You can't really understand what it's like be a parent unless you've actually, you know, been a parent. Sure, you may forget when your middle child lost her first tooth or what grade the oldest places first at hte Science Fair. There's one thing though you'll never forget: the feeling of abject sleep deprivation. Unlike the tooth thing, you don't ever want to remember it.
Lack of sleep is the one part of parenting that I won’t ever miss and, really, the amount of sleep deprivation that I’ve endured makes me pretty sure that we won’t be having any more children. I’m trying to find humor in it all, but, whew! It’s just too hard. I don't even know how to focuse on being a decent parent—honestly, I can barely see straight.
Having done this twice, now (well, one and a half times—I'm right in the middle of my second baby! No end in sight), I know the pattern, the expections, the 5 stages of sleep deprivation:
1. Denial: WTF, is this real life?
This stage starts off being funny. Because you’ve actually never felt this way, you’re tickled that you’re even here. You’re shocked and keep trying to wake yourself up from this nightmare. Only it's not a nightmare, it’s your actual life. Once you realize this, it starts to go downhill from there.
You’ve reached a certain level of sleep deprivation when you start avoiding sleep. Instead of catching Z’s, you find yourself watching the baby monitor, HGTV or staring up at the popcorn ceiling in your home. Your spouse offers to take over baby duties so that you can relax but, nope, you don’t want to sleep. Well, you do, but you’re wired and can’t shut it down. Basically, you’re delirious.
You dare anyone to ring your doorbell, and you’re mean, surly and pissed all the way off. You can’t really put thoughts together, because you’re so tired your brain doesn't know how to be mad anymore.
3. Anger: At everything
Frustration is one thing but being frustrated on steroids isn’t good for anyone. It especially isn’t good for anyone in your war path. Luckily, since the shock has worn off, you’re able to process things a bit better, but that doesn’t make it easier for you. At around this time, you may find yourself having crying spells. It is likely due to the head fog that comes about when you’re so incredibly exhausted.
4. Rejection: I haaaaaaate this!
And now it has set in. You’re pissed. You’re angry. You’re wondering why your kid won’t sleep. It appears that every other 5-month-old in the world has been sleeping through the night since they were 3 days old. You’re annoyed at the man who cuts your grass because, “Damn you, sir! I just got that kid to sleep, and now I’d like to take a nap.” You dare anyone to ring your doorbell, and you’re mean, surly and pissed all the way off. You can’t really put thoughts together, because you’re so tired your brain doesn't know how to be mad anymore. This stage is the ideal form of birth control. You can’t even fathom bringing another child into this world if it means having to feel this way again. Plus, don't touch me.
5. Doom: Welp, I guess this is how I'm living from now on
And now you’ve accepted things. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ll actually get sleep, but you’ve become one with the idea that you’re a sleep-deprived mess. You become one of them: a person with kids. You imagine punching your coworkers when they talk about how they slept until 10 on Saturday morning.
They don’t dare ask what you did on your weekend, because you’ll hit them with a smart-ass response (see: Stage 3).