Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gotta get me some sleep

(Necessary disclaimer: I am not pregnant.)

It's been a matter of concern to me lately that I can't seem to keep my eyes open. Either I can't wake up when Darwin's alarm goes off, or I have to nap when baby goes down for his afternoon snooze, or both. My afternoon low period has become serious dead time. I've actually started drinking coffee in the morning to boost my energy levels, and I don't even like coffee all that much.

I see looking back over my novena for order that one of my conclusions was to get up earlier. I know that during the school year, getting up early is the difference between getting all our work done in the morning or slouching through the afternoon. Yet if I'm always exhausted, how can I stay up?

What makes me so tired? The answer is so basic it's almost stupid: I'm not getting enough sleep. I've never believed in a division of labor for night wakings. Since Darwin has to leave the house and get up early to go to off to work, I don't expect him to get up in the middle of the night to deal with this or that (and of course he can't nurse the baby). Unlike me, he can't put his coworkers in front of a movie or in quiet time and take a nap. But this also means that my night's rest is constantly interrupted.

Here's a rundown of last night's activities:
  • go to bed at 11:30, read for a while
  • turn the A/C off, surprised that it's still on, put the sleeping girl in the hall back in her bed
  • 3:10: Julia comes in and wants her necklace taken off. Have to turn on the light to fix that.
  • 3:40: Isabel comes in, needs a drink of water.
  • 4:25 wake up from bad dream, turn A/C back on and shut windows because it's way too humid
And this was a night where no one wet the bed. (Here's my dirty secret for dealing with a bed-wetting: since we have plastic sheets on the girls' beds, I leave the bed-stripping for the morning and only wash the girl, then put her to sleep with one of her sisters.)

Now all this might not sound like that disturbed a night to most parents. And indeed, if those were the only distractions, I might count it a restful night. But in between everything, the baby was nursing. And nursing. He starts off the night in the crib, but comes into bed whenever he wakes up. Then I roll him from side to side whenever he starts fussing so I don't have to fully wake up. The problem is, I am waking up.

Jack is almost a year old. He doesn't need to eat every two hours. I don't want him to eat every two hours. I want him to sleep in his crib, because then he doesn't snuffle and paw at me all night and wake himself up. And frankly I have no attachment to a family-bed-style arrangement (especially with a queen-sized bed). But I've taken the lazy road of not training Jack to sleep all night in the crib at 6-8 months like I did with the girls, because I haven't wanted to deal with the few very sleepless nights and the crying it out that this would entail -- and also because now the crib is in our room, not the kids' bedroom like it was before. Now he has more powers of yelling persistence (and volume). But it's gotta be done.

The baby in his crib all night: I'll sleep to that!


Jen said...

MmmHmm, I can relate. Violet (10 mo.) is still waking every few hours to nurse, but she is also not gaining weight sufficiently (dropping curves on growth charts), so I have been reluctant to deny her if she chooses to nurse. Though I am starting to think if she actually sat down and filled herself up and then slept a longer stretch it would be better for both of us. I also could be giving her nursing much more attention during the day so that I know she has been full all day and then will not feel like I'm starving her at night.

As for the other two (2 & 3.5), they have been waking intermittently as well. And as much as I say I need an early bedtime, I persistently stay up until 11pm or later. I am naturally a night owl and feel like I'm sacrificing all my leisure time when I go to bed at 10pm so that I can get enough sleep. So I stay up and then can't get up when I want to in the morning and end up crabby after lunch & it goes on in an ugly cycle.

But this week, I am back to trying to create a rule (Mother's Rule of Life) for myself and keeping myself more orderly & on track. So far so good in the first 3 hrs of this morning (except for the whole waking before the children bit . . . )

mrsdarwin said...


I actually have odd bursts of energy between 10:30 and midnight -- if I start straightening up then I really get going. (And yet between 1-4:30 in the afternoon nothing I start prospers.) But if I went to bed earlier at least I'd be matching my sleep to the baby's first long night stretch.

Audrey said...

Tonight I'm sending along a mutual friend's copy of "Healthy sleep habit's, Happy Child" for you. Hope you find it as helpful as we did with Clare!

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks, Audrey. I think I need a refresher course -- one gets lazy after four children!

bearing said...

I do believe in a division of labor for night wakings, at least the ones that don't require nursing.

Even if one parent doesn't "have to get up early" for work, she still has to function at some basic level, and it's okay to spread some of that tiredness around.

It doesn't have to be an *equal* division of labor -- the two of you know how much each of you need sleep -- but having the "real job" isn't a get-out-of-night-wakings-free card. Especially when the, erm, not-real job involves homeschooling, which requires real energy and alertness.

mrsdarwin said...


