“Goodnight,” I say, kissing him. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Then a whispered plea. Please sleep.
The chances of him sleeping from this 2:40 a.m. tuck-in until morning are next to none. The chances of him sleeping until 5 a.m. are…okay. I give it even odds. But he’s not likely to get to even 6 a.m. before waking up.
Which means I’m going to be waking up. Again.
I haven’t had more than four hours of sleep in a row since the beginning of October. And that’s rare. Really rare. Sometimes I get three in a row (more often lately – fingers crossed) but too often it’s two hours between wake-ups, or two and a half if I’m lucky.
As we enter this sixth month with Ethan, I now know with much greater certainty that sleep deprivation was a huge contributor to my PPD with Connor. I look back and wish we had done something different, but I honestly don’t know what that would have been. We tried everything.
We tried a night of bottles so I could sleep when Connor was three months old, after which he refused to take a bottle for months as if punishing me for wanting to sleep. It was after that option was taken away—that one thing that would let me sleep sometimes instead of having to feed him—that I started to feel like I was going to die. From exhaustion. From desperation. From despair.
I don’t have that issue this time, thank goodness. I started to feel those same feelings of being desperate for sleep, thinking about it all the time, wondering how long it will last this time, and I asked for help. I can’t do it again, and luckily I have a husband who’s at home and can get up with the kids in the mornings so I can sleep just a little bit more.
I am feeling it, though. I stood in front of a shelf in the grocery store last week for at least 10 minutes before I was able to choose an item and put it in my cart. My brain just wasn’t processing.
I’m clumsy. I walk into things a lot and am always sporting a bruise or three. My synapses just aren’t connecting.
I stood in front of the toaster the other day waiting for it to pop and then realized I hadn’t put any bread in. The next day I managed to make toast for myself, but then without thinking I cut it into four squares the way Connor likes it. My neurons are firing, but perhaps not quite in the right order. (But that’s okay; toast in little squares is actually pretty good.)
I spend a lot of time looking at Ethan these days. I’m soaking him in. Breathing in his smell and imprinting the rolls of his thighs on my fingers. I want to remember what his baby laugh sounds like and appreciate the gift of watching a person learn to navigate the world. He will be our last baby and there are many things about that fact that leave me a bit teary.
But the lack of sleep isn’t one of them. When my brain rebels against wakefulness and my eyelids refuse to stay open I remember: It’s the last time. I won’t have to do this again.
I want it to be over, this quest for sleep over which I have no real control.
But at least I know this: It’s the last time.