In college, I was a championship level sleeper. I could go for a solid twelve hours, get up to drink water and pee, and then go right back to bed for another four hours. I would routinely wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon on the weekends. This would be followed by a lot of drinking and late night Jack in the Box runs. I guess, if I'm being totally honest here, I was just running on a malnourished and hungover most of the time, so maybe my excessive sleep wasn't 100% healthy.
As I grew older and had actual, real-life worries, I began to have bouts of insomnia. I would only get four hours of sleep every night for weeks until I lost my mind a little as it hit a fever pitch. After it hit that crescendo, I would go back to my normal, award-winning sleep. It wasn't a pattern that I loved, but I made it work. At least I had my beloved 12-16 hours sleeps to look forward to when in the thick of my insomnia
I knew I didn't want to welcome anything into my life that would steal this joy from me, which is why I decided to not have kids after fostering a baby pit bull. It whined 24 hours a day, demanding to be pet or fed six times a night. I called my mom after that first night and told her what I had learned.
"I regret to inform you that I will not be having kids," I said to my mom.
"Ok, whatever you want," she replied.
A few months later, as I stared down in a panic at the test that read "pregnant," the first thing I thought was that I'd have to revise the statement I'd previously made to my mom. The second thought I had was that I was never going to sleep, again. I wept bitterly for the loss of my uninterrupted sleep. I was only five weeks pregnant at that point and couldn't even fully comprehend how bad my sleep was going to get.
When Darla arrived, the sleep deprivation was worse than I could've imagined. She was up every hour for the first six months of her life. I would cry and beg her to go back to sleep, but she never listened. Sometimes, she'd wake up at 3:00am just because she wanted to hangout. We weren't best friends on nights like that. Even when she started sleeping through the night, she was waking up before the sun most days.
When Jude came along, they became adept at waking each other up randomly throughout the night or early in the morning. Over six years, I have grown increasingly more and more exhausted and desperate to go at least two straight months with 12 hours of sleep a night. Greg and I have worked out "sleep-in" days on the weekends, but this is only to get eight hours of sleep. My previous self would've considered this a nap.
My kids know how much I love sleep. "My daddy goes to work and my mommy goes to bed," said a two-year-old Darla. I protested that it wasn't true, but I knew, deep down, that was the career I would've chosen had it been an option. I crawl back into bed at every opportunity to catch as much of it as I can. Every occasion that celebrates me, the only thing I ask for is sleep. I look forward to those days for months and feel depressed as I go to bed the day before my birthday or Mother's Day because I know my sleep marathon will be over soon. I mourn it before it has even begun.
The kids have gotten much better at sleep, but we only go a few days before one of them does something to disrupt my sleep and leads me to have less than four hours of REM. On the days that they don't, I struggle with insomnia as I worry over innumerable problems. Sometimes it's work that didn't get done. At other times, I'm worrying over what I would do if a bald eagle ate my wedding ring. I assume the bald eagle is more valuable than my ring, so I start to feel a bout of anxiety as I realize that my wedding ring would forever be gone if that ever happened. And then I get angry at myself for losing sleep over this hypothetical scenario. And then I have to get out of bed because one of the kids is screaming because he wants more water.