Losing Sleep: the Eternal Battleground of Early Parenthood

How many times have you heard this?

“Nobody told me I was going to be losing THIS much sleep!”

And how many times have you thought this?

“Well, people were telling you, you probably just didn’t realize how dead serious they were.”

In the heady early days of pregnancy, when you are freaking out over what you can and can’t eat, how suddenly very tired you are, and how the smell of meat makes you want to chop off your nose and bury it in a box of linen-scented dryer sheets, some jerk-off gives you this smug advice: “Get your sleep now, because when the baby comes, you won’t be sleeping at all!” Thank you, Susie Suck My Ass. I’m sure I can just store up all the sleep I’m going to need over the next nine months like some kind of bloaty squirrel who DOESN’T leak piss in the middle of the night and whose limbs DON’T fall asleep if she doesn’t lay on her left side with a pillow dildo shoved between her legs.

Pregnancy is not the time to store up all the sleep you’re going to need. The (generally) 20- or 30-something years before you become pregnant are the years to catch up on your sleep. In fact, you should just hibernate for most of that time. When you are a toddler fighting your parents over going to bed, you should actually be resting so that you’ll have the strength to battle your own toddler when he decides he’s not going to sleep for you.

Because—let me strip this of all hyperbole for a second—you will not just lose out on a few months of solid sleep when you become a new parent. You will be battling it out with your child for years. YEARS.

You will pat yourself on the back when, at some point during your child’s babyhood, he will suddenly start sleeping through the night and you’ll go…this is it! My God, I can get eight straight hours again! Let me break your heart right now: this is temporary. He will get night terrors or begin climbing out of his crib and you will start the battle again.

sleepy baby
This was back when he would knock out for us after 10 minutes of head rubs and we thought that was rough.

But you may come out the other end victorious! And you get your kid to miraculously sleep through the night again and you think…alright NOW we’re good! We can watch Dr. Who together and stretch out in our bed without tiny feet donkey-kicking us in the crotch! Nope. He will come back at you again, this time by walking out of his toddler bed or insisting on getting up to pee or having another last cup of water or begging you for one more story or being afraid of fireworks even though it’s been a month since the Fourth of July.

And you go back and forth in this bullshit tug-of-sleep-war until the child starts wearing you down and, after three-and-a-half years, you begin letting him have little victories here, little conciliations there, and all of a sudden he’s up every night until 10pm, controlling your TV, wedging himself between you and your spouse, and pretty much guaranteeing that you never have a good night’s sleep ever again.

Guys, I’ve thrown in the towel. I’m waving the white flag. I’m so damn tired that I can’t help but write in cliches. I don’t know what to do anymore, and I do not have a single iota of energy left to fix the problem. I know we can’t go on indefinitely like this. How does the child wake up every morning and go about his day? How is he still running around all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? (See? Cliches.)

All I know is that I’ve lost the battle this time, but I cannot lose the war. (More cliches.) When Lucas becomes a surly teenager who hopes to sleep until 11am, guess who’s going to go storming into his bedroom, opening the blinds, and jumping on his bed? When Lucas wants to unwind after finishing his homework by gunning down zombies on his PS14, guess who’s going to go skipping into the living room and insisting we watch The Sound of Music? When Lucas calls me to complain about his son keeping him up all hours of the night, guess who’s going to cackle like a witch riding a hyena?


And I will stretch out on my bed and I will watch my TV shows and I will blog without having to crouch over my laptop like Gollum guarding his Precious…and I will think wistfully back on the time when my son loved being with me so much that he refused sleep, the most cherished of all cherished commodities.

green of skin, black of heart

2 thoughts on “Losing Sleep: the Eternal Battleground of Early Parenthood

  1. This is hilarious and yet incredibly terrifying. This is the part of parenting that frightens me the most… Yes, I will take responsibility for another human and I will raise it to be moral and kind and happy and intelligent without playing in the street but WAIT WHAT I won’t get the option of 8 hours a night (because I don’t sleep 8 now, but I do so knowing I could if my internet-addicted self truly wanted to). *sigh* Scary.

    1. I have a friend who told me that my blog is making him strongly reconsider having children. That is not my intent! The lack of sleep stuff really does suck, though, I can’t sugar coat it. There are entire months that are just a fog.

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