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what people don’t tell you about sleep



if there’s one thing that parents love to do, it’s to tell new parents about how awesome it is to be a parent. this advice is most often unsolicited from strangers you’ve never seen before nor will see again, who feel (nearly physically) compelled to share their experience or impart some wisdom with the newbies. standing in the coffee line, sitting down to dinner at a restaurant, minding your own business on public transit. those tiny little faces open up a world of conversation like nothing else possibly can.

have you successfully traversed the treacherous waters of new parenthood? congratulations! seriously, i applaud you for making it through. but i have to ask. are you tired? because you told me while i was still pregnant, and just after we’d given birth… that we can forget about sleeping ever again.

and of all the thoughtful, awful, and just plain insane things you told us, this is the one thing i actually took to heart. but you know what you didn’t tell me? how serious you were. maybe you tried, but that baggy-eyed, pleading, almost desperate look you gave me when you said the words somehow didn’t impart the utter seriousness of your declaration. never sleep again?

here’s what we, as doe-eyed, excited new parents don’t understand:

you’ll sleep, but only enough to know that you aren’t sleeping enough

in the beginning, sleep is hard, just like they say. you will walk around like a mombie telling everyone who will listen how tired you are (because it’s all you know now), but there has to be a light at the end of this tunnel – they keep telling you there is so there has to be. they also say to nap when she naps. but, she only naps for half an hour at a time, and in that half an hour you’re going to lie down and think about all the shit that has to be done that you don’t have the time or energy to get to and then you start to feel guilty about how you haven’t paid any attention to your partner and oh shit she’s awake time to get up can someone make me a coffee and shut the cat up? you lose track of time because there is no such thing any more, and when you do get more than an hour out of her, you wake up thinking you’ve been down for 5 only to realize you’re body just played a huge trick on you. nope, less than an hour bozo, get up and start moving again. practice the art of the 10 minute nap because sleep? what is sleep? a mythical creature. but that’s all about to change because…

they will tease you with regularity

at first, you are in the same boat as other new moms – up every hour, hour and a half to feed. we co-slept because it meant we both slept, which was more important. when we transitioned her, it was tough on me and i got even less sleep worrying whether she would be alright. but eventually they start to sleep through the night and you feel guilty, only sheepishly admitting your child is the white unicorn of the group when pointedly asked. then the developmental leaps hit, and that one time sleeping beauty will start to hate being in her crib, vehemently refuse her pacifier, and demand to nurse through the night. is it poetic justice? some sort of cosmic karma? she will fall into what you believe is a deep, peaceful sleep only to wake up the second she is more than a few inches away from your body. and this will happen over, and over, and over again. has your hair stopped falling out from the hormones? it will start again. it’s the newborn phase all over again and you will forget to eat, to drink, to bathe. but there is hope during the day right… you can sleep when they sleep? wrong…

they never nap like the books tell you they should

doctors and scientists and nurses are wonderful people who do studies and things of such nature and tell you what you should be doing with your child and when. ignore these “people of authority” because they don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about. (of course they do, but when you are this sleep deprived, everyone is your enemy.) they say these little babies should have two three- to four-hour naps a day, and sleep up to 10 hours a  night, or some such generalization. you will drive yourself mad aiming for these numbers when your child will fight sleep like it’s his job, finally close his eyes, only to wake up perfectly refreshed and ready to go a mere 10 to 15 minutes later. get anything done? not likely. all the chores in my house are halfway done because my lovely little is so tired from fighting sleep that after 10 minutes of being alone she demands to be picked up.

just give up having hopes and dreams for yourself. at least for the next year… year and a half… it will all go a lot more smoothly when you accept the poo under your nails, the spit-up on your shirt, and the constant sympathetic looks you’ll get from other new moms who are getting as much sleep (if not less) than you are.



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