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SleepyFebruary 3, 2007

I had the godchild with me last night while the Whoreshoes were off being big, big rockstars in SF last night (huge picture in SF Chronicle yesterday! Yay!).

I'd been at work all day, worrying about taking care of him -- I had to get him to sleep quickly, so that I could go to sleep also. Joni would come to pick him up around 1:30am, and I'd get up for work 3 hours later. And dude, it was stressing me out. I mean, I had to go home and take care of a BABY! On a work night! And of course, a coworker told me, "Don't worry, I think he's too old to worry about SIDS."

GREAT. I hadn't thought of that, but now I was worried.

Then we had an 18 month old die in a horrible way (I work fire/medical dispatch, in case you're just browsin' here), and I decided I wouldn't sleep EVER when he was around.

But I couldn't do that, of course. I would have to suck it up and Be Brave.

Joni brought Dylan over about 7pm when I got home from work. I was going to put him down to sleep about 9, and then follow him to bed about 10pm (getting up at 4:30am to work makes my eyelids droop early). I gave him a bottle, wrapped him in his blankets (she still swaddles him, which he loves), and tucked him in our bed, surrounding him with pillows so he wouldn't roll off. He was asleep within thirty minutes, minimal fussing, no crying. Then I got in bed a bit later and proceeded to watch him breathe. I watched that child like he was tight-roping in his onesie across Niagara Falls.

But I drifted off and woke up a few minutes later. The HORROR! Was he okay? Touched him, felt his breath. Oh, thank god, he was fine. Lather, rinse, repeat. I did this for a LONG time, sleeping in three or four minute bursts. Then I spent a long time waking up every time he would slither up to the top of the bed which he did every fifteen minutes or so. I'd drag him down and reposition him and go back to sleep until he frog-kicked his way back up again.

That boy got a lot of sleep last night. I did not, and OHMYGOD, how do you people do it?

I did have a stunning moment of clarity at work yesterday, when I realized that the reason that no one was really bowled over with my Big News that I had to watch a BABY after work was that they all HAD kids at home, and some had infants. They were remarkably tolerant of me, actually. They did that each day, every day. It was as if I'd gone up to any regular working person and exclaimed, "Oh, my god, I have to work ALL DAY tomorrow! Can you imagine? All day!"

I remain amazed by mothers. Y'all are crazy, and you're doing a good job.


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It's because after a while, the sleep deprivation kicks in, and we couldn't keep our eyes open even if we did that cartoon thing with the toothpicks.

Sometimes I still sit and watch mine sleep. I'll have that horrified moment waiting for the next breath. Motherhood is exhilarating and terrifying all at once. But you get used to it. You get used to your heart breaking 15 times a day when they're hurt or they're upset or someone at school said something nasty to them. You get used to getting up early even on Saturdays to help them set up a movie on the DVD player and on Sunday to make pancakes. You get used to it. I promise.

:) Thank you for saying such kind things, Rachael. I know it wasn't to *me* directly, but as a mom I appreciate it immensely. And Carrie's right: sleep deprivation is mightier than worry or angst. I've put mine down for a nap and gone down with him because getting up just seemed to monumental a task, research papers be damned.

It's not always easy, but you learn to live with interuptions (excuse me while I help put on my son's Power Ranger costume--no I'm not kidding!), and then other times you find that you are longing for those interuptions. As for the sleep thing, I would never have gotten any sleep if my babies didn't sleep with me. If they were away from me, I couldn't sleep. You learn to reach up and pull them down, or tuck in a stray blanket without really totally waking up. Amazing, but true. It's nature's way. :)

But once you get over the whole "Are they going to die while I'm sleeping" it then turns into, "I hope they sleep past 6:00am and not wake me up at all in the middle of the night because I'm exhausted" And that's with an 8 year old and almost 5 year old....lol

Rach...you are so cute and sweet and honest. I just love that about you!

Now, when I think back to when my three (now 25, 28 and 29) were babies? I wonder how in the HELL I did that! But you just do it...and then you become an old fart like me.

