Category Archives: Sleep

Nighttime Parenting

The boys are five months old now and have slept in our room since they came home from the hospital. We have a co-sleeper that used to be attached to the bed, but it was such a nuisance for me to get in and out of bed that we moved it against the wall. Generally, one or the other will wake up around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. and I just pull him into bed with me to nurse. We both fall back asleep and when/if the next one wakes up I just switch. I always wake up with someone next to me in bed.

And I like it this way.

And OW tolerates it.

He is pushing to get the nursery finished and he thinks that once it’s finished and the cribs are moved in, the babies will move in too. I wouldn’t be completely opposed to that except that we have a first floor master. The nursery is upstairs. I’ve told him repeatedly that I have no intention of trudging upstairs, sitting in a chair to nurse, putting the baby back in the crib once I’m sure he’s asleep, going back downstairs, and repeating this two, three or more times per night. I simply won’t do it. I told him that I may start out the night in our bedroom but that once I go upstairs I stay upstairs. I don’t mind putting them in the crib to start, but after that I’ll just sleep in the guest bedroom with one or both of them next to me.

He wonders how long this arrangement will go on and I’m afraid to tell him that it could be a year or even two (possibly more?). Two year olds don’t always sleep through the night either and do I want my two year olds to come down the stairs alone at night in order to crawl into bed with us? I guess I’ll have to make those judgments as they grow and I can gauge their abilities, but I’m concerned this could go on for two or three years.

My concern isn’t whether they sleep in bed with us. My concern is that OW will not understand why it’s so important to me that I don’t stop parenting just because the sun has gone down. My first husband and I practiced complete bed-sharing with our first two – we never even had a crib – but that was really too much. I’m feeling more in the middle this time. The boys can start out in their own beds and come to us when they need to. I want them to see their room and their beds as a welcoming, comforting place to be and not a prison in which they are locked every night. I won’t leave them in there with a no-matter-what attitude. I don’t think OW wants to do that either. I think he is truly ignorant of how babies and toddlers develop.

My sister has four year old twins (I know that’s odd, but it’s a totally bizarre coincidence, since hers are dizygotic and mine are monozygotic). She had them in their own cribs in their own room right from the beginning. She went back to work full time about three months after they were born. I believe she practiced CIO but I’m not sure because I’m afraid to ask. At some point she changed the door knob on the boys’ room so that she could lock it from the outside. I was beyond horrified when my mother told me that. I swore I would never do that. She scoffed at me and said, “Oh yes you will.” Oh no I won’t. I can imagine putting a gate there. I can imagine putting a pretty tall gate there to keep wandering toddlers from toddling to unsafe places but I cannot imagine locking my children in their room.

What will our nighttime parenting look like as the boys grow? I’m not sure yet, but I hope I’ll always be respectful of both their and OW’s and my needs.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Sleep. Sweet, Sweet Sleep.

I’ve had sleeping – or rather, not sleeping – issues since childhood. I have trouble allowing my mind to shut down and relax and it’s terribly frustrating. Even when I’m really tired I often lie in bed staring at the ceiling for hours, thinking and worrying. Every night I dread going to bed and put it off as long as I can. OW simply cannot fathom this. He looks forward to bed time. He strips down to boxers, crawls into bed, gives the sheet a billowy yank and then lets loose a satisfied groan that I’d think he’d reserve for other activities. Within a few minutes he is happily snoring. He’s never had problems sleeping and doesn’t understand why I do.

I’ve tried to explain it, though I don’t fully understand it myself. When I get into bed at night an overwhelming sense of dread comes over me. A dark, quiet room is not relaxing for me. It is extremely anxiety provoking because then I have nothing to do but think. And thinking gets me into deep trouble, trouble with a capital T (I say, trouble right here in River City! – couldn’t resist that).

During the day my mind is always going. I’m not necessarily the sort of person who always has to be doing something physical. You know the type: cleaning one more counter, straightening papers that don’t need to be straightened, tapping their foot. I do those things, but not obsessively enough for anyone to notice. No, my busyness is primarily in my head. I occupy myself by researching whatever is my fancy of the moment, reading blogs and forums, commenting on blogs and forums, playing Sudoku, writing and so forth. Of course, with newborn twins I do spend a large portion of my day doing the physical tasks necessary to take care of them. But every moment I’m doing something with them that involves sitting, I’m on my smartphone, reading, writing or playing Sudoku. I don’t allow myself to have brain downtime.

