During the first couple months of Baby Checkers’ life, I was OBSESSED with sleep. OBSESSED as in, I thought about it in every waking moment, which on some days was anywhere from 20-22 hours a day.
The first two weeks were not terrible. I spent two nights in the hospital after a routine vaginal delivery where I probably slept a total of 5-6 hours for the entire stay. But I didn’t care. I was ecstatic to be with my daughter after months of waiting. Then we got home and Baby Checkers slept and ate and slept and ate and pooped like most newborns do, pretty much on cue, every 2-3 hours. And she didn’t slow down. And I was confronted with a fatigue and mental/physical exhaustion I had never known before. And in the logical part of my brain I knew mothers for centuries had survived this period and continued to procreate in spite of this, but in the irrational corner of my brain, damaged by sleep deprivation and insomnia, I believed I would not survive. The early days were forever long, and if you have ever suffered from anxiety or insomnia, you may understand the panic and terror you begin to feel as night falls.
The chain of events happened like this: insomnia –> anxiety –> postpartum depression.
These were the worst of times.
Over time as Baby Checkers grew, she slept in longer stretches as most babies do, and with the help of medication and therapy, so did I. Over the last 15 months, our bedtime routine has evolved into something I look forward to at the end of the day. In the early days, it was endless holding, rocking, shushing, and patting until I thought my arms would fall off. When she got a little older, a bath and a warm bottle would usually do the trick, not taking very long for her to drift off to sleep. Then once Baby Checkers learned to cruise, she would play for awhile and take a few laps around the crib before falling asleep.
These days, I usually read her a few favorite books of her choice, and then I sing her a few songs; she follows along with swaying and hand motions and always asks for “more” at the end of each song. At the end of our medley, she’ll sit up and point to her crib, I’ll ask her if she wants Pooh Bear, and she’ll nod. Then I kiss her good night, tell her I love her, and wave bye bye.
Last night was different. At the end of our songs, Baby Checkers was quiet and still and I asked her if she wanted Pooh Bear, and she shook her head no. Puzzled, I asked her, “Do you want Umma?” and I pointed to myself. She nodded and smiled, and laid her head on my shoulder. I sat with my girl for some time before reluctantly letting her go, but I could have easily held her tight all night.
I beat Pooh Bear.
These are the best of times.