People always tell the pregnant lady, “Get all the sleep you can now, because once that baby comes…” And so on. I can’t tell you how many people told me those exact words. Being pregnant, for the first time, and with twins, was an experience that was full of excitement and joy. I absolutely loved being pregnant, even the uncomfortable or unpleasant parts. Each moment was amazing to me. Even if I was cringing at the sight of broccoli or chicken, I was so happy to be pregnant, I savored it. However, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t savor that.
I was barely pregnant and already I was up a couple of times a night to pee. That never went away. Then I started having horrible pain in my hands and feet. By this time I was aware that I was carrying two little angels. The pain in my hands and feet was carpel-tunnel and tarsal-tunnel, caused by pregnancy. That never really went away either. Then came the general discomfort of pregnancy. My twin-carrying belly put pressure on all different parts of my body. My feet were swollen to the point that they made other people uncomfortable. So I didn’t get much sleep. Since most of the people who gave me this advice about my sleep savings account were mothers, I was confused because they probably knew how difficult it was to sleep through the night during most parts of a pregnancy.
I had severe pre-eclampsia, which landed me in the hospital for almost 3 weeks before delivering my girls 7 weeks early. Those weeks in the hospital did not bring sleep either. I was constantly awoken by nurses checking this and monitoring that. Then, at 33 weeks exactly, I had my girls, and of course I have said good-bye to good sleep ever since.
They are almost a year. I am tired every day. If anyone ever wants to ask me, “Are you tired?” the answer is always yes, always. I do admit that the real sleep deprivation, the real moments where I felt like I was losing my mind came after my girls left the NICU, came home, and needed to eat every two hours. Most people who have gone through life with a newborn have a story or two of silly things they did when the lack of sleep would catch up to them: they put the apples in the freezer, got in the shower with their socks on, they forgot to turn on the oven while cooking dinner. Part of the reason I want to write this stuff down is so I don’t forget how hilarious it all was.
For a period of time, my little angels would wake up crying more frequently than normal. They would wake up every hour or so and need something. With twins, this can be especially problematic. So for this period of time, sleep for me was especially brief and very erratic. I remember one night, they were particularly fussy. I took them back downstairs and put them in what we lovingly call the Car Chairs. These are little reclining seats that mimic the bounce of a car ride to soothe the babies to sleep. They worked well. I would lay on the couch while my girls rested in their little bucket-like seats, safe, warm, and resting for brief periods of time. I would be able to catch short naps here and there. One such night, I was wakened by Elbow, the smaller of the two, and she was very upset. She was crying loud and long with that sad sounding sort of bounce at the tail end of her cries. I immediately hopped off the couch, took her into my arms, and began trying to soothe her. I rocked her in my arms, but she continued crying. I walked her around the room, but she continued crying. I sang her a song, but she continued crying. I was so frustrated. I wanted to make her happy. As tears filled my eyes, this is was what ran through my very sleepy mind, How am I ever going to find an ice cream flavor that she will like? As if this, was the only thing that would bring her comfort. Sleep deprivation.
My girls were born very tiny. They were early and twins. When they first came home from the NICU, they shared a bassinet. They loved being together and they fit so nicely in there. But they grew, as babies often do, so we had to devise a new sleeping arrangement. Neither my husband nor I was ready for them to sleep in their own room. They were bigger, but still tiny. We bought another bassinet that laid on the bed between me and my husband. When I would wake up in the night, which was often and sometimes for no reason, I would always do a mental role call. I sat up a bit, looked at one baby, then turned and looked at the other. In most cases, all was well, and I would go back to sleep. One night, I woke up. I heard a squeak, or a whimper, or some other innocuous, adorable, baby noise. This time when I did the roll call, I looked over and thought, Ok there’s Bug. I looked to the other side and thought, And there’s Elbow. Then I slowly panned the room with confusion and thought, Where’s Ted Cruz? I did this actually expecting him to be there. Sleep deprivation.
As my girls close in on their first year, that sleepy feeling never really leaves me, though I have stopped looking for Ted Cruz in my bedroom. A nap would always be heaven, even if I just woke up, and coffee is a necessary part of my life. But, as my husband said very recently, what better way to not sleep?