Then 10:00 p.m. comes and I start to get nervous. OW starts making noise about how we should go to bed. Then 10:30 rolls around and he says that he’s tired and going to bed after the news. Then 11:00 looms and he says that he is definitely going to bed. All the while, the implication is that I should be going to bed too. (As an aside, every single one of my husbands has been insistent that I go to bed when they do. I hate it. That’s a post for another day.) I agree to get in bed, but only if I can have the television AND my phone going. If I can keep the television on until I pass out, I don’t have to think.

And here is my little confession for the day: I love sleeping pills.

I suppose some might see my need for them as an addiction. I don’t think I’m addicted to sleeping pills any more than you would call a diabetic addicted to insulin. I’ve tried several but for me, there is nothing like Ambien.

Oh, Ambien, you are better than chocolate, better than wine, better than sex (although frankly you make all of those things even more lovely than they already are).

Off track there for a moment.

The point is, Ambien makes me feel safe when I go to bed. I know that within ten to 15 minutes after taking it, I will be in that beautiful hypnotic state where I can relax and sleep. My worries disappear, the physical tension in my body releases, and I don’t have to fight.

I’ve been taking it on and off for probably six or eight years now. I’ve been able to keep my dosage fairly low by rotating it with other things like Valium or Xanax. Although I like those things, they don’t give me the true sleep of the dead I get with Ambien.

I do have some of the weird side effects with Ambien that you’ve probably heard about. I sleep-eat, which is really strange. I’ll wake up in the morning with empty wrappers or dishes next to the bed and have no memory of eating. Occasionally I can’t figure out what I ate. Sometimes there is clear evidence in my hair, on the sheets, or smeared across my chest, which is not as amusing as it sounds. I’ve never tried to cook anything. Apparently I just rummage around in the kitchen looking for things I can eat as-is. That may include things better cooked or heated up, but I’ve never eaten raw meat or anything. That proves to me that I do it with some sort of consciousness, but just don’t remember it.

I also have visual and auditory hallucinations. I actually love those. I don’t have them all the time, and the longer I’ve been taking the Ambien every night for a stretch, the less I have them. But they are always similar in nature. They aren’t frightening to me at all.

I’m going to take a deep breath and tell you the secret of the hedge people. Yes, I hallucinate what I call the hedge people, and I’m always happy to see them. They’re like old friends, and they seem happy to see me as well. I see a hedge, and in, around and on top of the hedge are these sort of leafy-looking people. Or not people, exactly. Sprites maybe? At any rate, I talk to them and they talk to me. This I know primarily because OW tells me about the conversations I have with them. In the morning I do remember the hedge people and they make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. When I take the pills I find myself hoping to see my little friends. I know that’s completely bizarre. But they are friendly and comforting and they send me off to a deep sleep I desperately need.

I was terrified about coming off of the Ambien when I found out I was pregnant. I assumed I couldn’t continue but some research and my doctor’s advice convinced me otherwise. I was able to keep taking it through most of the pregnancy, but needed to stop once the boys came home. According to my doctor (and I am not one, so I may not have this exactly correct) the placenta acts as a barrier to some degree and the Ambien doesn’t just mainline to the fetus. It does pass through breastmilk, but the amount is low and decreases significantly within three hours of so of taking it, much like alcohol.

But I haven’t taken it since the babies came home from the hospital, mostly because I was afraid of not being able to wake up to care for them when they needed me. Lately I’ve been noticing that I need a couple of Xanax to relax enough to go to sleep though, so I’m thinking of trying a half-dose of the Ambien again. The boys are now predictably sleeping until at least 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. every night, so I think I could manage it.

The whole thing makes me a little squeegy though. I want to be able to just sleep like a normal person. But I don’t and never have. So do I stay up all night, full of anxiety and then miserable the next day? Or do I reclaim my little addiction? It’s 3:00 a.m. right now, so my opinion is pretty biased at the moment.

Now where did I stash that little bottle?

(Please direct hateful comments and advice on how to relax to my spam folder. Thank you.)

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.