Perhaps I need to break myself of this residual gender prejudice. But right now as it is a real possibility for me to sleep in later than him, I tend to take the night duty. But then, now that I think of it, I don't get that much more sleep in the morning because both the girls and the baby wake up, and when the baby wakes up he climbs all over me because he's not in the crib.

To tell the truth, I'm not that great a homemaker, and I'm a really disorganized mother. But I can't shake the idea that the night wakings are "my shift" and part of my pulling my weight. I suppose it's not like Darwin works hard physical labor, though. I guess we need to talk about it.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

I started to write a comment but am too tired to think clearly, so I'll just tell you my thoughts next time we chat. :)

Jenny said...

I think a lot of it is maternal guilt about sharing the nighttime load. In my house, I am the one with the "real" job and my husband stays home with our children. I am still the one who takes the majority of the night shifts with pretty much the reverse rationale that you give. He has to spend the day with the kids who are so energetic and need his attention; it's best if he gets his sleep. I work with adults who are not so physically demanding so it is okay if I am sleepy.
I think the truth is that most mothers feel the children are primarily our responsibility so the blunt of the unpleasantness should fall to us. And the fathers (who enjoy their sleep) aren't likely to independently decide to forgo the rest.
Mama feels guilty about waking up Daddy (who never seems to hear the crying). Daddy cannot fathom why Mama never wakes him up, but isn't about to sabotage his lucky break.

entropy said...

fwiw, I feel the same as you, Mrs. D. I take all the night shifts because he has to be up in the morning. I think it's fair because I'm able to make up for the lack of sleep (usually) by resting in the afternoon, something he doesn't have the opportunity to do.

We just moved the baby's crib to the oldest girl's room last night because I've been doing the same as you with the lazy all-night-nursing because I don't want to hear her scream and fuss. Of course, since we moved her she didn't know where she was last night when she woke up and woke up and woke up. Ugh. I'll be thinking of you when we're letting her cry tonight. *sigh*

Karie, the Regular Guy's Extraordinary Wife said...

Dear Mrs. D,

Please wake up your husband, at least for the wet kids, if not the baby. I would.

Mark Adams said...

You turn the A/C off at night? I'm . . . impressed.

Shannon said...

Mrs. D,

I feel your pain. When people ask if our baby (4 months) is "sleeping through the night", I have begun to tell them, "it doesn't matter as my older 2 children (4 and 3 years) aren't sleeping through the night either". It's either toilet, water, bed-wetting, one sibling having rolled on top of the other or hogging the bed, lost blankets, falling out of bed, surprise vomiting....the list goes on and on, doesn't it? ;)

If you are interested, here is a gentle way to night wean (or possibly lessen at the very least) older babies. I love Dr. Gordon's approach b/c it is gradual and therefore, not as traumatic as CIO can be for little ones. I have had a few friends use this w/ great success. Perhaps if he is nursing less then there won't be as much of a need to be right next to mom?? Hope you find a solution that works for your family!

Kyle Cupp said...

I'll have to forward this post to my wife. She'd appreciate it. We're at the point with our son that we can get a bit more rest at night, but then we decide now to stay up late night after night watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I guess were are somewhat to blame for the current lack of sleep.

Kiwi Nomad said...

Are you certain you don't have some iron deficiency as well? I know from experience how it can creep up on one.....

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Be sure you're drinking enough: the heat can get you dehydrated without really realizing it, and nursing just makes it worse. You'd be surprised how much mild dehydration interferes with sleep.

I didn't believe in sharing the nighttime shifts, either, until I crunched our van out of sleep deprivation. You really are doing things that require sleep!

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Amended to add: the dehydration does interfere with sleep, but the bigger problem is it makes you feel lethargic during the day, even if you don't think you feel thirsty. Coffee will make it worse, though I keep drinking the stuff.

Try forcing down a lot more water, especially in the early afternoon, and see if you don't feel a bit better.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I do not miss the days of constant nighttime interruptions. Not that I would get up, but I still felt bad for the dear wife. :)

Remember this - you are NORMAL.

Nursing stimulates a hormone or something which causes Mom to relax & be tired. It is normal. So nap.

sciencegirl said...

People often don't sleep well if it gets too hot and humid. If the A/C makes things too cold, try getting a dehumidifier and then running the AC set at a higher temp. Your little girls might sleep longer then too, as it sounds like they are waking up due to discomfort. Things like the necklace, water, etc, wouldn't wake them up if they were comfortably asleep. Or, if the AC/dehumidifier option won't work well with your house, try small fans in each person's room, blowing air over the bed. Maybe this won't work. I just know that if I get too warm at night, I will wake up several times, and if I am in a cool room I won't wake up at all, even with thunderstorms. I also have more bad dreams when my room is too hot. It sounds to me like your bad dream may have been tied to the high humidity, and your kids might have the same discomfort.

Dorian Speed said...

I want to write something pithy and useful but all I can think if is "right there with you."