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a nap note to new moms

hey ladies, i see you there, all wide-eyed and excited, simultaneously loving and hating every minute of this pregnancy experience.

you’ve already given up coffee and boozing and sushi and deli meat, stopped lifting things over your head, discovered the joys of morning sickness, which you quickly learned was a misnomer, seeing as it usually strikes whenever the hell it wants. sadly mourned your old figure the first time you couldn’t button your jeans, or suffered through a terrible new experience called “indigestion.” (i lived with a bottle of gaviscon by my side.)

no matter if you skipped into it without trying or put in years of work to get to where you are today, pregnancy, birth, becoming a mother, these are all beautiful and exciting things!

let me tell you, your world is about to change in the most wonderful and terrifying way, but there is one thing i am sure you will miss more than rip roaring friday nights and lazy sundays, last-minute meet ups or jaunts across the globe…

a-younger-well-rested-me

back when i didn’t know the meaning of “tired”

in anecdotal tales, friends and family and health professionals will tell you how important it is for you to sleep. sleep when the baby sleeps, take naps when someone else can watch the baby for a bit. i can say from the trenches, that is easier said than done, goddamnit! but sleep is as important to you as it is to your newborn because it provides the restoration your mind and body need to deal with the insane new challenges that are about to come your way.

as someone who has missed out on quality sleep for the last two years – because of an almost crippling fear of SIDS, co-sleeping, bed-sharing and a partner who snores like a locomotive – i can attest to the importance of sleep, and how the lack of sleep is more likely to change who you are and how you react, than the simple act of becoming a parent.

i’ve never been a patient person, i’m short tempered and firey, though most people are spared the fireworks of my anger. when i’m particularly tired, however, i’m apt to snap at the smallest thing. it’s like the few days before your period shows up when you’re ultra testy and you can’t put your finger on why. in these times, my reactions seem overblown and out of proportion. and then i feel f*cking guilty.

not only that, sleeplessness has changed me from a once “vivacious” and intelligent writer to a mom-bie. all those videos and jokes and memes about leaving your keys in the fridge and standing up only to forget why you stood are true. in my case, much more troubling, since i’ve been trying my damndest to make a go of working while taking care of dylan. what once may have taken a few hours now takes me days as i struggle to come up with the right word or turn of phrase. instructions i may have breezed over need to be read and re-read, and my attention span has devolved to the level of a two year old. that may also have to do with the fact that i spend most of my days with a two year old. she’s rubbing off on me. though her ability to sleep deeply and soundly are not.

hey-mom

this is what my naps look like

were-you-trying-to-nap

they say it’s important for you to take care of yourself and to put yourself first. yes, i believe this. but in my humble opinion, before the manicures and the girls nights out, even if your little one isn’t sttn (sleeping through the night, for the uninitiated, and they likely aren’t, because that’s not the norm) you need to get at least one or two nights a week where you sleep through the night.

how do you get more sleep? ask your partner, as your mother, ask a neighbor, ask a trusted friend. do what you have to do, because sleep is your saving grace. we’ve never met, and i know you’re a different person when you haven’t had enough sleep.

sleep tips from a mom who doesn’t sleep

that sub may be a little misleading. of course i sleep, but am i really sleeping? there’s not a day goes by i don’t wake up dreading the light and knowing that shortly after my feet hit the floor and it all begins again i’m going to feel the inevitable exhaustion that starts rolling like a pebble down hill, picking up steam and crashing into me by early to mid afternoon. one of the most disappointing things i’ve discovered is a seeming inability to process caffeine in a useful way. i’ll still drink it but it gives me more anxiety than energy. mental alertness? zilch.

i can usually successfully navigate a day cleaning, working, playing, all the important things you’re supposed to do. sometimes i phone it in. i can’t always say i do it with a smile. as the day starts to wear on me, my nerves fray. it starts to feel like her defiance is a personal attack, when it obviously isn’t. or maybe it is, who knows? that’s not the point. i want to suggest a few ways you can get some extra sleep when you start to feel like an extra from the walking dead (complete with puke and other unknown stains).

the-dream

sanctuary!

are you one of those people who lies awake staring at the ceiling and going over every little thing? or maybe you just feel like you need to catch up on binge watching all of the office because it’s on. if you have trouble falling asleep, try getting yourself into habits around sleeping. we do sleep associations for children with things like sleep sheep and bed time routines, so they should work on you, right? an hour before bed, turn off the electronics, turn off or down the lights. pick up a book, or talk to your other half. if your brain doesn’t like to shut down, you should practice mindfulness exercises or remind yourself that whatever problems seem pressing right now will also be pressing when you get up. i tell myself to put aside whatever worry i’m fretting or list i’m running through til the morning – there’s nothing i can do from bed, and i’m sure as hell not getting anything done if i don’t get any sleep.

you know what i’ve found helps? delta wave soundtracks. relaxing music or sounds, like what they play at the spa. i don’t know if they help me get to a deeper level of sleep, but they definitely put me out. my eye lids are usually pretty heavy after about 15 minutes of music. (yellow brick cinema has a really great youtube selection of songs for relaxation and sleep.)

a date night doesn’t always have to be dinner and a movie or something outrageous. remember how restorative sleep is? i know i was pretty resentful of his ability to fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, and stay that way during the many nighttime feedings. but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t tired in his own right. guaranteed your both craving some extra zzzs, so ask grandma or someone else to take the baby for a few hours while you both catch up on some much needed beauty sleep. your ability to communicate will improve, and you’ll love each other more for it. we haven’t tried it yet, but it’s always my first suggestion.

it should go without saying, but steer clear of caffeinated beverages (pops, coffee, regular or green tea, etc) before bed (i used to try to stay away from coffee after 3pm but seeing as it does nothing for me anyway …), and foods that can give you indigestion. stomach trouble is a surefire sleep killer. i hate having to wake up because my esophagus is on fire.

the-reality

but not really

lastly, your bedroom should be a sanctuary, as the SO so fondly quotes oprah, “the bedroom is for sleeping and making babies.” i wouldn’t say that’s verbatim but we get the gist. i’m guilty of my bedroom being too much of a multi-tasker. we sleep, work, watch tv, play and eat in here. ideally, the room would be tv and device free, uncluttered and comfortable. we’ll get there. there are many ways you can make your bedroom more peaceful, and if you don’t feel like perusing pinterest right now, this link from apartment therapy should prove useful.

take it from someone who knows, and counts the minutes until help arrives. sleep will save you from becoming a version of yourself you swore you never would. sleeplessness may open your eyes and offer you a unique insight into what some parents are going through, but you don’t need to be exhausted to feel a connection with the other moms at the park. now, who’s ready for a nap?

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