Tuesday morning, 7:53 am. I just finished loading the car and strapped Eva into her car seat. As I sigh, knowing I need to get out of the house about 15 minutes sooner to be on time, I hear Eva ask, “You have two coffees, Mommy?”
I look down. Yes, I do have two coffees: the mug of coffee I have relocated from the house to the car, as if I physically cannot put it down until it is empty, and the travel mug I will hold as soon as the house mug is empty. I also have a Red Bull in my lunch box and have said a little prayer that my reflux medication holds up and my ulcer does not start bleeding.
“Yup, Mommy has two coffees. Mommy is tired.”
“Oh.” And as if she does not play a part in my new state of exhaustion, she demands music, preferably Ke$ha or Lady Gaga.
With the arrival of our twin boys, Ben and Ryan, Eva has gone from 100% to 33.33% of my sleep problem. And while numbers still add to 100, the level of sleep deprivation has doubled with the addition of two more kids. The whole is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.
I love my kids, but looking at them without the fog of sleep deprivation would make me love them more. I lust for sleep. And the angst of my longing ranges from a dull to an angry pain.
But as the day progresses, I begin to dread nighttime—irony puts a fine point on life. The house gets quiet and slows down after Eva goes to bed, creating the meanest illusion ever. Just when it feels like I can breathe, the busy days suddenly turn into busy nights.
Lunches still need to be made, dishes still need to be done, and mouths still need to be fed. And until that magical chemical in the boys’ brains kicks in to let them know sleeping at night is a good thing, I still have to summon the strength to be awake and functional through the long, frustrating hours my brain knows are for sleep.
The dread is far worse than the anxiety of wondering if your child will wake during the night. Or wake the moment you try to do anything that does not require their assistance, like taking a shower, having sex, or—best of all—sitting quietly by yourself. The anticipation of crying and the sounds of phantom crying are awful side effects of post baby sleep disorder. I can be out of the house, without the kids, and hear crying.
There is no longer wondering if, but when. I know I will be dragged from bed no less than three times a night. On the good nights, Amy and I are up every two to three hours. I change the boys, hand them to Amy, their milk machine, and then crumble onto the blanket and pillow I have set up on the floor in the boys’ room.
Amy wakes me when it’s time to burp them and put them back to bed. If I am lucky I do not try to change them again, hand them back to Amy, or stack them on top on one another. All of which I have done multiple times. The other night, I realized I was rubbing one of their diapers with a baby wipe, having forgotten the important step of taking the diaper off first. And after exchanging a wet onesie for a new one, I heard Amy’s annoyed voice, asking a now common question during our blurry, middle of the night time together: “What are you doing?”
In that moment I was putting the sleeves of a long sleeve onesie on one of the boys’ legs as if they were pants.
During the bad nights, and there have been many, the boys are up every 20-30 minutes, needing a pacifier, snuggles, or help passing a gas bubble. Which, even in my state of sleep deprivation, makes me wonder how the boys can be so brilliant to figure out how to make it through the birth canal, but they can’t figure out how to burp.
On the really bad nights, Eva is up too, demanding one of us be with her until she falls back to sleep. More than once, Amy has tapped me on the foot to wake me after falling asleep on Eva’s floor or in her toddler bed. We are working on sleep training, again, but right now I seem to be sleeping anywhere than in my bed.
Once the sun comes up, burning off the expectation of sleep, and the coffee is brewed, I feel a little better. But the feeling of sleepwalking hangs on and I occasionally nod off to sleep in the middle of the day. I may be asleep right now, next to the bathroom of this coffee shop I wandered into looking for caffeine.
Despite feeling like I have wet brain, I have gained knowledge, infantile wisdom, even. And that’s what parenting is about. After all, if our kids can’t teach us things, what’s the point? I generally don’t have any idea what I am doing, but here is what I know: A night with two-hour intervals of sleep never felt so good after a crappy night of 30-minute bursts. Amy and I are totally united in our annoyance of the situation; we absolutely blame the kids and not each other. And every sleepless night gets us closer to the night we get to sleep again.