Let me back up. The other week, I made the mistake of over-sharing about my life on Facebook, and my status update was a count of how many times Henry woke me up the night before. There were a few bad nights that week as his first top tooth broke through the gum line, and I lost count at over 10 wake-ups. He has many better nights, and very few worse, but many are similar, or just slightly-better. I don’t know why I bother posting my complaints on Facebook, and I usually refrain, but I felt the urge that day. I don’t expect anyone to understand, since most of my friends just have babies that sleep, and anyone without babies probably just hears Charlie Brown WAH WAH COMPLAIN WAH WAH and other people are probably just like, shut up already, you have two beautiful kids and you’re not a medic in a war-torn country, so whatever, and yes, all valid points.
But back to woe is me. Someone asked how I could function on such broken sleep, and I kind of wonder that myself, at times. It’s now been almost ten months of this, and yes, I’m cranky sometimes, and yes, I am not operating on all cylinders, who knows what amazing things I could be accomplishing right this very moment if only I could sleep, all night, all by my lonesome in my bed with no little warm nighttime appendage of a baby buddy, but still…I could be functioning worse.
When Henry was first born, and I had to physically sit up and nurse him and it took a long time, I was extremely tired. Sometimes my three-year-old would wake me up as well, and those were brain-destroying nights. I had one or two articles a month to file, and I waited for a “good night” and then made sure I got all my work done as fast as I could. Because when you’re cotton-brained, stupidly-slow moving, clumsy-DEFCON-level of fatigued, writing is one of the harder tasks to accomplish. I just couldn’t make (admittedly light and fluffy) words flow. I couldn’t strike a light-hearted, engaging tone. I would write A. Word. At. A. Time, painstakingly searching for the right one somewhere in the lockdown of my brain. I’d wake up and know if it was going to be a Bad Day from the feeling in my mind. And Bad Days wouldn’t, couldn’t, be fixed from any amount of caffeine, try as I might.
Remember that old saw, how Eskimos have 1,000 words for snow, and it’s not even true, in fact aren’t they called Aleutians anyway? But I have many words for tired, because there are many different states and types of tired. Some are worse than others. Brain fog is my personal nemesis, the worst of the worst. It’s the one that doesn’t go away until you sleep another sleep, until the next day. I think it comes from REM sleep being shot to hell and back. This is the tiredness I hate. It feels like being handicapped in every nerve and cell of my body. I pour milk onto counters, I can’t drive. I move slow, like every life task and movement is the equivalent of not being able to find my keys at the bottom of an overstuffed bag.
Actual drowsiness isn’t as bad, but it’s not my favorite, because the feelings it gives you—lay down, relax, put your feet up, watch MTV’s True Life–are completely incompatible with my daily life of being responsible for two children all day by myself. It tells you to close your eyes, it lulls you into thinking you can take a breather, but you can’t. You never can. There’s no breather, no break.
Body fatigue, drained-ness, isn’t so bad. It’s just a body weariness that can easily be overcome through sheer willpower. Just keep going, lifting, hoisting, doing. It might get better or it might get worse, but it just is. It doesn’t dull my mind.
So, yeah, I know all types of tired. But really, it could be much worse. Most days I feel almost, or mostly, or wholly fine. The days that I brim and freak out with energy and ideas and mental clarity are few and far between but even those come. Some magic number of sleep cycles were strung together and I can write entire almost perfect drafts of things, I can exhale with the perfect next thing, I can move from one thing to the millionth thing that day, and still I feel I can go, go, go go, I could get in my car and drive to the North Pole and it would still be light out, lights on in my brain and nothing that I couldn’t hack, manage, finish, ace.
Maybe I have a touch of mania. But I’m not giving up those days, because they remind me what I can do, if only I could sleep.
I credit cosleeping for keeping me at the manageable, mostly-okay level most days. I feed, I briefly rouse, it’s not ideal, no, but I’m so much less tired than I was when Anna was a baby and we had to get up out of bed and go into her room, help her in her crib, a dozen times a night. That was tired. That was insanity making. Padded cell stuff.
So I’m reluctant to change something not so bad for something that could be way, way worse (trying to force Henry to sleep in his crib, which he despises more than any sentient being ever hated a non-sentient thing ever in the history of ever). But I have no clue whatsoever I will do when I want to wean him (hopefully at a year). In two months he will have to learn how to go to sleep and stay asleep without nursing. He can’t sleep alone, he can’t nap alone, he is not exactly easily persuaded, he gets hysterical beyond belief. I have no, no no no no no idea what I will do. It would keep me up at night, if I wasn’t tired.