Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sleep and the 5 Stages of Grief

Thankfully, as I said, Linus is slowly beginning to sleep more during the night. But, that whole not sleeping thing that comes as a package deal with parenthood is rough. It has probably been the biggest adjustment for me since welcoming Linus into the world. Ask almost anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that this mama loves her sleep, with a capital "loves".

I went through a mourning process when I had to say good-bye to it for a while. And, I continued to mourn it night after night, because that's the thing about sleep - you need it every night, and every night that you don't get it is hard. I really think I kept cycling through the five stages of grief (and still do some weeks... oy).

So, I've written a handy-dandy guide for other new moms (and dads, too!) to help you recognize if you're mourning the loss of sleep and how to complete the cycle so you can move on to acceptance:


You've just dozed off. Suddenly, you're abruptly awoken when your hyper-active parent sense starts tingling and you hear those first, soft utterances - a whine, a coo, a cough - through the monitor. But you ignore it. It's a fluke! The baby can't possibly be awake yet. Somehow thinking your movements and noises will have an affect on the baby from one room over, you lay as still a possible and breath softly in an attempt not to stir them further.

Then it happens again. This time, louder.

You groan. You shake your head "no". You tense up. You'd just gotten comfortable... the baby can't be waking up yet. He just can't be.


The whine turns into a cry. No more denying it. He's up.

You open your bloodshot eyes and feel a small sense of rage at being pulled so unapologetically from your slumber. The baby's cries start to sound like nails on a chalk board. You throw off the comforter and stomp toward the nursery, possibly slamming the door on your way out.

Your anger may escalate with each subsequent wake up call. There might be profanity involved.


After calming your baby, he is finally nursed, settled, dry, cozy and snoozing in your arms. You sigh, finally seeing sleep in your very near future.

You lay him down, ever-so-gently into the crib, so as not to disturb.

But... as soon as he hits the mattress, his eyes pop wide open. He  may start to cry again, or he may start to giggle at you, ready to play (jury is out on which reaction is actually worse in the middle of the night...).

You try again with shushing, bouncing, and rocking, but to no avail. You try bringing him into bed with you and settling in together. This lasts about for about 30 seconds (just long enough to feel sleep begin to set in) when he starts scratching your face and climbing you. You get up and use your very best baby settling techniques with minimal effect.

You are growing ever more sleepy by the second and want nothing more than to curl up like a big toasty cinnamon bun in your bed.

You glance at the clock and realize it's been nearly two hours since your started this process and you begin to feel desperate. Precious nighttime hours are dwindling.  In an act of desperation, you find yourself begging and pleading with your baby to "please, please, please, for the love of God, just GO TO SLEEP!".


The baby, completely ignoring your desperate pleas and possible attempts at exhausted logic, is still staring at you with nary a hint of sleepiness in their eyes. Your over tiredness and frustration begin to overtake you. You might feel like you're never going to sleep again. You may look outside and see the dark windows of your neighbors homes and think you are the only person in whole world who is awake. There may or may not be tears.


Sooner or later, the sun comes up and brings with it clarity. There's nothing else you can do tonight. You've exhausted your resources and are past the point of exhaustion yourself. You call it a night and move on to your first cup of coffee for the day while patting yourself on the back for making it through another sleepless night with (most of) your sanity in tact. Your baby smiles and snuggles with you and turns on the cute, just high enough so that you forget your anger and depression, and reminds you that the sleepless nights really are worth it. You begin to feel new hope, but still mentally begin the count down to nap time...

Congratulations! The cycle is complete.


Jennifer Shelby said...

Ouch! And you are still functioning enough to write coherent sentences?? Here's to you. And Linus, give mommy a break!

Amanda said...

I hope that your little one gives you a break soon. Stomach issues have been keeping me up every night since Saturday and it is not fun.

I am such a creature of habit and I know that someday in the future a baby is totally going to change all of my daily habits including sleep.

Brittany said...

I should probably have added that things really are quite a lot better. Probably more so than I give Linus credit for; for at least the last month, he's only been up once or twice (although, he does have a pesky habit recently of starting the day at 4 am).

I came up with the idea for this post when we were really in the thick of it a few months ago, but didn't get around to seeing it to fruition until now :)