Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Sleep Deprivation as a New Mommy of Two

Big brother loved his baby brother from the moment they met.
What were my first few weeks as a Mommy of two like? Well, they involved permanently bloodshot eyes, wild hair, and an inability to make coherent sentences. I feel like people passing me on my rare trips out of the house probably thought I looked like a druggie. These trips were very rare considering the fact that lifting the stroller or wearing my then 6-7 something pounder actually made my belly ache. It didn't help that it is flu season and my pediatrician mother and Facebook feed bombarded me with seemingly endless stories of sick babies.  I would wince every time I heard a sniffle or a sneeze, ready to bolt back home. (Speaking of which, is my throat a little sore or am I imagining it??)  Most times I was too tired to feel the need to leave the house anyway.

On our way home from the hospital.
My little one seemed intent on only sleeping during the day and my two year old refused to nap, making their schedules perfectly opposite (coincidence?  I think not ;). And in the middle of that somewhere my body was trying to recover from pregnancy and giving birth, not to mention spending an immense amount of energy on breastfeeding.  My emotions were spinning from shifting hormones combined with feeling an enormous amount of pressure to learn how to fill my new role as Mommy to two.  I was trying my best to ignore the fact that our house was in shambles around me.  I mostly just felt like there wasn't enough of me to go around in general. 

Adjusting to life with two littles is not easy. Sleep deprivation with one baby was hard but a newborn combined with a possibly jealous toddler who seemed to decide to become as difficult as possible the day you came home from the hospital? It was rough. 

I will be transparent with everyone. The sleep deprivation was real. Real to the point that I sometimes worried it was dangerous. Falling asleep holding the baby was my greatest fear. One that fed endless nightmares. Perhaps hormone changes and new mother protectiveness fed the nightmares too, but extreme sleep deprivation was the major culprit in my opinion. Exhaustion seems to lengthen that space in time between sleeping and waking. A space in which my body is awake but my brain is still dreaming. A hypnopompic state is the official term.

A rare moment of sleep... I can't help but stare.
In this state, nightmares become real. And I hallucinated.  My recurring hallucination in the weeks after we brought my youngest home centered around my recurring nightmare in which I fell asleep holding him. I woke up terrified that he had suffocated in my arms or next to me in the bed.  I have a stuffed dog I sleep with and I would wake up cradling him, terrified and frantic. I was convinced he was the baby and I would attempt to arouse him (unsuccessfully of course).  One night, my husband awoke too and heard me freaking out. He told me the baby was fine and that what I was holding wasn't the baby.  My nightmare felt so real that I argued back, angrily since he never even checked to see. "How do you know?!" I insisted before my brain slowly shook off the fog of sleep and I found my crying infant (which is what had awakened me in the first place) safe in his bassinet.

I love walks with my boys!
Thankfully, this low point passed as Coen's sleep stretched out from one hour (yes, he only slept an hour at a time many nights!) to now sometimes as much as 3 and a half hour windows.  The holidays were also nice because having family here meant naps for me and help with the kids and daily tasks.  My body has healed a lot in the past month as well.  But, most importantly, my toddler seems to have adjusted back to his normal sweet self that sleeps and eats and isn't a holy terror all day.  

My precious angel.  
Don't get me wrong though! I'm so grateful for my beautiful healthy children and supportive family. I don't know how I'd have survived without my husband giving me naps and pep talks those early weeks. I've done a lot of cuddling and breathing in that precious newborn scent. I know that these days of tinyhood are all too few and I'm soaking them up much more intensely this time around.

We are finding our balance and a new normal now. And, today, after snuggling down with my 2 year old for his bedtime song and cuddling my almost 5 week old who passed out at my breast, I breathe in his sweet milky scent and can't help but think, "this is heaven."

There is no one I would rather be than these boys' Mommy. I'm blessed beyond words. Now, it's off to bed before my sleep window closes and the fun/chaos starts all over again!

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