In the kitchen

Search This Blog

Friday, January 17, 2014

the trouble with sleep

This morning I had one of the top 2 most frightening moments as a mother.  It was rivaled only by the feeling of terror I had that night 2 years ago when Sandi was gone and Maya the worst airway crisis to date.  I couldn't reach anyone by phone and was afraid I didn't even have enough time to get an ambulance there so I threw my kids in the car and drove to the hospital like a crazy person, terrified that at any second she was going to stop breathing and I would have to pull over and do CPR.

First let me back up and tell you that having my children above the age of 5 has made me a more lazy, less vigilant sleeper.  In almost every way, this is marvelous.  Except last week when I began to worry what things I could easily sleep right through now and what things I might need to be awakened for- say, an intruder, or an airway crisis for Maya.   (But at least Maya has the doorbell on her headboard to ring if she is in distress and it will sound in our room so that gives me some peace of mind.)

Sandi had her first overnight call shift last Thursday.  We got in bed by 8:45 (not abnormal for us since we get up at 4:30 AM) and I put an earplug in to muffle the constant coughing poor Sandi has been doing for the past 4 weeks.  Even with the buffer, I woke several times as her lungs had their way with her before finally falling to sleep.

When the alarm went off in the morning I said, "Well, first night of call and you didn't get called."

She looks quizzically at me and said, "The pager went off at 9:20 and I went in and did a c-section. I didn't get back in bed until 1 AM."

I swear I thought she was kidding but I knew it was too early in the morning for joking.   The pager is really loud, our stairs are really creaky and she said when she came back to bed she coughed for a long time before finally falling asleep.

I slept through ALL of it.  She left the house and returned, was out of the bed and back in it and I never knew.

I was not pleased with my restful slumber.  I was disturbed.  I have always prided myself on waking up as soon as one of the kids entered our room in the middle of the night, before they ever uttered a word.  My maternal sense would alert me of their need and I would wake up and speak to them so they wouldn't be afraid in the dark.

I have never been afraid of not hearing if someone broke into the house, if there was a fire or other catastrophe.  Now I have lost faith in my sleeping alertness.  I blamed it on the earplug (even though I was pretty sure it feel out shortly after I fell asleep).

Except there was this morning.

The alarm went off at 4:30 and I do what I usually do, sneak into the girls' room to turn off the nightlight and cover up Maya who sleeps like she's being attacked and never has blankets on her.  I do these things in an effort to extend their sleep by an hour or so and it usually works.

I walked over to Maya's bed and didn't see her.  I rubbed my half-opened eyes and assumed she was tucked in deep under the covers.  No.  She must have fallen off the bed.  No.  She must have crawled in to Ella's bed.  No.  Is she over sleeping in that pile of stuffed animals?  No.  Maybe she went to the bathroom and feel asleep in there?  No, not in the bathroom.

Fully awake, panic gripping me and squeezing my now pounding heart, I ran into our room and said the words to Sandi that no parent ever wants to consider speaking:  "Maya is not in her bed."

I was pretty sure I had latched the gate at the top of the stairs but it wasn't latched.  We keep it there because Sandi was a sleepwalker as a child and she has always worried Maya would be.  I prayed she was downstairs but the likelihood was so remote since she is terrified to be on a separate floor of the house from anyone else.  And here is was dark.

As I ran downstairs, every maternal prayer ever uttered flooding my head, all I could think, even though it was the last thing I ever wanted to think was: what if she isn't downstairs?

She was, of course (or I wouldn't be writing this post about it), curled up in her security blanket asleep in the recliner.

I carried her sleeping curly-Q of a body upstairs and tucked her into bed where she slept until 7.  We assumed that she was sleepwalking because she never would have stood to be downstairs in the dark alone.  This is the kid that wakes me up to escort her to the bathroom in the middle of the night because she is too scared to be alone in the dark.

I asked her about it when she woke up and she said she didn't remember it.  But when I told her the story she said, "I wanted to be the first one downstairs so I came down."  I don't know if she was awake or not now but I lean toward sleepwalking with maybe a tiny bit of awareness.

I would never wish this kind of terror, however momentary, on anyone.  There are parents who have had this experience with a far different outcome and it unfathomable to me.

I didn't have an earplug in last night and I still didn't hear her footsteps or the creak of the stairs.  I know nothing bad actually happened but it unsettles me nonetheless to have these two experiences of sleeping so deeply that I am unaware.

There are many things I do to be a better mom.  I get up at a semi-unreasonable hour most days so I can take good care of myself in hopes to have more care to give to my children and my partner.  I now say no to things that get in my way of being present with my kids.  I shop at way too many stores to get all the things each of us need and want to eat healthfully. I spend hours each week making good meals for my family.

Do I also need to sleep at the top of my stairs and act as a sentry every night so nothing bad happens?

I hope not because I think increasing the amount of coffee I'm drinking would be unwise.

Here's what no one tells you about sleep when you are considering becoming a parent:  once you have kids you will never again sleep well.  When they are babies you will awake for obvious reasons.   As they get bigger you will get up early or stay up late just to have some peace and quiet.  When they get even older, you will stay up late because your kids are out and you will have to wait until curfew to rest easy.

And apparently when you do rest well it will incite panic of all that you might miss while you are sleeping well.  Because the trouble with sleep is that you are, of course, asleep.

I guess, as usual, the solution is somewhere along the lines of the theme of my life: you can control very little.  Give it up and let it go.  Get some sleep; you need it.

No comments:

Site Meter