If you have ever talked to a new mother, or lets face it, even looked at a new mother, you know that sleep is a precious commodity. From the time that you get pregnant to the time they are about 5-6 years old (and sometimes even older than that for some) sleep becomes something you will do just about anything to get more of, and a subject you will talk for hours about. Probably to the point where you are repeating yourself, but you're too tired to remember saying anything about how exhausted you are the first 18 times.
Now, people who know me know how small I was before I got pregnant, and everyone was betting I would show early (which I did) and that since I already had a bladder the size of a walnut, that I would be making even more frequent trips to the bathroom. They were right. All throughout my pregnancy you could see me power-waddling my little behind to the bathroom at all times of the day, and definitely multiple times during the night. And it seemed like I would just get comfortable and be about to drift off when my body would wake me up to pee, yet again. Before I even felt my first pang of labour pains I was an experienced up several-times-at-nighter, and I thought I would be a pro at this getting up to feed the baby thing.
I was wrong.
Because you see, I expected the getting up for the 2am feeds to be just that; get up, change a diaper perhaps, feed the baby, then maybe spend a few minutes rocking him to sleep and then going back to bed. Boy was I ever naive! Because babies are just not that simple, at least, mine wasn't. In that first month Andrew would wake up, and I would indeed change his diaper and start to feed him, but what no one told me about, was falling asleep on the breast. I would do anything I could think of to wake him back up to continue feeding, but nothing short of banging pot lids together would do it, that is, until I would finally give up and put him back to bed, crawl back in myself, and then.... "Waaaaa!!!!!" back up I would get to feed him again.
Only this time, he would eat wide awake. And he wouldn't want to go back to sleep after that. A 2am feeding would turn into a 4am exhausted crawling back into bed, only to be woken up shortly after that again. Finally by 3 weeks we had a bit of a rhythm going, and then we got sick with the Head Cold from Hell.
Now, let me tell you, I have had head colds. But I never had a head cold like this, and Andrew was just as sick as I was. Our nostrils were plugged, our throats were clogged with phlegm, and we were exhausted all the time, but could hardly sleep. Andrew had finally gotten used to sleeping in the basinette for a couple hours at a time, and I had finally gotten used to sleeping in 2 hour spurts, until we got this cold that is. I tried putting him to bed in his car seat, in our bed, on the floor, everywhere, but the only thing that he would sleep soundly in was his swing. While it was moving.
And that's what did it for the next 3 months. No matter the time of day or the amount of time, Andrew would only sleep in his moving swing. We even heard it run out of batteries one night, and had to do an emergency battery change, one of us moving the swing while the other tried to quietly fumble with the battery compartment and change them as quietly as possible. I laugh at it now, but at the time, we were desperate. We couldn't let that swing stop, we were wiped.
As Andrew got older, sleep fortunately got a little easier to deal with, and to get. We finally managed to get him sleeping in his crib, and we broke him of the habit of falling asleep in our arms, and got him to put himself to sleep. We even managed to get him on a regular sleeping schedule, complete with naps, and even the occassional full night's sleep. But mostly, we find ourselves still needing to wake up about once a nice to feed him a bottle. But sleep, it's still a precious commodity, because once you have your child on a schedule, that suddenly means you're on one too.
Everyone talks about the benefits of having your baby "sleep trained." They say it's good for them, it's good for you, etc. But one thing they don't tell you about is the fact that you now must sort of stick to that schedule yourself. Bedtime for Andrew is 8pm, and he's generally up between 7 and 8am, with only one wake-up a night. So, that means if I want to get my 8 hours of sleep in, I need to get to bed about 10pm, because I like to wake up at 6:30am so I have a bit of quiet time in which to drink my tea and check my email and Facebook. 10pm. Because yes, I am that much in need of my 8 hours these days. That means no more late night televison or movie watching, and when Neil and I go out on dates, they only last a couple hours, instead of the 3-5 hours we would take before.
To outsiders, the solution is simple; take a nap when he does. But for some of us, that's not easy. I've never been the good napping type, unless I'm sick, and even then, it tends to mess me up for the night. No matter how little sleep I got the night before, no matter how tired I am when I go to bed, if I nap, I rarely fall asleep before 1am, and I just won't chance it anymore. No, until you have a baby, and until you experience the turbulance that is sleep, you won't really understand.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go make another cup of tea. I didn't have the best sleep last night.