*This essay was originally published in the spring of 2007 in Augusta Parent.
As my due date draws closer, I’m starting to panic. Not because I’m afraid of pushing out another baby, but what I’m worried about is transforming into a walking, sleep-deprived “mombie” or, worse, a terrible, short-fused parent who yells more than laughs.
When I was pregnant with Madeline, I expected sleepless nights. With this baby, I’ve once again braced myself for nighttime nursing and an alarm clock that doesn’t stop buzzing (or should I say wailing?). What I didn’t prepare myself for was an energetic 2-year-old whose baby days are behind her but who still insists on waking up every couple of hours.
Although Madeline has never been what you’d call a good sleeper, we’d made tremendous progress. She was sleeping nearly 12 blissful hours most nights and taking a nap. Life was good.
Then, about three weeks ago, she decided that being in the horizontal position is akin to the apocalypse. To Madeline, bedtime is an end, if not of the world, then certainly the end to fun, to interacting with the people she loves the most and to a secure, well-lit kingdom where killer bumblebees (her latest nightmare subject) don’t menacingly buzz nearby.
Her boycott began subtly. First, she became a professional staller. “One more book.” “Use potty.” “Thirsty. Go get water.” “Turn light on.” “Stay with me.” All followed by “Peaaaaaassss.” This was frustrating but manageable. But when she started swinging her long legs over the side of her crib, my husband Dave and I decided it was time to make the move to a big-girl bed.
I made a big deal over the transition and though Madeline initially resisted, when she did finally drift off to the Land of Nod, she stayed there for a good 10 hours.
“Wow. That was easy,” I remember thinking.
Foolish, foolish woman!
Since then, Madeline has discovered that a big-girl bed has no boundaries. The first time she crawled into our bed, Dave and I were happy to have her wedged between us, but all night long she squirmed and sometimes even woke up enough to try to strike up a conversation. Meanwhile, I tried to ignore the baby’s nightly kung-fu routine in my womb. This was not going to work.
Time for Plan B, so I set up a cozy pallet beside our bed. It worked the next night. I woke up to pee and discovered Madeline sprawled across the pallet sleeping soundly. Two points for Mommy!
That was the last time I scored. Our little jack-in-the-box pops out of bed constantly. At first I tried the gentle but firm approach of immediately putting her back to bed each time.
On the first night I lost count at 97. Even though I’m a stickler for consistency, I finally gave in, toted my stupid body pillow into her room and plopped next to her. She groped for my hand in the dark and held it close. The sweet gesture helped melt some of my frustrations, but when she fidgeted for another hour or so, I was ready to scream or cry — I’m not sure which.
Every night it’s been something new, but I’m determined to overcome these bedtime battles. I’m hoping we’ll be able to solve some of our shut-eye (or lack thereof) issues before I’ve got two nocturnal babes on my hands.
And yet, every time I finally get her to sleep I can’t help but stay awake a little bit longer to watch her doze. Maybe I just want to cherish the rare moment (she sleeps!), though I suspect it’s something more. Before I know it Madeline won’t need me at night. One day I’ll sneak in and stare at her sleeping form, hoping I’ll see the baby again — the one I thought would never give me a moment’s rest.
All these phases we go through — even the bleary-eyed, wakeful ones — are only blips in our history together. So the next time Madeline tugs on my hand in the wee morning or asks for the twentieth cup of water, I need to remind myself, “This too shall pass… and one day I’m going to miss it.”