Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Deprive someone of sleep for long enough and they will be willing to betray their country, confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and forsake every family member they have. After nine-and-a-half months without a full nights sleep, I am positive that the key to taking down al-Qaeda is to have their top general care for a baby that refuses to sleep. In a few short weeks his brain will be so addled that he won’t remember to inform his operatives that the secret password was switched and he will leave the blueprints for the next terror strike on the table at Starbucks while he is waiting for his triple-shot latte.
Before you all judge me, I realize that Benjamin’s sleep problems are my fault. They are the same problems that David had with sleeping when he was a baby. Instead of letting them cry a little when they were infants, I picked them up, rocked them and nursed them to sleep. At first I would be able to lay them down once they drifted off, but after a few months, both boys decided their favorite place to sleep was on top of me, and I accommodated them. It wasn’t out of some strong maternal need to be in physical contact with my children at all times, but because it was the easiest way to get the most sleep at the time. You would think I would have learned my lesson the first time, but I didn’t, and holy crap am I paying for it now.
Let me paint a picture of what I typical night is like for me now. At 7pm I go to lay down with Benni in my room. Since my husband gets home around 5:45 that means we say exactly three sentences to each other (“How was work? The kids are driving me nuts. Dinner is on the stove.”) before I have to get Benni to sleep. Once in my room, I lay with Benni while he flops around, tries to climb over me to get out, and (on really fun nights) crams his fingers in my eyes. Eventually, he settles down enough to drink a bottle and then falls asleep, my arm acting as his pillow. I then spend about 30 minutes trying to get my arm out from under him without him waking up before I give up and resolve myself to a bedtime that even senior citizens would laugh at. And then Benni wakes up. At 11:00. And 1:30. And 3:30. Around 4:30am he feels pretty perky and tries to get up for the day. I know that because he hits me in the face and then giggles as I scream “It’s time for sleeping!” I then repeat the process of getting him to go to sleep which takes about 45 minutes. If I’m lucky, he will stay asleep until 6:30am, but I’m not usually lucky. On a typical night, I estimate I get around four to five hours of sleep (cumulative not successive), which is nowhere near enough.
Given that I sleep less than an insomniac on a 5 Hour Energy binge, it’s pretty remarkable that I am still able to do all the things required of me as a wife and mother and remain fairly pleasant and coherent. But if I am being really honest, while I do the things required of me, I don’t do them well. Things slip by me, emails go unanswered, calls go unreturned, paperwork, bills, appointments are all forgotten. Relationships, like my marriage, like the one with my oldest son, start to show the wear of too little time and attention. And it’s all just too much for me anymore. Something has to change. So I am going to let Benni cry it out. You can think I am selfish or cruel if you want to (I obviously have had those thoughts about myself as well) but I have to get my life back, even if it’s just a free hour in the afternoon and a few consecutive hours of sleep at night.