Saturday, March 21, 2009

Waking up in a single bed with my three year old, again

There's some great discussion going on over at Momformation about sleep.

Sleep. Everybody's talking about it. Nobody's getting it.

We claim to treasure it. As parents we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy making sure our kids get enough of it. Yet when it comes to ourselves, we brush it off as expendable. A luxury. An obstacle to productivity. A waste of time even.

"I can sleep when I get old," I was fond of saying when I was a college party girl. "Life is too short to sleep. What if I miss something?"

Well... now I am old, possibly prematurely, and I'm dying for sleep. Dying for it. I crave it like a vampire craves blood. I feel the effects of its deprivation daily. I am a bitch, I am short tempered, irritable, slow to smile and laugh. I am ugly. And nobody likes, or needs, an ugly Mommy.

Rather than sleep when the opportunity for a nap arises, I just take a walk, or stuff my face with simple carbohydrates, chocolate, toast, a cup of coffee, or tea, and forge ahead with my day. It's like a contest of self abuse. But there's no prize money.

Like this blogger, I can still spend hours putting my three-year-old to bed. And once she's asleep, I can be sure she will wake up again, and again, looking for me, screaming for me, begging for me to come back to her.

"Mummmy I neeeeeeed you," she'll shriek in the night. "I want you in my bed. I want to cuddle you."

Despite how adorable she may be, when I'm woken in the night, from a deep, increasingly rare REM session, the sounds of my adorable, needy child do not bring out my maternal side. No. They bring out my dark side. They bring out my selfish side. My inner sleep-deprived child oozes out of me unchecked. And the ooze is thick. The ooze is sticky. It's not at all pretty.

"Isla," I hiss through clenched teeth, as I lay down beside her. (It's either hiss or cry.)
"Mummy is trying to sleep. Mummy needs sleep just like you do. Please, please, please, stop yelling and let me sleep.Please," I beg.

She slips her warm, skinny arms firmly around my neck and pulls me tightly to her.

"I'm sorry, Mummy," she says. "I'm sorry."

With those two words, slipping quietly, sincerely, from her sweetest little mouth, the auto focus suddenly kicks in I begin to see clearly. This is a tiny little child, looking for the reassurance of her warm mother in the dark. Why does it anger me so?

I soften, breathe deeper, and let my big, tired, body relax under her grip. "I wike to cuddle you, Mummy," she whispers. "You're my Mummy."

When I wake up, cramped and stiff, in her single bed, again, her small leg is thrown over my torso. She's always touching me. Her little red lips are puffing in and out steadily, peacefully. She is beautiful.

She opens her round blue eyes in the early morning sun. "There you are, Mummy," she says.
"I found you."

When not sleeping in a single bed with my thee year old, I'm dealing with the increasingly emotional antics of my seven year old.


me said...

It's the cuddle part, and the early morning sweetness that makes me forget I spent nearly the entire night awake while my 2 year old mades herself comfortable in my bed. Those eyes, those hot little hands, and tiny kisses - all so perfect in the light of day. But I second you on the cranky - no sleep makes me so snappy. A tired me is not a fun mama - or wife either for that matter. I'd feel worse about the wife part if I didn't know he snored peacefully the whole of the night. :)

Stephanie said...

You just described most of my nights. Before bedtime I tell my son Jonas he doesn't have to call for me. I tell him I am only in the next room and to grab his bear and cuddle with it. "I won't call you," he says. But what do I end up hearing in the middle of the night, "Mama!" " Mama!" Some nights are better but not really. I wish he would just sleep through the night. Some nights he makes my heart melt by saying, "I just need you in here with me. Mommy's are supposed to be with their babies." I think he and Isla are the same age. He was born November 2005.

Lara said...

I feel the same way, so horrible when I'm cranky-evil at being woken up during the night. They're just sweet little ones looking for comfort from their mama...but mama needs her sleep! I swear I was built to cease functioning properly if my sleep is ever interrupted. I need solid sleep. Ah, sleep, how I love you!

Daria said...

I was just completely sleep deprived for over a week due to tossing and turning (too much unsettled in my head). Although I LOVE that precious cuddy time in the morning my 5 year olds still give me, it's hard to be cheery at 6am in the dark with what seems like 2 hours of sleep. Still, I put on a welcoming face...then dive into my coffee as soon as possible...

Emma said...

Oh bless her little cotton socks! They are so sweet, yet so, sooooo exhausting! And when you are in the middle of it you feel like it will go on forever, and then suddenly it stops. Ruby has (and i'm not sure if i should write this, in case I jinx myself) slept ALL night in HER OWN BED for the past week. She still calls me every night, but just has a drink of water and then goes back to sleep ON HER OWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have no idea why, but I ain't questioning it too closely! It's only taken 9 years (3 kids worth) of not sleeping to get back to something that almost resembles pre baby nights. And I do actually miss those little warm hands patting my face and the sweet vanilla breath.... but not that much! Hope your visit is going well and the girl's aren't too unsettled.

jer and lou's crew said...

amen almost 3 yr old has only slept through about 10 nights in her WHOLE LIFE and i am tired...i won't let her in my bed and i like my bed too much to go sleep in her' i nicely put a bed down for her on the floor next to mine...well just for example she came in at about 11pm just as i was about to hit that ASLEEP stage and starts screaming and crying and continued to do so for an hour or so...i don't know why and most nights i don't even think she knows why...i'm tired, onry...mean and ugly and my pour family pays for it most of the time...i need sleep...this too shall pass i suppose...did i mention i'm tired...

Jen said...

This is exactly why we have a king-size bed in our room and a full-size bed in my 3-yr-old's room. There is always some variation of musical beds, so no one is fully rested but at least there's enough room.
Probably all the changes in your life right now are making Isla a little cuddlier at night. Just be patient with her -and yourself!! you're not a bitch!- I hope it will get better soon.

littlelou said...

I am right there with you Betsy. I hate when my sleep-deprived self rears it's ugly head as it often does (night and day). I have repeated time and time again that I need to go to bed earlier and I am so much better off when I do. But then either self indulgence or exhaustion sets in and I can't seem to get my booty in bed early enough. My daughter is just 3 years old and has always seemed to need at least one nightly check-in.
I'm tired thinking about it...

Betsy said...

As cliche as it sounds: I'm so glad I'm not alone in all of this. Especially the having a three year old who doesn't sleep through the night, but also in feeling far from maternal sometimes when being woken up one too many times.
Thanks to all.

littlelou said...

It has helped me so much to know that I am not alone as well on both fronts: to have a 3 yr. old that doesn't sleep through the night AND the darker side of sleep-deprivation. My behavior when I've hit the wall with the whole thing is a source of much self-incrimination. I often think about you and how things are going in that front. It helps me to know you are out there!