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Why You (Yes, You!) Will Never Sleep Through the Night Again

Photograph by Twenty20

Like so many first-time moms, I didn't get any sleep that first night home with my newborn. We were both up to see the sun rise, trying to figure out our new routine. I was sore and exhausted, he was hungry, and I could tell by the shade of red he turned while crying, he was wondering what the hell had happened. I held him, I swaddled him, I hummed, I tried the pacifier—nothing worked.

Then late one night, I saw a commercial. I can't recall what it was even about, but I clearly remember seeing a couple lying in bed, lost in a delicious sleep. It looked intoxicating. I missed regular sleep so much my stomach started turning just looking at them. I longed to lie in my bed whenever I wanted and drift and doze. I craved it in a way I had never craved anything. Trying to get another human to sleep had taken its toll on me.

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I started to have thoughts that made me feel so guilty:

I can't wait until he's seven, and he can put himself to bed.

I literally am not capable of handling this.

I can't bear to hear him cry when I put him down, but holding him, nursing for hours or co-sleeping makes me feel like I'm suffocating.

I am lost.

In time we both got through it (you always get through it) and putting him down got easier. We fell into a routine and he started sleeping through the night.

It was glorious—but not as glorious as I thought it would be.

13 years later my baby is now turning into a young man, and guess what? I still have not slept through the night. Not even once.

Bringing a child into this world is a brain changer. You're connected to another person in way you've never been before. I went from being such a heavy sleeper that it took shaking and yelling to get me up, to being wide awake at the sound of one of my kids rolling around or making a tiny noise, all while being in a different room.

It's amazing how resilient we are, how something like less sleep becomes our new normal and it feels like such a small sacrifice when we realize what is at stake.

And once mama is up, even if the baby falls back to sleep, we all know how hard it is for you to get back to sleep. You wonder if it will happen again, you wonder if they're sick, you start to hear strange noises, you decide you should clean out the closet tomorrow and then you remember the dog is due for his vet appointment.

Once they're a bit older and can get out of bed solo and slip under your covers at one in the morning, they do. Maybe they have had a bad dream, maybe they don't feel well, perhaps they wet the bed and want to jump in under some warm, dry covers. No matter the case, the snuggling is wonderful for a time—until you get kicked in the bladder or the face and are hotter than one thousand suns and you can't take it anymore.

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And when they're even older and can put themselves to bed and have outgrown the crazy bedtime routine of yesteryear, you still don't get that precious slumber like you did before you had kids. You still think about your minis, only instead of worrying if they're eating enough and if putting them into daycare was the right decision, you worry about their friend choices, if they're struggling and not telling you, if peer pressure is affecting them, if they're studying enough and how their self-esteem is holding up.

It's amazing how resilient we are, how something like less sleep becomes our new normal and it feels like such a small sacrifice when we realize what is at stake. Because let's face it, we give up so much for our children, and we do so willingly.

And hey, maybe when they are out of the house we will sleep better. But probably not, because they'll always be our babies.

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