The old adage, “sleep when the baby sleeps,” is not my favorite. There needs to be six to twelve caveats added, like, “as long as somewhere else is watching them,” and, “as long as you’ve had a chance to change out of your days-old clothes and shower,” or, “as long as you’ve had something to eat in the last few hours so you don’t confuse fainting with sleeping.” Of course, yes, sleeping while the baby sleeps sounds logical enough, but the emotional stage of trying to sleep with a newborn in the house tell a slightly different story.
I should probably take a moment to mention that I’m, um, slightly more anxious than some other parents I know. No, no, it’s OK; I can admit it and I've learned to live with it and, well, I'm just not ashamed. However, I also think there are more than a few parts of the parenting experience that make us all, collectively, nervous, so allowing ourselves to drift into a state of unconsciousness while our tiny person is present takes some getting used to. Couple that somewhat odd situation (I mean, how in the hell do you sleep when the tiny person you made may or may not need something?) with the very real fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and, well, no one is sleeping anytime soon. (Yes, this just took a very real, very dark turn. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood, my friends.)
Thankfully, we have baby monitors, sleep-training systems, and that new-parent exhaustion that eventually catches up with us to make it all come together. However, in the meantime, here’s what the reality of trying to sleep with a newborn nearby actually looks like:
Stage 1: Innocent Optimism
I’ve been sleeping my whole life! Of course I can sleep with a newborn at home. If he can figure out how to sleep, I can figure out how to sleep. This is going to be fine.
Stage 2: Subtle Hopefulness
Oh, um, well, I suppose there’s a lot of other things I could and should do while he sleeps (like count his breaths), but I’m still going to give napping a go. I think.
Stage 3: Gentle Fatigue
I’m totally going to be able to nap, because I’m already starting to feel a little sleepy. It’s almost as if the fact that this baby eats every two hours around the clock is starting to catch up to me.
Stage 4: Seriously Tired
*yawn* Yep, this is going to be fine. I’ll just turn the baby monitor up to full volume and it’ll be like white noise and everything is totally perfect. I can handle this.
Stage 5: Burst Of Energy
What’s this? Why am I suddenly unable to sit still? I feel an undeniable urge to go check on my son and then re-check him again and again and, you guessed it, again. Maybe I’ll throw in a load of laundry and start the dishwasher, too. I could also start training for a marathon since I've never done one of those (a fact I just realized at this very moment).
Stage 6: Settling Back Down
Nope, never mind. I would much rather lay down than do any one of the many chores I have waiting for me. You know, like any sane person. Good thing that burst of energy was short-lived.
Stage 7: Tossing And Turning
If only laying down was the same as sleeping, right? I mean, if that was the case, this would be so easy. Wait. Hold on, you guys. Was that a noise from the monitor?
Stage 8: Borderline Desperation
If I don’t sleep now, when am I ever going to sleep again? Has there been a record of anyone who went her child’s entire life without sleeping? If I don’t sleep now, I might die.
Stage 9: Google-Induced Stress
Seriously, what is that sound? Is his sleeping position normal? What if his diaper needs to be changed? What does the internet say about all of this?
Stage 10: Blank Staring At The Baby Monitor
*no coherent thoughts forming at this time*
Stage 11: Wide-Eyed Panic
I have serious doubts about functioning as a parent on a long-term basis. Also, why does everything feel so much more intense when you’re tired?
Stage 12: Hazy Semi-Sleep
This is better than nothing, I suppose. It’ll have to do, at least for the next twelve minutes, until he’s ready to eat again.