Sleep Redux: Being Gentle With My Heart

My first Mother’s Day wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. We all had colds, and we were all exhausted. And Baby A still isn’t sleeping well at all.

heart cradled in hand

Just when we thought things were getting better… we went back to most of Baby A’s sleep out of arms coming in 5-40 minute chunks. Hence my scarcity of posts both here and on my other blog. Some nights are better than others, but most nights are pretty rough compared to what I hear from other parents with babies his age. It’s always a cold, or teething, or a phase of the moon. I keep being reminded that expectations are a bad plan when you are a parent. You never know what ‘s coming next… part of the beauty and part of the challenge, right?

When I finally launched this blog, I was hoping we were done with the worst of this phase of the sleep stuff. Now, I don’t know what to expect. There are so many things I want to be getting done right now that I cannot get done, because I am back to prioritizing the most basic of basics in terms of self-care: getting enough rest such that I don’t, you know, start hallucinating or something. Eesh!

When I am sleep-deprived, my moods are so very precarious. My heart is fragile and my shields against the world’s sharp edges are tenuous. The slightest mishaps and deviations from my routines distress me unduly, and my self-talk goes very negative. My body doesn’t heal as well and I don’t feel physically very robust.

I have always been sensitive to sleep deprivation and in my 20s started to become more self-aware about how much it impacted my moods and thinking. If I had a hard day where I felt unreasonably moody, I used to reassure myself that I would feel better after a long hot bath, some time with a good book, maybe a glass of wine and then a good night’s sleep, and only if I didn’t feel better after some rest was I allowed to take my mood too seriously. This tactic nearly always worked, unless there truly was something deeper at issue that needed action or processing, and I grew a lot emotionally once I developed this perspective. Now, an evening with that level of self-care is really hard to come by… especially the good night’s sleep part!

So I take gentleness for myself in small but frequent and vital doses. I remind myself frequently to take deep breaths. I drink plenty of water, I try not to ramp up on too much extra caffeine and sugar, I ask for help, and I do everything I can to straddle that line between kind self-nurture and faux-helpful self-indulgence. I take deep comfort and joy from the love I share with my husband and Baby A, and my larger circle of family, friends and community. I focus on the many things our family has to be grateful for. I draw upon my sense of humor and sense of play. All things considered, I feel like I’m doing pretty well. But it’s still super hard.

We have a plan in place, and we hope that we’ll be able to make some changes that will help in early June so that everyone is getting more rest. It helps to have a plan. And I hope that as everyone keeps telling me, this too shall pass.

And I promise myself that my next post here won’t be about sleep!

P.S. I beg of you not to give us baby sleep advice; we’ve gotten all the advice we need and then some, as I’m sure you can imagine…But I’d love to hear in the comments about how you’ve taken care of yourself through your own parenting rough patches.

Image above byD. Sharon Pruitt, used under a Creative Commons License.

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One Response to Sleep Redux: Being Gentle With My Heart

  1. Kristianne Zak says:

    I found that reminding myself it was a normal phase was essential. As babies there is always something- cold, teething, a new thing learned=crazy sleep while learning, but the really tough times would only last a week or two and then we’d have a span of better sleep. I’d just keep repreating to myself that “it is just for two weeks.” Knowing something different was around the corner gave me hope in those fragile, I’ve been awake more than asleep, nights. It was important to me to give myself permission to sleep when the babe slept during those times too. Too frequently I would burn through his nap trying to get non-essential things done. At 22 months, I am still using these to get by somedays. ;)

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