Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Commodity of Sleep

It's time for the announcement we've been waiting for since I first posted about it back in March: Sowul, Renewing. My son, Edwin Michael, was born on Friday, September 7, at 8:57 PM. He took his time getting to us and I ended up needing to be induced, but labor and delivery went well. I'm grateful now that he took his time, because he came out so strong and alert! He completely defies the "drowsy newborn" stereotype. He's got a personality and energy that I never expected and am completely in love with. It's the perfect reward for the sleepless nights and endless diaper changes.

I am not going to post pictures here, as tempted as I am to do so. Many of you are Facebook friends and will be able to see pictures there. Since this blog is completely public, though, I feel it's important to protect my son's image here.

It's only been nine days since his birth, but it seems much longer. When you're awake for more hours, and when those hours span all 24, time seems like a different entity. I've also changed and learned so much in the last nine days that it seems an impossibly short span.

I'm not going to make this a very long post, as I don't want to set the bar too high during these next few weeks. But I wanted to write about two ideas I had at 3:00 this morning when I was up feeding Edwin. Unsurprisingly, I've been thinking a LOT about sleep since his birth. Sleep is something I've always treasured and protected. For the last 31 years (or at least since I had control over my own bedtime) I've been diligent about getting at least 7 hours a night. I think sleep is just as important for one's health and well-being as exercise and nutrition. I'm a good sleeper most of the time. I've never been much of a napper, though I did get better at it during the end of my pregnancy.

So for someone like me, being plunged into a newborn's sleep cycle was incredibly disorienting. The short periods of sleep don't suit me; the unpredictability makes it nearly impossible to always "sleep when the baby sleeps"; and the day-night flip that most newborns, or at least my baby, is still experiencing, just adds another layer to the problem. Once he can right himself on the day-night schedule, I predict things will be much better, but in the meantime, sleep has become something of a commodity in my house: valued much higher than it once was because of its scarcity and sometimes inaccessibility.

Here are my two 3 AM ideas:

1. Expectant parents take a lot of classes on labor, breastfeeding, newborn basics, etc. My husband and I took all of these, and they were very helpful. I think there should be a class on Sleep Training for new parents. Sleep training is a big debate for babies, but you can't sleep train a newborn, whatever your future plans are, so the parents need to adjust. If I had realized how difficult the sleep component would be, I might have tried to train myself. I might have stayed up later and slept later, to get myself closer to a reversed schedule. I might have slept less during the night and taken more naps. I think both of those things could have prepared me better, though never completely (unless I used one of those "training babies" programed to cry at random intervals).

2. Someone should invent a pill that makes people feel like they've gotten 8 hours of sleep. Why has no one done this? It would be wildly popular. Of course, there are plenty of illegal drugs that do this. I'm not talking about that. I mean something that would be reasonably organic, wouldn't adversely affect the person's health or personality, and could be taken while breastfeeding. With all the billions of dollars the drug companies take in, why has this not been invented yet?

Okay, they weren't great ideas, but please forgive; at 3 AM, I was lucky to have any coherent thought at all.

And now my baby's asleep, so I'm going to take a nap.

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