I wish I had some profound thoughts on motherhood this week. Really I do. Really. Because if there’s anyone in need of a profound thought, it’s me. Mostly my thoughts have been binary instructions like, “Breathe” and “Eat carbon-based solids to live” and “Don’t jump from the second story.”
The problem is simple: Sleep. And the fact that Sleep broke up with me back in July. Ever since I’ve been courting it, trying to win it back, to prove I’m still an attractive partner and would do well by Sleep should he ever want to be with me again. One time I had a friend say of me, “You gotta catch her between the 9’s, folks.” And it’s true. After 9 p.m. I’m an angry dingbat and before 9 a.m. I have the intelligence of a cucumber. An organic cucumber. But still.
And since I’m going on 15 weeks with nary an 8-hour stretch to my name, I don’t think it should be surprising that I’m fighting off depression and a short temper almost 100% of my waking hours. It’s like I’ve been cheating the mommy gods for this long and just now the curse has caught up with me. I don’t know why Week 14 has been the magic week. Maybe it’s something to do with Halloween, but this is much worse than Reese’s-based muffin toppage — the foundational Halloween curse upon which all other curses are based.
I read somewhere that new mommies lose 800 hours of sleep the first year. That means in a mommy playgroup with five women, 4,000 hours of sleep have been lost between them. Which is 166 days. Almost HALF of an entire year. So two mommy groups put together constitute an entire year of lost sleep. You’ve heard of Rip Van Winkle? This is the reverse, but with bowls of Cheerios instead of bowling in the Catskills. Sounds like a lively group of women, don’t you think? You should join us sometime. I promise you will hug your pillow in gratitude later, even if your pillow is a hard rock on the ground somewhere in the Serbian wilderness.
I’m also in this sad state because Drew was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks of age, and Madeline isn’t. Ah, it’s a powerful thing, isn’t it, An Expectation? Not that I should be surprised. I Baby Wise-d Drew out the wazoo, got him ship-shape like it was my only reason for being, and with her, well, it just hasn’t been as possible. Sort of possible, the whole sleep-scheduling thing, but not AS possible. Or maybe I’ve simply lacked the will, a will that has been worn down by three years of toddler tantrums, ear infections and ground-in carpet crap.
And so, will-less, sleepless and a little crazy just for charm, I will now describe for you the top three fantasies that get me through the worst days of sleep-deprivation. I'm not proud of this escapism, but for what it's worth:
1. The Mountain Cabin. It has two-story windows overlooking a soft flat slope of a hill, pine trees in the foreground, the whole image muffled by a constant, silent rush of snow. Slow breathing. There is a fire in the corner to my left, not roaring, dying out, still warm. I’m on a couch, lost somewhere in a downy comforter. I’ve just woken up, drifting pleasantly into awareness as if from the bottom of a warm pool, and my mother has brought me a plate of biscuits and gravy. The steam rises. I eat it and it doesn’t make me gain any weight, in fact it makes my calves more toned and my personality more sparkling, and I drift back into a dreamless sleep as the snow whirls outside. It’s as if the snow itself is asleep and doesn’t know it’s falling.
2. The Hospital. My hair looks great, flowing over my shoulders and down over my hospital gown. I’m a little pale, but in a beautiful way, like Snow White, with everybody congregated around me appreciating all kinds of things they had never really noticed before. I’m not in any pain; nurses bring me meals from Macaroni Grill (this is where the believability breaks down), and I sleep because the doctor says I “must be made to rest,” as if he walked straight out of 1909 and recognizes a delicate constitution when he sees it. No one to care for, no one to wake up for, just hanging on to life and everybody around me aware of just how much I had been doing before my unfortunate episode.
3. The Rapture. I defy you to find a Christian woman of childbearing years who was a teenager when the Left Behind series came out that hasn’t had this fantasy. I’ve been having this fantasy, actually, ever since I was a little girl preparing for piano recitals, looking to the heavens for Jesus and his angels to rescue me from all my earthly woe. And then in college before a big exam and I would be studying in the library carrel thinking “What good is all this torturous cramming if Jesus is coming in the morning? Chaff! Chaff in the wind!” I don’t know if Jesus would approve of us looking to his Second Coming like a get-out-of-jail free card, but you know that someday a mommy will be having this fantasy and it actually WILL happen just like she dreamed it would, and why shouldn’t that woman be me? Is Jesus just going to wait until no one is fantasizing about his return except for pure motives of uniting with him in glory? I think not. Of course, maybe that’s why it’s been 2,000 years.
And that’s about it. Sometimes I just need to crawl up into one of these like a snail whenever it's all just too much. When I can't crawl into bed, that is.