You're so sweet! I still sleep with my daughter,(She's 2) because I couldn't sleep without being able to touch her. Some nights are tough but hearing her breathe, watching her slip into sleep are some of the most wonderful moments of my day. Not because she's asleep, but because she's mine.

Why, thank you, ma'm! Tweren't nuthin'... Actually, it was. "Babies are nature's way of saying you've been getting too much sleep."

Honey, I have a 13 yo and a 15 yo and I still don't sleep though the night with out help...

Rachael, The sleeping/waking/check that he's breathing cycle means you're a Mom. You have good instincts! Enjoy the Godmother perk of sending him home so you can sleep - I miss that sometimes...

It is somewhat easier when it is your own child. First, you get to the stage where you have to sleep, period, and trust that they will survive, and second, you get familiar with your own child's sleep habits (like frog-kicking to the top of the bed, what a great description!) and you learn to address them without fully waking up. Doing it for one night, with somebody else's kid, after working all day - that is by FAR the hardest way to do it, and you survived!

There's a reason that women are better multi-taskers than men - you have to be if you're a mother! You have to be keeping track of fifteen things at once, even when you're sleeping. Silly me - I thought I could take my eyes off my 21 month old when he was in his high chair, only to have him stuff a piece of walnut up his nose so far that it took 4 days and 4 doctor visits to get it out!

On the rare (thankfully!) nights that my 13mo old ends up in our bed, she manages to squirm her way perpendicular and kick us in the head and headbutt us all night. Isn't it amazing how active they can be in their sleep?
It IS easier when they're with you all the time and you can tell just from listening if it's too quiet in the next room or if the squack you just heard means someone is hurt or if they're just mad because someone else took their toy. The constant checking becomes second nature to the point where it's hard to turn it off when the littles aren't around.

Yup. Three weeks ago, my baby (who is going to university in another province) had bronchitis and suspected pneumonia and I SWEAR I could hear her breathing for the two whole nights it took for the antibiotics to kick in. Thanks, from the bottom of my crazy heart, for saying such nice things about moms and other caregivers.

PS Lucky little Pickle.

The sleep deprivation early babyhood affords is truly horrific. Think of sleep, broken every two hours for boob or bottle for the first few months.. Then getting back to sleep, and doing it again 2 hours later.

Those of us that are fortunate get maternity leaves. The others? I have NO idea how they manage to be honest...

Motherhood, NOT for the weak!

You're welcome. We do it because we love you.

I think every prospective parent should get a trial run, LOL. (I have 3. The first two were great sleepers, the third---14 months and just night weaned).
And just for education--SIDS is considered a risk for the first year, but there is something called Unexplained Death In Children which is basically SIDS in children over 1. Not as common, but can still happen, sadly.

Sleep deprivation is the worst - it is just an excruciating kind of pain... still you wouldn't believe how tough little babies are, mine survived me so I know this. I intend to get my own back when I am a crazy old lady and and they are responsible home-owning citizen, oh yeah, boy are they going to be sorry, I still get a kick out of sneaking in to watch them sleep (they would be so mortified as they are nearly 14, nearly 13, and 11 and 1/2...).

You're evidently a nice and giving person, but sometimes you have to say, "NO". Because you have to do what's good for you first(your sleep, your schedule) - you obviously love this kid but sometimes taking care of him is inconvenient and in those instances, you should let his mother know that a sitter would be more appropriate.

It only gets easier when you do it every day, easier to bear, but no less terrifying. A tiny perfect being completely at your mercy. A heavey burden to bear, but the most uplifting of any joy possible.

Mwah ha ha ha...crazy, us? Now where is that huggy coat? Never mind, I think the hubby has it today. It doesn't get much easier as time goes on, you just get new stuff to worry about. Then you suddenly realize that your baby has grown up and can make pretty good decisions for herself (but you still worry!)

