I can only claim partial responsibility for the fights my partner and I had when our son was a newborn. While you might assume my partner shares the rest of the responsibility with me, I’m afraid that’s not the case. He’s actually pretty rational and even-tempered. No, I blame the sleep deprivation. It does crazy things to you, and inspires the majority of the fights couples have when they’re up with a baby all freakin' night long. There’s something about the exhaustion, the tears, and the never-ending darkness that totally messes with your mind. Before you know it, unimportant things seem significant and the important things seem downright life-changing and earth-shattering.
For the record, I wasn't exactly coherent when my sleep was interrupted on a regular basis, courtesy of our brand new baby. Mixing up days, forgetting what I got out of bed to do, having to stop to think (and check notes) to remember when my baby last ate was changed? Yeah, it was all par for the new parent course. However, when I lost almost a whole night of sleep, and my partner and I had an infant relying on us to meet his every need? Well, dear reader, that was a recipe for irrational, emotional explosions.
Of course, not all fights a couple will experience when they're both sleep-deprived are irrational. It's just that, well, mine definitely were. So, with that in mind, here’s a sampling of what topics were part of the melee:
The "Who Slept Less?" Fight
Is one of you a lighter sleeper than the other? Is one of you better at getting the baby back to sleep quickly, thus letting you get back to sleep quickly as a result? Did one of you go to bed earlier?
All of this adds up to one partner probably getting slightly less sleep than the other. While, of course, it's not a contest, it can still be a topic of contention.
The "Who Needs More Sleep?" Fight
This one is not to be confused with whoever has slept less, since not all exhaustion is created equally. Does one of you have work in the morning? Is one of you going to be up in 90 minutes to breastfeed, regardless of the baby's current sleeping status (or lack thereof)? Is one of you dangerously close to hallucinating because of your exhaustion? These factors should all be considered, in my opinion.
The "Who's Turn Is It To Change The Baby?" Fight
If only it were as simple as "whoever didn't change the baby last time." I mean, on the surface it seems like it could be, but when you add confusion and darkness and dream-like states into the mix, it's hard to even know when the last time was, let alone who handled it.
The "Who's Turn Is It To Hold The Baby?" Fight
Normally I enjoy cuddling babies, especially ones I've birthed myself. However, when a cuddle is required in the middle of the night as I'm entering the REM phase of sleep, it's hard to remember how pleasant it can be. All I can typically think about in those moments is how much I don't want to lift my head off the pillow. Actually, now that I think about it, I need to offer some apologies to my partner for how I occasionally reacted when it was my turn to hold the baby.
The "Who's Turn Is It To Feed The Baby?" Fight
Breastfeeding can complicate this argument, yes, but you'd be surprised at all the ways a breastfeeding mom can still find ways to include her partner in the process.
The "Who Is More Upset?" Fight
For every hint of frustration I've shown my husband, I'm holding back so much more. An argument picked over sleep deprivation is the perfect time to reveal just how much I'm holding it together, right? Right, guys? Hello?
The "What Song Do We Sing To The Baby?" Fight
Because if I have to sing, or even hear "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" one more time, there will be more than one person crying in this room.
The "Big Picture Parenting Decisions" Fight
What do you mean? Of course the morning after a sleepless night is the perfect time to discuss college savings plans, religion, identity, and when we should introduce Harry Potter to our children.
The "What The Person Not Holding The Baby Should Be Doing" Fight
Because sleep isn't really an option, is it? There's laundry to be done and bottles to be washed and lost pacifiers to track down. So yes, while I'm totally and completely thankful that my partner and I share these kinds of responsibilities, that doesn't always mean we totally agree with how and when they should be prioritized. Because, again, sleep deprivation.
The "Delirious Nonsense" Fight
I mean, some arguments just don't have a point. In fact, I'd even go as far as saying most arguments I found myself in when facing these sleep-free circumstances were totally pointless. It wasn't me talking, it was the two hours of sleep I'd gotten for the past three nights.