I may never sleep again.
As moms, we’ve all had this thought run through our head at one point or another.
No matter the cause, it’s exhausting and mood-altering.
Lack of sleep clinically shuts down our brains.
When my oldest child went through some tough sleeping phases, I learned to cope on those endless nights by reminding myself of a simple truth: It’s just a season. Eventually, he’ll sleep! This will not last forever.
And for me, that was (almost) always enough. Unfortunately, that truth no longer works for me.
Because now, I’m also mom to a medically-fragile child.
This life — this state of exhaustion — is my new normal. It will not pass quickly. Not next week or even next month or year.
Sleep deprivation is my life.
Ventilator alarms chime in the night. Feeding pumps beep when they run out of food. My sweet toddler cries for help, sometimes every hour, because she lost her pacifier or needs to be turned.
The middle of the night is hard. At times, it seems like the sun may never rise. But I take comfort in knowing I am never alone.
Because somewhere, across this town or maybe even down the street, I know there is another mom awake like me. And it’s this mom, and her special child, who help me find the courage to stay up another night and fight for another day.
So, if you’re a mom out there who knows what I’m talking about, let me give you this new mantra to carry you through:
Strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow.
A good night’s sleep may be rare, but we can still live and give and love our children the best we can.
Here are a few more strategies I’ve found to help me cope:
Mental Game. When it’s dark and you’re alone attending to your child in the night, your mental game can be your strongest ally (or greatest enemy). I am much better off when I simply ACCEPT that I may not go back to sleep. It’s like my focus changes from trying desperately to “fix” the problem (or crying child, or malfunctioning machine) to return to bed, to just taking care of whatever it is I need to do.
I’ve learned to turn my expectations into hopes. For example, I do not expect to go back to bed . . . but I hope I will be able to. This helps me not get frustrated or angry, or weep my way through the night. Instead, I can pull up my mom leggings and take care of business. And sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised when I actually do return to that elusive sleep I know I so desperately need.
Take turns. Experts say that six hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep is better than eight hours of sleeping with interruptions. One way to survive is to split shifts with your spouse. You take Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays if they take Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Sundays are fair game.
Or, if it’s easier to take things in shifts, split the night into two. One parent sleeps from 8:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m., and the other sleeps from 2:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.
Is this normal? No, it’s definitely not. But what is? It could save your health . . . and your sanity.
Coffee and prayer. Every night, before bed, I pray with my daughter. I ask God to protect her lungs and to help her sleep. To give me abundant rest and multiply the sleep I am able to get. And every morning, my husband brews the most glorious pot of dark, Colombian roast coffee and pours me a mug before I do anything else.
This is called coping. Find your strategy.
Talk to God. Drink the caffeine. Pray for rest. Buy a t-shirt that makes you feel awesome. Some days, it’s the promise of that hot cup of coffee that I cling to the most.
Bright hope, mamas. Stay strong. You can do this.
The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 19 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Moms of Special Needs Tarrant County. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.