It's great to hear your humor survived the night!
I put the pillows on the floor, instead of on the bed, so the kid will land on something soft if he squidgies off the bed.
If you're going to be having Dylan over frequently, you should consider buying a portable crib/playpen, you can sleep/go pee/whatever knowing he is safe. They fold up pretty small.
I have two teenagers (whole other set of worries) and I look back on those early baby years while working full time and even I don't know how I did it. I was EXHAUSTED all the time. I don't know how single moms do it. After a week alone with kids I was on a life support only operating mode. At one point, my then 8 year old looked at me and said "You're not very good in the morning". hahahahaha It makes me laugh *now*.

I don't think that link will work; try going to www.gracobaby.com
and search for 9341SBA

Regarding your comments about mothers; I really love how you convey such unabashed sentiment toward others. You are such a caring person. When I read your writing, I feel like I really know you (even though we've never met!!). And, though this is TOTALLY off the subject, last week I followed WendyKnits' link to your 2004 pics of Cromarty, and I just want to say (though I guess I'm 3 yrs. overdue:) that it's just awesome and inspiring.

The checking if they're still breathing thing, that wears off partly after a couple of days because you're so damn tired you can't think straight, and you fall asleep standing up.

Thanks for the lovely sentiments about mums :)

I have two and I find I *still* worry about other people's children in my care more than my own.

And I worry about my own kids a lot.

But in return they give me lots of hugs and laughs and are so sweet I could eat them up.

your post reminded me of this picture:

(i'm sure the dog tried her hardest to stay awake, too ;-)

It's true -- if I am taking care of friends' kids, I am much more worried about safety stuff. If it's my kids, I'm not as obsessive just because you can't keep it up. I remember a friend telling me when his children were babies, he would put a hand mirror under his kids' faces to make sure it fogged up. If it did, he knew they were breathing!

When the Booger is alone with me for over a couple hours my chest starts to tighten with anxiety. OMG! I am totally reponsible for another human beings life!!!! And then the 'What If's' start in my head. Very, very scary. I have no idea how my sister does it.

I appreciate you touching on the fact that it's not all that easy having infants. Some people (mostly men) think its all easy-breezy all the time. I must admit though, that you gradually adjust to each little thing. Toward the end of the pregnancy one's body starts doing things like waking one up every 3 hours to pee because one's new born will wake them up every 3 hours to eat. Then one learns to sleep when their baby sleeps and how to nurse in bed so that they can still get something that passes for a nights sleep. And the next thing you know, you finally get some sleep again and it only took 7 years. :)

Sometimes when my daughter was an infant I would wake from a nightmare that I had rolled on her or she had fallen out of bed only to not be able to find her. I'd tear the sheets and blankets off the bed and be frantic before I realized that I had put her in her crib across the hall. She'd be sleeping like an angel, blissfully unaware that her mother was losing her mind.

Hi, I'm your lurker from Japan (am I the only one? hmmm, who reallly knows?) and I used to come for inspirational knitting, now I visit for fun and today I get pats on the back too! Kudos to you for watching Dylan when you can - I'm sure his mom is VERY grateful. The first time my (now-ex-) hubby took our boy overnight I thought I was in HEAVEN. The silence!! The spacious futon!! Thanks, Rachael, for supporting mamas (^-^).

I love this post.

What a great post Rachael. Actually I found it more stressful taking care of other people's children than my own. Lucky mother having you as a godmother that's what I have to say!

I used to climb into the crib to make sure they were still alive. Even now (they are 19 and 22) I will call the 22 year old in the middle of the night to make sure he is breathing. ("Uh, Honey? I'm breathing. Go to sleep"..he still calls me honey; never mommy.) Daughter olives with us and I get up every night to check on her. It never ends.

Yeah, well, I used to think like you--meaning, I would worry about the child breathing/not breathing--then Girlfriend was here. She's over four now, and I just checked on her for the sixteenth time this evening. You never get used to it/you never get over it/but is is honestly a-okay. In fact, the whole thing gives me something other to do than knit or conquer the world. (And I do believe she wakes up ever so slightly and takes a nice, deep breath whenever I come in. *Heh! Just wait until she's a teenager.*)

I think you would be a good mom.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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