Real Momma YYZ is a series featuring – you guessed it – the real life adventures of a real Toronto mom (not Heather) and her first baby.
“You’d never think six hours of sleep was something to be excited about, would you?” the leader of our post-natal classes said to about a dozen of us exhausted mums. “But it is. Soon your baby will be sleeping through the night.”
Full Moon by Howie Le
We looked around at each other, slightly dazed, hardly daring to be hopeful that the three and four hour snatches of sleep we were getting would turn into something more significant. A chorus of moans, squeaks, wails and grunts rose to a crescendo as our three-month-old babies, delivered within days of each other at Toronto East General Hospital, announced they had reached their limit. The two-hour class was over for another week.
Certainly I’d felt, as an expectant mother, that I was better equipped than most to deal with sleep deprivation. I am not exactly an insomniac; I have no problem falling asleep, but can’t stay asleep longer than two or three hours – who knows why? I am compelled to get up, have a drink of water, have a snack, think about things. When I don’t want to get up, I have loud noisy dreams or loud noisy cats or a loud noisy husband who wakes me up anyway. This getting up frequently gig would be a breeze, I thought.
Baby Yawn by Scott
Our son was born by Caesarean section, and that first night in my semi-private room, with my perpetually hungry baby wailing beside me, I slept a total of 45 minutes, not in a row. At one point I attempted to sleep with the baby in my arms, putting pillows to either side of the narrow hospital bed, but a nurse came by and warned me I was going to drop him, a thought that terrified me and kyboshed any hope of sleep.
The second night after his birth, I got two hours’ rest because a kindly nurse came by with a formula supplement. And I got the meaning of sleep deprivation. It’s considered a form of torture, isn’t it? A way to extract information? Now I knew why.
There is something called a sleep deficit, the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep, and it was evidenced the very first time I left the house after our baby was born, to take him to the doctor for his first checkup. I brought a girlfriend, who helped me down the stairs and onto the street, where I blinked and looked around in total disorientation. Everything was coming at me way too fast: other pedestrians hurrying, cars whizzing by, sounds I wouldn’t normally notice. Even the bleak April sunlight seemed tropically bright. I folded my arms protectively around the sling which held my son to my chest and haltingly followed my friend onto the TTC, a system which I know like the back of my hand, but which suddenly seemed confusing and overwhelming.
“Is this normal?” I asked her. “I feel like everyone’s staring at me. I feel like I’m going to fall over.”
My friend, who’d also had a C, reminded me I was recovering from major surgery – and hadn’t slept in four days. “Try to nap when your baby’s napping,” she said, and then laughed. Like me, she hadn’t been able to follow that advice, and we both knew it. Some newborn babies nap a lot, but not necessarily for very long; their little tummies get empty so quickly that they’re up again in no time. And while they are sleeping, instead of sleeping yourself, you are probably trying to take care of your own basic needs, like eating and showering, never mind trying more advanced skills like house-cleaning and mail-sorting.
Angel Sleeps by planetchopstick
Soon baby was sleeping in longer snatches – three hours, four at most – but hated sleeping in a bassinet, in our bed, or in a crib, no matter how much I violated the Health Canada crib safety edict by cozying up his sleeping space with bumper pads and stuffed animals. His preferred sleep location was wedged in a corner of the sectional on pillows, in an upright position which, if witnessed by the CAS, would be sure to get me a warning. I slept with him, terrified that he would fall off the couch even though he would not be rolling for months yet; I checked his breathing regularly.
“Once he’s old enough, you can Ferber-ize him,” my friend told me, referring to the controversial method of getting your baby to sleep through the night. But for the first few months, I was stuck slowly transitioning him, after each feeding, to a progressively longer term in his crib. Eventually the little fellow learned to fall asleep in his crib within seconds, from a wide-awake state – making me a very fortunate mom indeed (I have heard the horror stories of spending upwards of three hours in the nursery every night, trying to get baby down).
My sleeping aids? Nothing but a soft blanket, and the Sleep Sheep turned on ‘whalesong’.
At five months, the little bean still gets up once or twice in the night for some milk and a change, but goes back to dreamland quickly. Mama is still up in the night many times but it has lost the frantic edge of responding to a newborn’s cries; we both know that I’m coming, and that everything is going to be okay.