Friday, June 21, 2013

Parenthood: Week 4 – Sleep?!?

In the months leading up to Ollie’s birth many people talked to me about sleep, more accurately the lack of sleep associated with a having a newborn baby. People said to “bank” sleep by sleeping more before the baby came and to really enjoy the sleep you can get. So how are we doing with sleep?

Well, it’s kind of an adventure.

First off, it’s not like you can actually “bank” sleep. I found that even if the human body worked in a way that you could bank sleep, getting a lot of sleep the month before your baby is born doesn’t really happen. Between the ridiculous amount of things that you need to get done, most woman who are nine months pregnant do not sleep soundly and when Diana would get up, I would sometimes wake up. Also there’s the whole “it could happen any minute now,” which makes the sleep less relaxed.

The first three nights of Ollie’s life I slept in the hospital room. There was this big blue recliner chair. The top part reclined all the way flat and combined with the foot rest created a mostly flat sleeping surface. It’s was kind of like one of those seats on international flights that flatten all the way down. It worked as a sleeping surface but let’s just say by the third night, my back wasn’t very happy.

When we finally got home, it was nice to get some sleep in our own bed but newborn parent sleep is a unique feeling. I wanted to sleep but I was also worried about Ollie. I probably got up to check on him twenty times the first night he was home. While I don’t do this anymore, I find myself getting up in the middle of the night sometimes just to watch him sleep.

This wouldn’t be such a crazy thing to do besides that fact that we are getting up every couple hours to feed Ollie, correction: Diana is getting up every couple hours to feed him.

I don’t need to get up with Diana but the first couple nights I tried to. It takes time for babies to get in the swing of feedings and there’s a lot of little things that are a challenge when dealing with a newborn during the night. And honestly, it’s hard to ignore a newborn crying and sleep through it . . . or at least that's what I initially thought.

This past week I haven’t been getting up for the middle of the night feeding. If I hear that he’s being especially fussy, I’ll get up to help Diana out. Most mornings I’ve been getting up around 5am to help change diapers and settle Ollie after his early breakfast.

It’s working out pretty well, and it gives Ollie and I a chance to bond in the early morning when Diana goes to sleep for a couple hours. We watch television, I sing songs to him and we talk about life.

Yes, I feel sleep deprived. While I feel ok in the early morning, the late morning and afternoon can be brutal. We’ve learned to sleep when Ollie sleeps and family nap time is a great idea. Buffy is really good at helping us all get some shut-eye. She’s always in the mood for a good nap.

I miss getting a good night’s rest. While things are tough for me, It’s even rougher for Diana and she’s doing a great and powering through these last couple weeks without whining about not getting sleep.

Sleep feels different now. I’m listening for Ollie and for Diana when I sleep and I never know what kind of night it’s going to be. Maybe Ollie will get up many times or only once. Maybe Ollie will cry and it will not get me up or maybe I’ll sleep through it.  It’s different every night. 

So to expectant parents:
  1. You can't bank sleep, so don't bother trying. 
  2. Brace yourself: the first couple nights will be rough.
  3. Sleep when the baby sleeps.  This is much easier said than done, but try.
  4. Sometimes the sleep seems like a small price to pay for being a parent and other times it feels like a huge sacrifice.  Dig deep, you have a bigger reservoir inside of you than you think.  It's part "suck it up and deal," part "make it happen" and part "your baby is totally worth it." 

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