WHAT THE PARENTING BOOKS DON'T TELL YOU: You May Never Sleep Again

It’s as if my body has some sort of ancestral knowledge of babies being stolen from the cave by wild animals during the night.

Nov 21, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

It’s common knowledge that parents of newborns are sleep-deprived. I expected it when I had a kid of my own, though to be honest, I did not realize the depths of the sleep-deprivation until I was in its woozy clutches. Those first few newborn weeks are brutal. 
 
There’s a reason your mom, your aunt, your friends with kids, your doctor, strangers on the Internet, and yes, parenting books, all tell expectant parents, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” It is some sound advice, and if you plan to have a baby someday, I am here to tell you: TAKE IT. I, regrettably, did not follow this advice, but please do as I say and not as I did -- you'll thank me!
 
Aside from the newborn sleep deprivation, I also knew going into this parenting racket that my sleeping-in days were over. Truthfully, I don’t even miss them, and I do believe I’ve gradually morphed into a “morning person” (ugh). I’m happiest when I can get into bed with a book at like 9:30, be asleep by 10:30, and wake up at 6:00. Yes, even on the weekends. 
 
What I did not expect, though, was to have my sleeping habits totally and completely jacked up for the next eight years. I’m talking about quality and depth of sleep, here. I was once the kind of person who could sleep through an earthquake and, like, 10 cats in heat outside my window. I was a deep, deep sleeper.
 
Now, I will wake up if someone half a block away sneezes. Becoming a parent has put me on high alert at all times. It’s as if my body has some sort of ancestral knowledge of babies being stolen from the cave by wild animals during the night. 
 
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Pretty sleep-deprived here, clearly.

 
What I’m really saying is, Oliver is in for a rude awakening if he thinks he’ll be able to sneak out of the house in his teen years. Because I am a light sleeper.
 
Beyond just being a light sleeper, I’ve developed this terrible thing where once I’m awake, I’m awake. A couple of weeks ago, Oliver had a bad cold with a nasty cough. One night in particular, he woke up coughing at about 1:00am -- of course, I woke up the very second he inhaled to cough the first time. I got up, got him some water, made him some tea with honey, fluffed up his pillows. He stopped coughing and fell soundly asleep. I attempted to go back to bed, only to give up at 3:00 am. The positive thing about being wide awake at 3:00am was I got a good start on the pile of laundry I’d been neglecting, and I got in a couple of good rounds of Candy Crush before delirium set in.
 
For a while, I was fascinated by the idea of "first sleep" and "second sleep." Sometimes I wonder if my body is trying to tell me something -- that it wants to be woken in the middle of the night by the sound of my cat walking across our hardwood floors. I don't know. All I know is, this sleep thing started after I became a parent.
 
Have your sleep patterns been forever altered by having children? Do you now consider yourself a morning person? And is it true that you can never, ever make up for a sleep deficit? I’ve heard that your lost sleep is gone forever, ugh.
 
Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood.