Saturday night, the exhaustion finally took over.
It’s been a long time coming, slowly brewing, showing itself in fits and spurts. A week of nearly no sleep on top of a year of a lot less sleep than normal ended up with me slowly sinking. My brain stopped working. I would be in midsentence explaining something to my husband and I would drift off, suddenly unable to remember what I was talking about. Or I would be at the grocery store thinking, first I’ll pick up some berries and some broccoli and green onions and then I’ll head over to pick up some bread cause it’s just over there and suddenly I’d find myself at the checkout with only berries and no broccoli or green onions or bread because as I walked from one bin to the next I totally forgot what I was doing. The most mundane of tasks started to seem insurmountable. Oh god, the car needs gas. The car needs gas. When the hell am I going to get gas? This means getting the baby and me in to the car and driving to the gas station and getting out and pumping gas and then driving home and oh god that is going to be so much work.
This is how ridiculous sleep deprivation makes me.
It’s been one of those weeks, those weeks with the screaming and the screaming and the screaming, where I have to sit down occasionally and think, I really wanted this. I really wanted to be a Mom, I really wanted to take the good with the bad, so I need to be grateful that I got what I wanted. Remembering what it was like to not know if I would ever be a mother is the only thing that was giving me perspective when she woke up screaming at 10 pm and midnight and 2 am and 4 am and 6 am and oh look now she’s up for good and I have gotten about 4 hours of interrupted sleep total night after night after night. I had to constantly remind myself: this is what I signed up for.
There are far worse things than dealing with a toddler who’s cutting molars. In the grand perspective of life I know this.
But maybe that backfired. Maybe I tried too hard to remind myself how lucky I was at every moment, tried too hard to convince myself to just suck it up because this is what you wanted and you wouldn’t give her up for anything so stop complaining this is what parenthood is sunshine and because I was trying so hard to convince myself that I really don’t have it that bad I actually didn’t notice the signs my body was giving me, telling that I needed to stop already and hand off the night duty and get a full night’s sleep before I snap.
And then there was Saturday.
I was so wired that when I got a chance to take a nap Saturday morning, I couldn’t sleep. My body is so used to getting forced out of bed in the morning because it has no choice that when it got a chance to stop, it utterly refused, running on sheer force of will to get through the day. So on Saturday I got up and dragged myself through the day and I made my cupcakes for Capital Cupcake Camp and I cleaned up and just before 10 I dragged my weary body up to bed, hoping for at least a couple of hours before the screaming began.
And at 10:02, the screaming started.
Milk. Tylenol. Books. Cuddles. Putting her down in her crib. Cuddling her in my bed. Watching Dr Seuss stories on the iPhone. More milk. More cuddles. Nothing worked.
For three solid hours, I tried to calm my child. I tried everything. It became a battle, just willing her to sleep already, please sleep, no you don’t need milk you just had milk, no we aren’t reading books we just read a thousand books, please sleep, please, please, please sleep.
Finally at 1 am, I could feel myself starting to break. I couldn’t do this anymore. It was starting to get unsafe. I was going to make a mistake, something bad was going to happen, I just needed to not be doing this anymore because my anxiety and exhaustion was starting to make me not capable of caring for a child. I walked in and picked her up even as she asked for book! book! book! and then I opened the door and walked in to the spare room where my husband was sleeping and stood over his bed as she said Da-da! Da-da! Da-da! over and over and he wasn’t waking up. He was sleeping soundly, sleeping like a rock, precious sleep, envious sleep. And I stood there and simultaneously felt horribly guilty for waking him, and furious at him for being able to sleep through three hours of screaming and as my baby over and over said Da-da! Da-Da! the floodgates burst.
She won’t sleep it’s been three hours she’s been screaming for three hours and I just need to sleep I am just so exhausted and she won’t sleep and I don’t know why and I’ve tried everything I read her books and I gave her tylenol and I gave her milk and she won’t sleep and I’m so tired baby I am so tired why won’t she sleep I am so tired and she won’t sleep and I don’t know what to do
It all came out in one long snotty sob, my body shaking from exhaustion and frustration and exhaustion and desperation, the words tumbling over each other, spitting out with every sob, the baby now crying too, oh I’m so sorry baby girl I promised I’d never do this to you I promised I’d never let you see Mama come unhinged but I’m so tired I’m just so tired I’m so sorry And my husband wakes up and sits straight up and assesses the situation in an instant, his screaming daughter and completely mental wife with the crazy hair sobbing like a maniac and he takes the screaming baby and tells me it’s OK, to just go to bed, but I’m too wired now, too emotional, and I walk around the house manically making sure he has soothers and bottles and sleep sacks and here’s how you find Dr Seuss on my iPhone and he just looks at me and tells me to stop, go to bed, seriously, I’ve got it, go to bed, don’t worry about it, go to sleep and I give up and throw myself on to the bed in the spare room and I sob and keep sobbing, for no good reason except I’m just so exhausted and my body has had enough and this is how it’s forcing me to stop and I should have asked for help long before now, I should have stopped before it got to that point, and I sob and sob until I finally stop sobbing and I can hear the baby screaming still and half an hour before I would have gone to her but now that instinct has been completely shut down by exhaustion and the knowledge that Daddy’s got it and she’s fine and then I pass out.
I wake up 6 hours later, not having moved, not having rolled over, not even remembering having had any dreams. I rolled over and slept another 2 hours, finally getting up only because I had to. I dragged myself downstairs and my husband looked at me and said, go back to bed! And even though I was groggy and out of sorts and my voice was 3 octaves lower than normal, I was up. And I was OK. Because finally, I slept.
Miraculously, today? The baby is fine. The tooth has possibly sprouted, or else she has decided to give mama a break. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad last week is over.