It's not the late-night outings, freedom to come and go as I please, going out to dinner....with just the husband, or even the ability to make a simple sandwich for dinner. No, it's none of those things. It all comes down to one word. One very simple word that has become so very precious to me. Sleep.
Before children, I regularly slept until nine or 10 a.m. on the weekends. I've always had trouble going to sleep early, so I made up the weekly deficit on the weekends. No more. I miss sleep. I miss it as much as I would a lost love. I miss it deep down in my soul. I miss it and need it and want it back so badly.
I feel so depleted and alone when I hear tell of these little humans that began sleeping through the night at a mere 6 weeks. Or even 6 months. With Ethan, I had no idea what to expect, and what I got was a baby that slept no more than one hour and 45 minutes at a time. 24/7. For months. How I survived it, I'll never know. Eventually, eventually, just two months before Dylan was born, I finally got Ethan in his own bed sleeping through the night. Only then I was up three or more times to empty a bladder overtaken and crushed by a growing uterus.
Needless to say, the bar was set pretty low when Dylan was born. I hoped that he was a better sleeper than Ethan, but I didn't count on it. Imagine my bliss when the child started waking just once a night a few weeks in to his little life. Wow. Amazing. Essentially, he was sleeping through the night, and I felt so lucky.
And then came work.
Just a week after I returned to work, Dylan did something I had little knowledge of. He reverse cycled. It's a pitfall of breastfeeding, I hear. Sometimes our little cherubs will miss that closeness and that smell of mommy so much that they save up all their feedings for the nighttime hours. Nevermind that I was being asked to perform in my normal capacity at work. That child began waking three to four times a night. And there was nothing I could do about it. Because getting a baby to understand the pressures of work and the need for sleep isn't possible. Forcing a baby to eat more during the day doesn't happen.
The shock sent me reeling. Here was this precious baby that was giving me the gift of sleep when I was home only to rip it right out from under me when I returned to work. And yet, I carried on.
At almost 16 months, Dylan still wakes once or twice a night. And he's not consistent. It could be 1 a.m. It could be 5:00 a.m. Or it could be both. The lucky part is that I've long since quite breastfeeding (10 months was our mark), so my husband and I can switch off nights. Seems like a good deal. Seems like I should get a good chunk of sleep every other night.
And then entered the nightmares.
Ethan. The child that finally started sleeping through the night at 3.5 years old is now waking at least three times a week with nightmares. And he doesn't always wake. Sometimes, he just cries in his sleep and I have to wake him. And let's not go with night terrors. These dreams are vivid, and I'm sure they seem real in his mind until he wakes up and realizes that they...well...aren't. Just this week, he dreamed that his dad had several heads trying to pop out of his head. That must have been terrifying.
So the thing I miss most about my childless existence is not about parties or freedom or less responsibility. It's simply sleep. And yes, someday I will sleep again, but when you're in the thick of things, it just doesn't feel that way.