know. And eventually I’ll be struggling to get my teenagers out of their beds each morning. But for now I dream of sleep, and peace, and quiet, and moments of solitude. It’s late now – past midnight – why have I not gone to sleep yet? And here I am blaming my children…