Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Battles in the Night

In my world, sleep (or the lack thereof) has been a significant issue the past two years. I struggle with sleep on a daily (or rather, nightly) basis. I have always been the kind of person who really needed to get that eight hours a night. In college, when friends were pulling all-nighters studying, I was wrapping up by midnight because I knew I’d crash and burn if I didn’t get enough sleep. When I was working the late shift at various newspapers early in my career, I made sure to make up that lost sleep during the day, even if it took away from the few daylight hours I treasured. In the pre-baby partying phase of my 20s, I slept in on weekends, took afternoon naps, whatever it took to be functional again by Monday morning (no longer an option). But this “baby” thing has really thrown me for a loop! (Kudos to those of you with multiple kiddos.)

Allow me to explain (though for some of you, I’m guessing no explanation is necessary): When Makensie was born, I knew I was in for a little bit of lost sleep (though I really had no idea how my life was about to capsize). I wasn’t working at the time, so I was able to nap when she napped and generally make up for some (though not all) of the sleep I was losing during those first few months. As a stay-at-home mom, it was a bit easier, and I was much more relaxed. I started working again when Kensie was six months old and still waking two to three times a night. This is when the current “night” mare began.

Kensie has always been easy to put down. She never really fusses and generally falls asleep pretty quickly (as long as her “fishies” have batteries) both at naptime and at night. But what she doesn’t do is sleep fully and soundly all night long. So at six months old, she continued to wake wanting milk a couple of times a night. (I now know, many sleep and parenting books later, that I fostered this negative pattern by continuing to give her milk instead of weaning her off of the nighttime bottles thus perpetuating all of her sleep issues.)

At about one year old, Kensie began to “sleep through the night” (a phrase used quite loosely in the parenting world and code for “about 7 or 8 hours,” during which many of those hours the parent is still awake). Since she was going to bed at 7 p.m., I was looking at an initial wake-up time of about 2 a.m. The only time I had to myself was that window between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (after doing whatever I needed to get done for the next day, including preparing Kensie’s lunch and diaper bag for day care) when I really should have been in bed. At 2 a.m., I’d give K some milk, head back to bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour or so before being able to fall back asleep, and she’d go back down until between 5 and 6 a.m. Doesn’t look too bad on the surface, but for this single working mom, it was quite difficult (especially when she woke closer to 5 than 6 a.m.). I always tried (and still do) to be in bed no later than 10 p.m., and many times I’d be in bed by 9 p.m. But being woken up frequently for someone who has trouble turning off her brain at night in the first place, a cat sleeping on her head, and a baby monitor roaring in the background is rough. During this time, I struggled with weaning Kensie off the one nighttime bottle because it was just easier to give her what she wanted and let her fall back asleep so that I could get a bit more sleep (again, probably not the right thing to do, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do) before having to be up and get to work.

Between one and two years old, Kensie and I had our ups and downs when it came to sleep (mostly downs for me). She’s an early riser and ready to greet the day with a grin, a trait she comes by honestly from my mom’s side of the family. I, on the other hand, am not a happy camper at 5 a.m. (or 4 a.m., or 6 a.m., or really even 7 a.m.); I prefer to sleep late (per my dad’s side of the family), an option that was hijacked on July 3, 2007.

So at two years old, Makensie and I are still battling when it comes to sleep (only now that she speaks in full sentences, the battle has become verbal). I put K down about 8 every night (after our nighttime routine of milk, PJs, teeth-brushing, book-reading, and lights out), and inevitably she wakes around 4 a.m. ready to hit the day head-on. So each morning when the moon’s still bright overhead, my daughter and I are arguing about whether it’s time to get up. “Baby, it’s still night-night.” “No it not! I wan go ustairs!” “Honey, see how it’s still dark outside? It’s night-night. Lay back down and I’ll cover you up.” “Noooooooo! I want in Mommy’s bay-ud!” Some mornings, I win, and she lies down and goes back to sleep for another hour or so. Many mornings, however, she (and the prospect of a few more winks) wins and ends up in my bed thrashing around, making demands for milk or her paci or cartoons or to go upstairs. But, inevitably, I wake exhausted and praying for the day when Kensie sleeps until the ripe hour of 7 a.m. Until that day comes, be wary of the redhead with bags under her eyes wearing her shirt inside-out and incessantly muttering the words, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . . Make. It. Through. This. Day.”

Update: Last night, Kensie slept until 5 a.m. (woo hoo!), woke up and chit-chatted with herself for a few minutes, then went back to sleep until 6:15 (rock on, girl!).