I have not slept in 48 hours.
It is my own fault—I totally jinxed myself. One of my new-momma friends was slurring to me how purely, insanely, hopelessly tired she is. Constantly. Non-stop. Tired.
“Please tell me this hell will stop,” she begged, draining her fifth cup of coffee.
Half-listening, I did an inner-happy dance at how my 8-year old can knock off for 10 hours a night.
9:42 p.m.: The coughing started.
He was the lone holdout for the flu, but those spiteful germs attacked, and for two (very long) nights he hacked and wheezed through the honey, tea, drops and syrup.
His dad snored through the whole affair, because dads are wired to shut down to anything kid-related between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
I joined my friend in the exhausting, foggy, numbing, brain-dead state reserved for terrorist torture and mothering. Bruises peppered my legs from incorrectly judging the distance around walls, dribbles of coffee stained my shirt, I preheated the oven but had no idea why, I could not for the life of me recall the word “bureau.”
It is not like mothers can nap during the day, when there are dogs to walk, loads of laundry to fold and dreams of running away to be more thoroughly planned out. Because female brains are scientifically wired to multi-task, it would make sense that we require more quality sleep to recover. Eight magic hours, right?
In an Australian-based study of 33 new moms published in PLOS ONE in 2014, Dr. Ashleigh Filtness found mothers registered medically significant levels of sleepiness, even after 18 weeks.
“Sleep disruption strongly influences daytime function, with sleepiness recognized as a risk-factor for people performing critical and dangerous tasks,” writes Filtness.
What is more critical and dangerous than taking care of a baby? Yet, here we are, Zombie-mommas driving around putting the world at risk because no one will let us sleep.
Fun Fact: Once you have a kid you never sleep again. You are always hovering in that painfully aware limbo waiting for a bad dream or smoke detector or robber. With toddlers, you are afraid they will get up from their “big-kid bed” and fall down the stairs. Tweens are going to be on their phones all night. Teens are sneaking out. Don’t get me started on college when they aren’t even under your geographical control anymore.
So what’s a mom to do? Options:
A. Live on coffee.
B. Keep sharp tool for prodding daddy awake.
C. Don’t have kids.
D. Find vampire boyfriend.
E. Suck it up.
Come holidays, I ask for sleep. Not sleep as in, “Everyone stay downstairs and slam things around while daddy yells, ‘QUIET! YOUR MOTHER IS TRYING TO SLEEP!’” But sleep, as in “Y’all get out of the house until 11 a.m. with the dogs and the phone and anything that beeps, hums, dings and dongs.”
I tell you what, those precious, rare, dark sleeps are the highlights of my year. I look forward to them, mark them on the calendar and send out email reminders. They make me a better parent.
Last night, holding my son as he gagged on phlegm, the small part of my brain that is still smart visualized the golden glow of approaching Mother’s Day. The promise of a dead-to-the-world sleep energized me. I kissed his head, helped him sip tea and buckled down for several more hours of sleeplessness, because that is what moms do.
Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.
This piece originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Maine Women magazine.