Way back in November I read a New York Times article called Sleep Medication: Mother’s New Little Helper. In November the twins were around six months old. They were sleeping though the night and so was I.
Dear reader, forgive me, but I thought the whole sleepless mom thing was kind of BS. Not if they were sleepless because they were dealing with 2am feedings, but sleepless they couldn’t stop thinking about things? Really?
Note to self (and others): when you’re very new to a large and long-established group — like moms — do not judge them until you have been a member of said group for longer than six months — or six years, or sixteen — or even then! You have little idea what you’re in for, so stay open to what might be around the corner.
What was around the corner for me was — surprise! — insomnia.
Pamela Paul’s article points out that
… one of the cruel jokes of motherhood is that the sleeplessness of pregnancy, followed by the sleeplessness generated by an infant (a period in which a staggering — truly — 84 percent of women experience insomnia), is not followed by a makeup period of rest. It is merely the setup for what can become a permanent modus operandi.
Why all the angst over bedtime, the one part of the day that, barring nightmares, ought to bring deeply needed peace? Many believe that sleep deprivation among women has worsened. In the “Women and Sleep” study, 80 percent of women reported being just too stressed or worried to turn out the proverbial lights.
She quotes the lists of things mothers think about while tossing among the pillows or staring blankly at the dark ceiling: taking the car to the mechanic, replacing the batteries in the smoke detectors, am I out of my daughter’s favorite snack?, how will I get all this done tomorrow?
When I was 100% a mom during the twins’ first six months I didn’t have much trouble sleeping. I pretty much knew what I had to do and I did it: bottles, diaper changes, rotations from a blanket on the floor to a bouncy seat to a rocking cradle for naps, more bottles, more diaper changes, more rotations … The work was endless and exhausting, but it didn’t cause me a lot of worry.
Then: enter a variable. Two, actually. The twins got older, were able to roll over, started traveling off the blanket by rolling, started to get bored with the bouncy seat, threatened to pitch themselves out of the rocking cradle during naptime … Suddenly I had to think a lot more about what they were doing and what I was doing in response.
A rolling traveler-off-the-blanket
But then there was the other variable — the one that messed up my sleep: I started writing again.
This, on the surface, was a very good thing — the writing, I mean. It was a very good thing way down deep, too. But because the writing was happening from the surface to way down deep, it wouldn’t necessarily let me go at ten, eleven, or twelve o’clock at night. I might have closed my laptop and capped my pen but my brain refused to be closed or capped. Even though the rest of me was exhausted, my mind would gamely hum along, thinking about the next line, the next idea, the next project. I’d wake up in that tender three o’clock hour and not be able to get back to sleep. I’d dream my writing — but then be too tired the next day to actually write.
What to do?
Paul’s article claims that
Mother’s little helper of the new millennium may in fact be the sleeping pill — a prescription not likely to inspire a jaunty pop song anytime soon. Nearly 3 in 10 American women fess up to using some kind of sleep aid at least a few nights a week, according to “Women and Sleep,” a 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit research group …
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day …
I’ve decided to try a middle-of-the-road approach to get me through my busy night. While I know the sweet lull of Ambien all too well — it’s like a lovely benevolent hand that gently rests on your mind, keeping you below the surface of a warm and blissful sea of unconsciousness — you can tell from that description that it is indeed a drug. I don’t like the idea of drugging myself habitually and perhaps unnecessarily, but I do have three little pills hoarded from last prescription to use when it does feel necessary. Otherwise, at my doctor’s advice, I occasionally use the lowest dose possible of melatonin, a natural product that you can find at most drug stores. And, perhaps most importantly, I do not write in the late evenings anymore but try to fit my writing into the twins’ naptimes and my own weekends.
And that combination approach has built this mother a nice little shelter — for sleep.