Pitty Party

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I do not wear my exhaustion like a badge of glory. I wear it like a sack of potatoes. A heavy, heavy sack of potatoes.

E was a wretched sleeper, but he had a perfectly good excuse. B, on the other hand, gives the appearance of being a perfectly healthy "chunk'o munck'o," as E so roughly affectionately refers to her. Yet she doesn't sleep. My only consolation? That old ladies at the grocery store shake their heads and warn with crooked finger that "it's the smart ones that don't sleep."

We have been fighting for the past three nights. I want her to sleep till 2am without feeding. She wants to wake up and make sure I'm still there. This child was born with the worst case of separation anxiety you have ever seen, and it shows no sign of letting up. I literally, LITERALLY, can not leave the table and cross the ten feet to the refrigerator, even though I remain in clear view of her. Even though I only open the door on the opposite side of her so as not to block her from my view. Ehhh! EHhh! EHHHH!!!! The panic rises inside her and she starts to rock back and forth, banging on the tray of her booster seat, making it clear that ten feet is just. too. far. I make eye contact and send consoling phrases floating across the wooden floor in her direction. Not good enough. I smile at her and reassure her that if I had go-go-gadget arms, I could still touch her from where I am standing. EHH! EHHHHH!!! EHHHHHHHHH!!! I close the refrigerator door and collapse empty-handed back into the chocolate leather dining room chair. Her cries cease immediately and a hint of smugness creeps across her pouty little lips.

I want to sleep. You have no idea how much I want to sleep. It has been over eight months since I have had 1-2-3-4 hours of consecutive, uninterrupted, blissful sleep. And before that, we'd only been sleeping full nights for a few months, with intermittent night-wakings with E. So not counting a short three or so months of pretty regular sleep, it's been upwards of three years since I've slept soundly.

In the eight months of B's life, we've come close. There was one night where she slept almost six hours in a row. But my body was programmed to wake up after no more than three hours. Maybe if I'd had some warning. Maybe if someone had sent my boobs a memo. Or an email. Or maybe a goddamn text. But no. There was no forewarning. So like two ticking time bombs, they woke me up. What the...? I stared at her in disbelief. I fell back asleep and woke up just shy of three hours later, having squandered the only opportunity in upwards of eight months to get, what approximates in the land of motherhood, a full night's sleep. I look back at that night and try to recollect the circumstances leading up to it. Did she eat yogurt? Or baby cereal? Was her bath very warm? Was there a full moon? Did she wear fleecy pjs or the the light cotton ones? When I carried her up the stairs, did I skip steps? Did I turn the door knob clock-wise or counter-clockwise? What the fuck did we do that night that made her sleep for so long? Because I would do anything to have that opportunity again.

And as much as I want to sleep for myself, for my own sanity, I really, really want to sleep for everyone else. I want to sleep so that I can have interesting discussions and not actually have to move my head back and forth to be able to follow along, like some sort of conversational Stevie Wonder. I want to sleep so that I can be a nicer wife to my dear husband. I want to sleep so that I can be more patient with my children and have more compassionate coping mechanisms, instead of shoving E into the side of the tub when he accidentally leaned on B too hard in the bath and tipped her face first into three inches of water. He was at a weird angle and couldn't get the purchase to right himself. I panicked. She was starting to swallow water and was too slippery to grab out from under him so I just shoved him off of her and into the side of the tub. And it freaked him the fuck out. Rightfully so. They both screamed and cried for a solid, and head-splittingly loud, couple of minutes. I caressed her face and reassured her while I tried to apologize to E over the cacophony, amplified by the acoustics of the tub. All the while holding back tears of my own.

I am just too fucking tired. Things don't make sense. I'm naturally slow to process, being the introvert that I am, but these days...these days I feel like I'm not even processing. I feel like Lucy and Ethel in front of the chocolate conveyor belt, except that I gave up the Costco-sized bag of M&M's a few weeks ago so now my life is a less-delicious scurry to keep up. I forget things. I run stop signs (in my defense it was a sneaky one.) I have thrown more U-turns in the past few months than I have my entire life. For heaven's sake, last week I got turned around and didn't know what direction I was going in even though I was driving towards the mountains, which in this town are always to the west. I am in a sad and sleep-less state.

I'm not usually one to complain. I'm a problem-fixer. I pride myself in my ability to stop, identify the problem and then brainstorm possible solutions. And believe me, I've considered the solutions. In fact, I spent a week trying to "sleep train"* B. But this girl refuses to cooperate. She can clearly put herself to sleep because I've seen her do it. I've watched her fall asleep, completely and totally unassisted. But usually, I have to hold her down so that she doesn't flip over because she can not sleep on her stomach. We've tried. It does not work. And unfortunately, I do not have the endless hours to spend experimenting with her like I did with E. Back then, it was housework and the dog that fell by the wayside. But these days, these days there is a three year old that can entertain himself for only so long before he can no longer fight the urge to make sure that I am still alive. "Hey, buddy. No, I didn't die. I'm just trying to get your sister to sleep without me."

Where does that leave us? I realized with E that I do not have the heartlessness fortitude to let a baby cry it out. I can't do it. But I have let her cry while I brush my teeth and take out my contacts a couple of times and you know what? I'm pretty sure that CIO wouldn't work with her anyway. In those minutes that I stood in front of the mirror, trying desperately to identify the person staring back at me - she looks vaguely familiar - B's crying only intensified. It showed no signs of doing anything other than only getting more heart-wrenching. It's the betrayal, the recrimination, in her tears that cuts me to the quick.

I joke that in a past life we must have been twins separated at birth. Perhaps we were. Or perhaps I abandoned her. Perhaps in our own mother-daughter version of The Titanic, I left her behind. Or perhaps she left me to drown so that she could have the beautiful necklace all to herself and swore never to do it again, no matter how many lifetimes we spent together.

We are eight months in and if there's one thing I learned the first time around, it's that even though whatever stage you're in right now might seem endless, the one guarantee is that things will change.

What would the me in five years tell the me right now? To find a way to enjoy it. To get past the bone-tired and to enjoy this all-too-fleeting time. And maybe, for just one night, to give her some whiskey so that everyone can get some fucking sleep around here. The me in five years is probably crazy, so I wouldn't be surprised.

* I'd like to point out that it's been more than a month since this post. Just pointing it out.