Last night Niels woke up as Henning and I were going to bed. Recently this means that no matter how hard we try to get him back to sleep and leave his room, I end up sleeping on the floor next to his crib with my arm awkwardly shoved through the crib slats, patting his back, and resting my hand on him. I usually resign myself to this less than ideal sleeping arrangement because his sleep is more important than mine, but last night I was not happy about this arrangement. It would be the third time I’ve slept on his floor this week. To add insult to injury (sometimes actual injury, like a bruise on my arm), there’s hardly ever any apparent reason why Niels doesn’t sleep well. He’s simply not a great sleeper.
I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and pulled on my PJs. I sighed heavily and stomped around the upstairs gathering my supplies so I could build my makeshift bed as Henning changed Niels’s diaper and Niels wailed for me. I was throwing a mom tantrum. I entered Niels’s room with my bedding and Niels nearly threw himself out of Henning’s arms reaching for me. I set down the bedding, and took him from Henning. I’m the closer when it comes to his sleep. No matter the initial struggle, Niels will go to sleep for me. We joke about Niels being a “momma’s boy,” but honestly, it’s the truth. Niels needs me in a way that Margaret never has.
I sat down in the chair with him and nursed him. When he didn’t fall asleep, I put him back in his crib. He sat up and I told him sternly, “lay down.” He did, but with a whimper. I felt terrible, but he knows the drill. It’s time to sleep. I know I shouldn’t be upset with him for not sleeping well. I know he’s not doing this intentionally. But holy crap: SLEEP! It’s literally the best thing!
I set up my makeshift bed, which consists of a pillow mattress topper, a duvet, and my pillow. I lowered myself to the floor and got as comfortable as a 37-year-old woman can, and slid my arm through the crib slats and started patting his back. He fell asleep quickly, but I didn’t dare move my hand. When he woke up again it was because I had fallen asleep and my hand had fallen off of him. This went on all night. He woke up because I had fallen asleep. At one point I lost my cool and said, “Just go to sleep!” Which went over about as well as you could imagine. He cried. I felt like a terrible mother. I picked him up and hugged him and nursed him again to let him know that I’m not really mad at him, just upset that we can’t figure out how to freaking sleep.
When I’m in his room, it’s a little like being in a sensory deprivation tank. He has blackout blinds, so I can’t judge what time it is. There’s a noise machine, so I can’t hear all of what’s going on in the house. Have we been up all night? Or just a few hours? It’s not clear. I did hear Margaret open her squeaky bedroom door this morning, though, and I sat up. Niels was also awake. I left him in his crib and walked to the master bedroom. I didn’t even say good morning to Henning or Margaret. Instead I crawled into bed and said, “He’s all yours.” I fell asleep almost instantly and had anxiety dreams of not being able to reach Niels so I could pat his back. Even in my dreams I’m consumed with putting him to sleep! When I woke up an hour later, the house was quiet. I contemplated trying to go back to sleep, but since I’m all about getting our day started, I decided to slowly pull my ass from bed and see what everyone else was up to.
When I walked into the family room Margaret was watching Octonauts, and Niels was playing by himself on the floor. He toddled over to me. I picked him up and he grabbed at my shirt, which is his not-so-subtle way of saying he wants to nurse. I pulled him close to me and realized he was on fire. I asked Henning to bring me the thermometer so I could take Niels’s temperature. He had a fever of 102. The mom guilt washed over me because he probably had a fever last night and I was so focused on keeping him asleep that I didn’t realize it. It’s probably the reason he didn’t sleep well–finally a reason. A crappy reason, but a reason, nonetheless.
That’s the thing, though, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re doing what you think is right or if you can hear yourself yelling and feel instant regret: mom guilt is real. It creeps in when we’re laying in bed, reviewing the day or when we’re staring at our kids and thinking of how incredible they are. It slaps you when you realize your son is sick, but you were throwing a mom tantrum about not getting enough sleep. I wish the guilt didn’t hang around as much as it does, but it seems like it’s a fixture in motherhood. I’ve been sitting with this guilt all day–and nearly every day for some reason since I became a mom–and I’ve realized that the guilt makes me try to be better and probably means I’m already doing a decent job. Now I’m going to prepare for another night on the floor and hope Niels gets the sleep he needs (and fingers crossed I get some sleep, too).