Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chasing Sleep

If you ever want a cure for your insomnia; have a baby.
Pre-baby, I used to average about 5-7 hours of sleep a night. A lot of nights I spent tossing and turning, unable to sleep, likely due to life and job stress.
I never thought I'd miss those days!
Post-baby, I'm lucky to get 3 or 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. A lot of days I make do with just a couple. When I talk about how it's an insomnia cure, I mean that while the quantity has diminished, the quality of sleep has improved. Those 2, 3 or 4-hours of sleep are so deep they pull me through an entire day. I am so tired, I could sleep standing up in a construction zone in broad daylight.
Apart from the first couple days, Grace has not been a baby who sleeps well. Since those first deceptive days in the hospital, where she was barely awake, our daughter has been awake more than asleep. The books say she should be averaging 16 hours of sleep as a newborn, but Grace's average was closer to 12.
We tried everything to get her the rest we were told she needed and sought. We swaddled, rocked, rolled, walked, drove - everything. We used a bassinet, our bed, the sofa, our arms and chest and finally the infant car seat we used to transport her home from the hospital. All had varying degrees of success over the first five weeks. Grace's sleep periods grew longer until she would go five straight hours in her infant car seat (placed in our bedroom of course... although I did consider sleeping in the car at one point).
And then the terrible six-week period hit like a category 5 storm and everything ground to a halt. For the next two weeks we endured Grace waking every other hour to cry at night. This made her days equally terrible, as our poor, overtired girl tried to deal with the changes her rapidly maturing body was putting her through. It was at this point that I was sure Grace suffered from gastroenteritis. At the time our pediatrician told us Grace was likely a bit 'colicky' and there was little we could do except push through until she grew out of it. We battled it for another week and when it seemed to improve, we decided to escape to my parents to get some help.
Despite the terrible sleep deprivation, we were continually cheered by our daughter's sunny disposition (when she wasn't screaming from our attempts to put her to bed). No matter how bad her sleep was, she always greeted us in the morning with smile after smile. This is the magic that people tell you about before you have a baby. I just wished they had also dwelled a little bit more on how raising a newborn is like going 12 rounds with Mike Tyson, and being on the ropes every round.

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