The Evolution of Sleep

Sleep, or lack thereof, is the hardest thing to get used to after becoming a parent. At least it was something that I struggled with.

Before I had my kids I needed a solid eight hours of sleep every single night. Uninterrupted, deep, quality sleep.

Sleep, or lack thereof, was what I worried about the most when I was pregnant. I knew that getting eight hours of sleep was not going to happen once I was a mother and I had no idea how I was going to handle that.

Those first few months when my babies were brand new to the world and waking every few hours were tough. Truth is, it’s hard to remember just how hard they were because they were a blur. My memory barely remembers what it was like to be woken up out of a desperately needed rest by a crying baby demanding to be fed.

The heaviness of my head as it bobbed while I sat in a rocking chair nursing a baby in the darkness. The way the exhaustion would work its way down into the pit of my stomach causing an overwhelming feeling of nausea. The memories are so real and vivid yet at the same time leave a hazy picture in my brain.

Every single night I would do whatever it took to make it until morning and would mentally count down the days until I thought my babies would be sleeping through the night. Every day I would calculate how many more nights I figured it would take them to go more than 3 hours without waking.

Days turn into nights and nights turn into days and the years go by so quickly. Before I knew it my kids were no longer waking up at night demanding to be fed.

It has now been a few years since either of my kids woke up crying for me from their cribs. Yet I’m still missing the deep, uninterrupted sleep of my before kid days.

Truth is, once you become a parent, you will never sleep the same again.

Middle of the night nursing sessions turn into bad dreams and the fear of monsters under the bed. Nightmares turn into late night study sessions and last minute science projects.

Maybe you lay up at night worrying about your sick child or waiting for your teenager to come home safely.

When I was a kid, I once slept straight through the smoke detector sounding loudly right outside my bedroom and the ensuing commotion of my mother trying to fan the smoke away. I didn’t hear a thing.

Those days are definitely long gone. I can now go from laying down to running into my kid’s room in about 2 seconds flat.

I feel a little body crawling up the bed and I open up the covers to welcome them in and shuffle to the edge of the bed to make room.

A toddler having night terrors or feet kicking me right in the small of my back; not a night goes by without something interrupting my sleep.

When I meet new parents who are in those beginning stages and are right in the heart of sleep deprivation I can see it in their eyes. Those first few years are without a doubt the hardest. I always tell those new parents that they will sleep again, the day will come when they will sleep again.

Truth is, while sleep will come again it will never be the same. Once you become a parent the way you sleep completely changes.

Maybe one day, when my kids are all grown up and raising their own families, maybe then I will go back to eight hours of uninterrupted, deep, quality sleep.

Until then I will continue to chase away bad dreams, cool feverish heads and cuddle restless children in those beautiful quiet hours of the night, because that’s what parents do.

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