Coming out of the fog of sleepless nights

Slowly coming out of the fog of sleepless nights is interesting. It takes weeks for the body to get into the new routine and to feel truly rested. It is obvious that mental clarity is slowly improving. I’m coming out of a thick fog of very sleepless nights.

Life with a new baby is always an adjustment. This time, while much easier in almost every way, was a longer period of sleepless nights—nearly 22 months of exhaustion, re-reading all of the sleep books, begging our physicians for help, analyzing everything from pajama size and texture to what our baby ate, asking mama groups for advice, trying all of the sleep strategies we could stomach, fearing the nights, declining invitations, going out for only an hour if at all, saying “maybe” much too often and having to cancel for various reasons shortly before an event plus coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Coming out of the fog. Life after sleepless nights.

I said “no” to friends so many times that I’m no longer invited to most things with some groups. That adjustment period is hard and can be lonely, but is also such a beautiful time to let go and just be in the moment with your new baby. I found that I would go in a wave of acceptance followed by a wave of trying to solve things. Acceptance was definitely the better state to be in.

I’m coming out of the fog. Coming out of the fog means I’m feeling like my best self again, but I miss holding that sweet baby in the quiet hours of the night. It means facing changes in friendships, enjoying the depth and ease of new friendships that started during harder times and sometimes, simply letting go as you see that things are different now.

Over the past month or so, I’ve started to have clarity again and I’ve started to feel like I can make plans, go out, get back to doing our favorite things and going to our favorite places. My husband recently took over night duty with our younger child. Our son has slept significantly better as a result of that and some clarity around his health. I’m not even attempting to analyze the situation, but I’m grateful. So grateful!

I stopped talking with friends about the sleep challenges because anyone who hasn’t dealt with it, just doesn’t get it. The recommendation to do cry it out was frequent and even after talking with a physician during an ear infection check for my son’s seventh ear infection, I was still told to do cry it out with a sick child who had consistent ear infections for months. I knew in my heart that it wasn’t right for us at the time with our circumstances. And it felt like our only answer most of the time. I now know that acceptance is a big part of it.

Coming out of the fog. Reflections on life after sleep deprivation.

Sleep is not something we think about much until we are without it. I took it for granted before having kids. Then it became my everything. My obsession.

Our first son woke up multiple times a night until he was 11 months old, when he finally switched and only woke once or twice if we were near him. At age two, he consistently slept through the night. I thought there was no way we would have a second child who would be similar with sleep, but we did.

Our little one woke up anywhere from three to six times a night until just a few weeks ago. When friends would complain that their 10-month-old was still waking once, I found myself frustrated and annoyed rather than helpful, kind and compassionate for my friend. Having a kid that wakes multiple times a night is a challenge I never understood until it was my life.

Sleepless nights are hard. It’s very difficult to be a good wife, mother and person when going on a few hours of very broken up sleep for more than 20 months. There came a point a month or so ago when my body was done. I’m not going to share personal health details here, but I will say that the signs were clearer than clear. I needed to figure this out because I physically couldn’t take it any longer.

Coming out of the fog means that I can now see just how much the lack of sleep affected my sense of well-being, my ability to focus and think clearly. Coming out of the fog means my baby is a toddler who speaks, runs, jumps, plays, laughs and it all happened so fast. Coming out of the fog means I’m starting to miss what I had just months ago. That’s parenting, isn’t it? It feels so hard when you’re in it, but you can’t get enough. You want it back the moment it’s gone.

Coming out of the fog means I have the energy to run and to play and to give it my all. Coming out of the fog means we can have date nights again. Coming out of the fog means that I fear the nights less and less. Coming out of the fog means I have new and different friends and I’ve lost others in the 22 months of saying “no” too often. It means that piles of laundry and dishes and toys and old baby clothes, while no fun to deal with, don’t overwhelm me anymore. Like most of parenting, coming out of the fog brings joy and relief, but also great yearning for what was and what will never be again.

Photos used with permission under the Creative Commons Zero. Photos by Kelly SikkemaDavid Mao and Krista Mangulsone.

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