Funny things happen when you’re sleep deprived. Like, for example, when I was thinking about starting a blog post it took me a good minute and half to remember the name of this blog site – WordPress. (I have it bookmarked now so my overly-tired brain doesn’t forget again.)
When I was preparing to become a new mom; in other words, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember expressing real anxiety not about labor and birth, but about the following sleep deprivation. I do not do well without sleep. No one really does, I suppose. But I’m a 10 hour per night kind of person. Surprisingly though, the sleep deprivation hasn’t happened the way I thought it would. I was envisioning several nights of zero sleep, resulting in an immediate craziness and mental shut-down. Followed by illness – I’ve always gotten sick when I don’t get sleep – and then possibly some sort of blowup with my husband fueled by sleep deprived madness and then hallucinations and then maybe even death! AAAH! That’s the sequence of events I was certain would occur after she was born. I tend to “cross every bridge before I get there” as my husband likes to tell me. So I was anticipating total chaos, basically, from lack of sleep.
But as with most things, especially in the realm of motherhood, it hasn’t happened the way I thought it would. First of all, I have been lucky enough so far to not have any full nights without sleep. Even though I’m breastfeeding, we introduced a bottle early so that my night-owl husband could give at least one night feeding. That’s allowed me to get at least one solid 3-4 hour stretch of sleep even on the hardest nights. Also, our daughter is a pretty good sleeper, so she has averaged 4 hour stretches on her own since birth. I’ve even gotten a few 8 hour long sleeps. If you are a parent of an infant, you know that is really a total miracle. If you are a mom, the thought of 8 hours of sleep might make you cry with joy (or longing) a little!
Sleep deprivation, then, has been a slow ambush. Forgetfulness here and there. Maybe a bit more emotional than usual. Nothing so dramatic as what I imagined. A steady grind. A hovering fatigue. A thin fog that just stays with me. And that, as I’ve learned is mostly the way of parenthood. And mostly the way of life, for that matter. Most times what we fear doesn’t ever step fully out of the shadows to inundate us. It hangs in the air around us in form of anxiety. And then, usually, we attend to it just enough to keep it around. I realize that I can’t control the amount of sleep my daughter lets me get every night. There is no better reason to sacrifice my sleep. But even a sleep deprived mind can embrace a calm and peaceful way of coping. Acknowledgement, or recognition, albeit tired, does not have to be fraught with drama. I’m tired. I’m tired because I get up at night with my daughter. And from there it can go one of two ways — toward resentment or toward loving kindness and graciousness. I choose loving kindness. I choose graciousness. Like this: I’m tired. I’m tired because I get up at night with my daughter. I love her. I am grateful that I am able to get up and feed her. Graciousness, I have discovered, is the only way to cope with sleep deprivation. Kindness is the best way to manage the forgetfulness, the emotions, the fatigue. It can be like fog lights.
Had it not been for the sleep deprivation, I wonder if I would have come to this realization. I am, therefore, grateful for it.