Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The “Enjoy your sleep while you can!” Advice: Annoying or Helpful?

If you are one of the many people who said this to me, I apologize if this post seems bitchy.

I’ve blogged before about the many annoying things people say to pregnant women:
-“Oh, you’re going to find out the gender! But it’s sooooooo fun to be surprised!”
-“You’re trying to go without medication? Are you crazy?!?!?”
-“You’re napping? Enjoy it while you can, because you’ll never sleep again!!!”
Looking back on the doomsday “Enjoy the sleep while you can, because you’ll never get it again” advice, I can say, I think these people were exaggerating. Let me explain.

Maybe my baby is just an angel, but his sleep sessions generally come at night, starting anywhere from 8pm to midnight, and ending anywhere from 8 to 10 am. We wake up 2-3 times to feed, so it’s not like I’m getting uninterrupted sleep. I usually get 2 hours, then 3, then 3 more. Several times I’ve gotten 4, 5, 6 and even 7 hours straight (although I paid for that 7 hours by breastfeeding almost all day to make up for all the eating time he lost).

Now, it’s not fun to wake up after 3 hours sleep, and I am groggy. When I hear Baby Q stir at 6:30, or 5:30 am, after I’ve just gotten him back to sleep at 3:30 am, I’m not the most joyous I’ve ever been. In fact, I try to ignore him, or jiggle him, to see if he’ll go back to sleep. (My new thing is, if my husband is awake, I’ll call him on my iPhone to see if he’ll come change the baby’s diaper then deliver him to me to breastfeed in bed.) It’s also hard to force myself to go back to sleep at 8am if that’s when the baby has decided to take the last part of his sleep (after staying up until midnight). But despite the erratic sleep, I feel fantastic overall, and I’m not any more tired than I’ve been at other points in my life.

About these people that told me life was going to be a living hell:
I think those people are maybe
a) parents of toddlers, so their sleep interruptions have been going on for months and even years, so their advice is not relevant to a new mom, who knows damn well she better sleep when the baby sleeps (although I’m ignoring that advice right now to blog).
b) parents who have gone back to work, so they do not have the luxury of sleeping in with baby until 10am like I did yesterday.
c) or maybe they had a hard time with their babies.
I’m not doubting their statements that they were sleep-deprived, I’m just saying, maybe it’s not going to be a total shitstorm for every new mom, because it wasn’t for me. (What WAS a shitstorm was how achy my entire pelvic floor was for 3 entire weeks- why didn’t anyone warn me about THAT?!?)

So, the question in the title: was that advice annoying, or helpful? I’m actually erring on the side of helpful, because their warnings were so dire that I basically got myself psyched up to face Navy SEAL-like conditions with my new baby.

I do recall that the first week was tough. Breastfeeding was not trouble-free, and I was beat up from birth, and I was hormonal. The first week or two, he’d sometimes not go to bed until 1 or 2 am. That was tough. If the rest of his infant-hood was like that, yeah, the dire warnings would be appropriate. But even as I continued to hurt, Baby Q’s sleep cycles normalized to where I could guarantee that he understood that dark time meant sleep time.
I think one good thing I did was not trying to accomplish anything but sleeping and feeding him. I didn’t try to go shopping, or make dinner, or go out of my way to accommodate visitors. I set very low standards for myself: breastfeed and sleep.

(And not every sleep night is good; this photo is from a day when he didn't sleep well at night, so he was tired, but was resisting a good nap- we breasted in bed for what felt like all day. This is why I don't commit to a lot of activities; my life is easier if I put his sleep- and mine- first!)

Whenver I complain about advice from other people, I have to stop and check: am I giving any pregnant people annoying advice? I have been badgering my friend to call a lactation consultant, but I think I’m the only one telling her that (because I am OBSESSED with my lactation consultants at Stamford Hospital- I LOVE them), so I think that’s OK. I’m on a “trust your boobies” kick. I do also recommend products to friends (Moby wrap, Swaddleme, etc.) but I think that’s OK too. I just think it’s important to distinguish whether you are actually giving ADVICE to a new mom, or if you are just expressing a memory of what it was like for YOU. Saying “sleep when baby sleeps” is good advice, and one that you SHOULD hear a dozen, and fifty, times, because it is RIGHT ON. Telling someone they’ll never sleep again… well, that just might not be true, but if it happened to you, I’d like to hear about your experience so I can learn from it. And I guess that’s what you do when you hear scary warnings. Say, “Oh, is that what happened to you? Do you have any advice?”
I’ve actually been afraid to tell people how well my baby sleeps, because everyone else seems so traumatized.

Blah blah, OK, off to brush teeth and shower while baby sleeps! (It’s 930am, we went to bed 11pm ish I think, woke up and fed at 2, I got back to bed at 330, he stirred at 630, fed and went back to sleep, stirred again an hour later with poops and farts, I fed him again, he went back to sleep, and I chose to blog instead of sleep! So, I got about 6.5 hours of interrupted sleep- not great, but I’m willing to be a little tired today because we slept for 11 interrupted yesterday! But that was after two rougher nights. So, whatever. This is my full time job so I should not expect a life of ease.)


Dr Horder said...

People had lots of advice for me about sleep. But, not one soul warned me about how emotionally taxing the nuchal test would be and then coming off the epidural was like coming off crack with ants under my skin. Nobody also told me about the elephant pads I would have to wear even after a c-section. That is why my mom looks at me like I am nuts when I start telling people this. My response is ALWAYS the same, "I am sure they heard the no sleep thing, this is the crap they don't tell you!"

Anonymous said...

Remember you're still in your *babymoon period...

*babymoon - (n.) The brief glowy period of time when a family welcomes a new baby to their world.

That said, I feel like there's a manual out there of "Annoying Things To Say To Someone Who's Pregnant" because I heard all the same things with both girls. And, the truth of the matter is all babies are not the same... and all Mommy's are not the same... so why do people always give the same annoying proclamations?!?

Oh, and, I had a side sleeper so I didn't have to get out of bed to breastfeed, it was wonderful!

One more thing, Baby Q is SO adorable!


Lisl said...

I didn't have the pelvic floor issues, but sleep has been tough around our place - it would be fine if I could just get up and feed him and put him back down, but the burping, changing and then fussing takes us a couple of hours and then it's time to eat again! Week 7 and it's starting to get better now...

Just catching up on your April blogs - my standards on what to get done in a day are even lower than yours!