To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

For the most part, when you have a baby, the night becomes a different country. There is no longer the day when you are awake and the night when you sleep (assuming you roll that way to begin with). The whole twenty-four hour period turns into chopped-up segments of sleeping, waking and a zombie-like, in between state where you often appear to be functioning normally but frequently you discover you've put the phone in the refrigerator or poured yourself a bowl of diet coke.

My husband and I were lucky with our babies sleep-wise. Both of them slept through the night early on and were quite easy to put to bed. My profound sympathies are with those who go through years and years of being woken by children or enduring three-hour bedtime fiascoes consisting of crying, screaming, emotional blackmail and absolute desperation.

That's not to say our nights are uneventful, though. I don't know if couples exist who go to bed together, read books side by side, turn out the light at the same time and go directly to sleep, or if this is a construct of TV sitcoms and fictional literature. It sure as hell doesn't happen in this house. My husband has traditionally been the kind of person that can sleep anywhere, any time, no matter what -- you know, the person you want to beat up on the airplane when you're sleepless and cranky at three in the morning overflying the Atlantic and he has closed eyes and a look of perfect serenity on his face. I'm a crappy fall-asleeper, an uneven stay-asleeper and a horrible waker-upper. He's always had nine to five jobs, I usually have crazy hours. He likes getting up early and then having a nap in the afternoon, I prefer staying up late and sleeping in late-ish.

Many nights I'm in bed reading by the time he comes to bed, and he sleeps while I read for a couple of hours. If I go to bed as early as the kids, they fight over who gets to sleep in his spot until he carries them back to their beds in order to reclaim his spot (this is becoming an increasingly impressive and awkward feat, in Angus's case). On week-ends he usually goes to bed and I stay up baking, writing, fooling around on the computer and watching whatever I've PVRed during the week until 2 a.m. or so. Sometimes I take a sleeping pill and crash early and I'm asleep when he comes to bed (and if he tries to get friendly he either gets a loving embrace or a black eye, neither of which I usually remember). Usually if one of the kids gets up in the night, it's a simple matter of fixing their blankets, re-tucking them in and kissing them again (except when Eve was three and always wore her slippers to bed; then she'd come toddling in at three a.m. saying solemnly 'my flipper's gone', and no sleep would be had until the flipper was found). My husband can normally go right back to sleep, but once I'm up that's generally it for me. Also, my husband seems to be developing some sort of restless-leg problem, so sometimes he gets up in the night and goes down and sleeps on the couch, so he won't disturb me and so he can sleep with his top half covered and his lower legs and feet bare, because they feel like they're on fire: I worry this will make the kids think we had a fight, but it doesn't seem to perturb them at all -- it just means he's readily available to fetch them some breakfast when they come down.

Yesterday Eve had an Irish Dance competition in the morning and both kids had a piano recital in the afternoon. I stayed up too late Friday night, got up very early on Saturday morning, made it through the day fairly well, but was nodding over my book at nine p.m., which is almost unheard of for me. I thought screw it and went to sleep. I woke up later feeling like it must be at least 5 a.m.

It was eleven-thirty. P.M. AGH!! I laid there until one. I felt jumpy and uncomfortable. I changed my pajamas. I thought about changing the sheets. Matt had departed for couches unknown. I decided to turn on the light and read again. Half an hour later, Angus came in and said he couldn't sleep. I told him to bring in his fishies (he still uses a Fisher Price Peaceful Planet to lull him to sleep, don't tell him I told you) and climb in with me. It took him an unusually long time to fall back asleep. We chatted a bit about the recital ("that Chinese boy had NO BOOK! It was all in his head! At first I thought the book must just be invisible"). I rubbed his back and his head. I read until about four, then turned out the light. I still couldn't sleep, but I didn't care any more. Angus flung his arm over me and left it there. He woke up at about six-thirty and before he left he said "thanks for letting me sleep here. I was awake a lot, but I didn't really mind". I felt the same. I get stuck sometimes, too wakeful to sleep but too tired to get up and do anything other than hate being awake, feeling like I'm failing at the simplest act, feeling miserable and neurotic and disconnected from the world. It was so much better to just say screw it, if I can't sleep I might as well do something enjoyable, to be awake in a little pool of light, escaping into a well-crafted world, not worrying about when I had to stop reading, with my son breathing (and occasionally snoring) beside me. Matt let me sleep in because he's a really really nice husband (and he knew he was going to have a nap later anyway) and everything was fine.

It could have been a really crummy night. Thank-you Louise Thank-you Angus.


Julie said…
it's like you just posted about more than half of my nights. the only dif is i am an early to bedder. the hubby is the one that stays up until midnight. makes evening snuggles a little tricky.
Mary Lynn said…
Hubby and I are both prone to staying up stupidly late. If we were smart, we'd go to bed shortly after the kids go to bed, but instead we both watch a bit of TV, goof around on our computers, do a few chores, read. Before you know it, it's past midnight.

Luckily both of us are good at falling asleep quickly, and we both sleep pretty well. I have occasional bouts of insomnia, usually when I'm stressed about something at work. Sometimes the kids wake us up, but usually they don't stay up for too long.

My main problem is that Ed needs a bit less sleep than I do, but I hate going to bed on my own. I tend to stay up late so that we can go to bed together, but then I'm exhausted in the morning. Silly me.
Anonymous said…
I used to have nights like that. These days I'm a really good fall-asleeper, but mostly because I am so chronically sleep-deprived that I often struggle to stay awake. If it's not one thing, it's another, I think.
Amber said…
My husband is the same - can fall asleep anywhere at anytime in mere seconds. I hate him. Used to take me hours to sleep. Now my sleeping hours are on the limited side, so I'm usually so exhausted it doesn't take me as long anymore. I love to stay up late though and reading in bed? Oh, what a luxury I miss!

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