Why I’m Obsessed With Sleep

Standard

When you’re pregnant, the standard question of greeting—you know, “How are you?”—takes on a whole new meaning. There’s a different inflection to it. Sometimes it’s even worded differently: “How are you feeling?” I know that people aren’t asking the polite question; they’re asking the polite question about pregnancy. In the first trimester, they’re really asking if I have morning sickness.

Well, it’s hard to say, because I’m sick, and I can’t tell if the blahs are viral or gestational. Lately, my response to the question has been, “Tired. Very tired.”

Sleep and I have never been good friends. Christian goes to sleep in thirty seconds; I lie awake for at least half an hour every single night, and often much longer. I’ve always had trouble getting to sleep—I used to have long conversations with God while staring up at the stars out the north window of the house, or “pretending.” There have been times when irrational panic kept me awake. When I was working full time, I often stayed awake wound up about work—especially after choir practice.

But nothing has screwed up my sleep rhythm as much as parenthood.

Oh, here she goes, you think: off on a “sleeping through the night is a myth” tangent. Well, that’s part of it. But even that would be far less disruptive if I was like my husband, going right back to sleep.

The first major sleep disruption began when Alex was six months old. I was supposed to drive toKansas Cityto pick up my cousin from the airport, and the night before, I simply could not fall asleep. I tossed and turned for hours, getting up to nurse, almost dropping off, getting yanked back from the edge…there’s nothing so torturous as paying attention to the process of falling asleep, let me tell you. At 2:30 in the morning, I still had not slept. At 5, I was in a panic; there was no way I could drive safely. I hadn’t slept even a single minute. The world was a haze of fog. I called my parents crying, and my mom went toKansas Citywith me as a backup driver.

That was early fall. By first frost, it was happening with alarming regularity. I was in a panic. I was overwrought, biting people’s heads off for no reason (in particular Christian’s). I felt so out of control, and so tired all the time. Thank God I only had one child, and him nursing; we would lie down on the bed to nurse, and I’d fall asleep with him, so that mitigated the useless nights. A doctor told me to try Benadryl, but that seemed to intensify the “I’m-tired-can’t-drop-off” effect. At last, they put me on an anti-anxiety med, first for sporadic use, but by late January, a nightly dose.

I don’t remember how long it took for me to clear this phase of my life. It passed, and from it I learned the psychological value of a change of venue. In other words, the couch. For some reason, I could get to sleep on the couch when I couldn’t get to sleep in bed. Something about the way I could mummify myself in the cushions. So I learned not to be heroic; if I was having trouble getting to sleep, I’d just go to the couch and spend the night there. (When we went to replace that couch, you’d better believe this was part of why it took us 6 months to pick one. And we didn’t get rid of the old couch until I’d slept a dozen nights on the new one, and made sure it would do the trick!)

The “aha” moment didn’t come until Julianna was eight or nine months old, and I happened across a tidbit in a magazine, informing me that postpartum depression can pop up any time in the first year, and isn’t always characterized by feelings of sadness. Among the possible symptoms? Sleeplessness. Aaargh! I wanted to take that article and shake it in my doctor’s face.

Kids do still get me up at night. It goes in waves; they’ll sleep through for a while, and then they’ll get up every night for a few weeks. Julianna got me up 7 times in 6 hours a couple of weeks ago. But I was enjoying a refreshing stretch of good sleep…until the day I found out I was pregnant. And now? Well, currently I’m having more trouble with the day starting too early: at 3:50 a.m. I wake up, and I cannot get back to sleep. It’s maddening.

So yes, I’m pregnant. And yes, I’m tired. But if I ever seem obsessed with the subject of sleep, now you know why.