Thursday, September 15, 2005

Perchance to Dream

Some of the more well-read of you out there may know this piece of a line from Shakespeare and Hamlet. I know, however, that there are many of you who, like me, were first introduced to this line in that famous Twilight Zone episode. You know the one. The guy bursts into the psychiatrist’s office and proclaims that if he goes to sleep he’ll die. Yeah, that one.

Well, that ain't me. I'd kill for some sleep right now.

One of the first and most frequently offered bits of advice you get when you tell people you're having a baby is "Get your sleep now!" They tell you this from about 2 months in up until the day before the baby comes. What they don't tell you is how.

If you're anything like me and my wife (and, come on, we're just like everybody else... aren't we?), then you're having a baby because you wanted to. With all the books and charts and methods involved in this pregnancy, little Arrena was anything but a surprise. (To us at least. Our doctor? That's a different story.) So, from the moment we found out we were having a baby, there was lots of joy and excitement. There was also lots of nervousness and wonder, lots of uncertainty and confusion. But mostly joy and excitement. We were on a cloud, thrilled with our good fortune and blessings. Not a situation that is ideal for sleeping.

While I like to live in the golden glow of denial, there was also that looming fear that something could go wrong. Which is why you typically wait 2 months or so before telling people about your good news. After that, the fun begins. Honestly, I'm one of those people for whom things don't take on any real status until you tell someone else. So, while I knew we were having a baby, I didn't really know it until Christmas time, when we told our family. That's when the fun really began for me.

As for my wife...

For those of you who don't know her, Arrena's mom is a very strong woman. Smart as a whip, strong-willed, decisive. A great leader. Doesn't cry at movies. Laughs in the face of danger, all that. Strong woman. With a weak stomach. Needless to say, morning sickness set in early and barely eased up. And by "morning sickness" I mean "all day and night sickness." As a result, from the early weeks of the pregancy it was very hard for her to get a good night's sleep. I haven't, shall I say, "lost my lunch" since maybe the Carter Adminstration. But what kind of cold-hearted bastard could sleep while his wife is losing her lunch, dinner and internal organs at all hours of the night? But almost from the first day we told people, we were getting the "get your sleep now" advice. We understood it and appreciated it then, and thought it would be good advice to follow. If only we could.

As Arrena grew, Arrena's mom got more and more uncomfortable in bed. As she got more uncomfortable, she started adding pillows, until she was lying on a virtual raft of pillows. Yet, much like the Princess and the Pea, no matter how many pillows she added, she could never really get comfortable. And with all the extra pillows squeezing me off to one side of the bed, there was no way I was going to get comfortable either. Realize, I'm not in any way trying to compare my discomfort with hers. But, when you get down to it, if you're not sleeping you're not sleeping.

So, by month 8 of the pregnancy, when the well-meaning folks tell us "Well, I hope you're getting your sleep now!", by that time a good night's sleep is long since a thing of the past. And I just want to slap them until they go to sleep.

And then the baby is born.

And what sleep you were getting before, those 4, 5 or 6 hours, that seems like the sleep of Rip Van Winkle by comparison.

We hear tales of newborn infants who sleep through the night almost from the first week. I'm convinced these stories are the results of myths and legends passed down like a cultural "telephone game" where one person whispers a secret to another who passes it on to the next. By the time these stories of the sleeping babies reached me, they had as much veracity as tales of alligators in sewers and mosquitoes that carry off children.

From the day of your child's birth, the main goal -- wish, fantasy, whichever -- is to get her to sleep through the night. Only in the last couple of days, almost 6 weeks into Arrena's glorious reign on earth, has there been any sign that this goal is anywhere close to attainable. Some 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night. Close to 6 hours a couple nights ago. That, my friends, is what constitutes a full-night's sleep for a baby. Keep in mind that 5 hours sleep for baby is really only, at most, 3 hours sleep for parents. When she nods off, you hover for a while to make sure they she really is sleep. Then, every grunt and moan she makes has you jumping up in bed. When she's not making a noise, you have to check to see if she's still breathing. Oh, and there is the time you have to just watch her sleeping. That's when she's most beautiful.

Our reliable parent-friends all told us beforehand that 6 weeks is the turning point. Just hang on through the first 6 weeks, and you'll be OK. We heard them. But when you're in the middle of that 6 week stretch, it's like trying to swim the English Channel. The waves are choppy beyond belief, and you can't see the either shore. Can't turn around. Doesn't seem like you'll make it across. No choice but to keep swimming.

But it looks like our friends may have been right, and as the 6 week mark rolls around, we're finally catching a glimpse of the distant shore ahead. And it looks very comfortable.

Just think. We make it through this, then there will be plenty of other things to keep us up at night.


Post a Comment

<< Home