Monday, September 3, 2012

All that you leave behind

I'm always surprised when people say, about having children, that they didn't realize how much their lives would change. Maybe it's because I was so uncertain for so very long about whether I wanted to have children that I spent ample time, too much time in fact pondering what life would be like if/when/once I had children. I tried to visualize in great detail the sacrifices, the sleep deprivation, the love, the responsibility... the responsibility... the unrelenting, never ending responsibility  (she types as her infant squirms next to her swallowing tissue after tissue from a box). I had children late, after probably almost a decade of fairly serious contemplation, periods of ambivalence, moments of paralyzing fear that all melted unambiguously into a deep, inexplicable yearning. But my point is, I had thought about it. Oh had I thought about it and as a result, I was not surprised by how much my life changed. It was and is as I expected.

Sacrifice, even the most uninitiated among us, knows sacrifice comes part and parcel with parenthood. We all leave things behind. And parents wind up missing the obvious and the more obscure. One of my friends who gave birth vaginally twice once told me, in the most mournful tone imagine-able, that she leaks urine whenever she laughs or coughs despite dozens of daily kegels. "I used to be able to stop the flow on a dime! On a dime!" she lamented. Others mourn the loss of a regular sex life. In a book once lent to me (unsolicited) parents were interviewed loosely on the topic of parenting and sacrifice, one of the fathers said: "It's never having sex anymore that gets me. I can handle everything else, the shitty diapers, the lack of sleep, never having time to myself, being broke but I cannot, CANNOT handle not having regular sex." I know tons of parents who mourn the loss of time to exercise. Others still just miss something as simple as going to the bathroom alone or being able to fly with carry on luggage only.

For me it is hands down, without question, the sleep deprivation. I expected it. Visualized it. And in the end, it is every bit as terrible as I feared and expecting it does not make it any less dreadful. I cannot handle the not sleeping. I prioritize sleep. Fantasize about it. Strategize over how to get some. I probably put as much thought and effort into getting sleep as a crackhead does over getting his fix. Still it eludes me. Is ripped away from me. Is denied to me. And I hate it. A few weeks ago I heard about Ca.sey An.thon.y for the first time. If you are living as much under a rock as I am, you can google it. There are tons of things to despise about this woman not the least of which is that she allegedly used to chloroform her baby so that she could go out clubbing with the assurance that her baby would not wake up while she was gone. After I got past the initial horror and disgust... I actually started fantasizing about using some chloroform, let me make this crystal clear, NOT ON MY KIDS... I fantasized about using chloroform on myself so I could finally, finally get some uninterrupted sleep. I'm joking, though not by much. I also regularly fantasize about needing surgery with a general anesthetic or having a condition that requires me to be placed into a medically induced comma. I'm not trying to escape my life... I just want 10-12 hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness.

14 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, this is such a good post. Like you, I spent a ton of time thinking whether I wanted kids or not, and had mine later in life. I remember the sleep deprivation - feeling like I am in a fog all day, with dissociation like periods of time. I was lucky to have grandparents who took my son on long walks and overnights, as I don't know what I would have done otherwise. I wonder if it would be worth it to hire a sitter for those 10 hours and get a glorious sleep in. Expensive, I know, but totaly worth it, I think.
    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ooh I could have written this many times over the last year. I work full time and have small children and I want to finally learn how to run faster. Everything is soo much harder on a half tank of zzzs. The problem is that the things that I could change to get more sleep, namely exercise less or stop breastfeeding, I am not willing to do and there is just no scope for shaving back some extra sleeping time from somewhere else.
    When it builds up to this point I have learned to express a few bottles and take myself to a quiet back room. Two nights of this will reset me for another few weeks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I always wondered what kind of parent I'd be and ususally worried I'd end up being the detached father mine was. Then, when I had to take care of my mother during her Alzheimer's, I went through parenthood in reverse, ending up with an adult-sized baby I had to feed, bathe and dress and whose diapers I had to change. Turns out, I'd be a pretty good dad, though it's getting very close to that being too late to happen. She stopped being able to tell day from night, so I'd put her to bed and she'd be up ten minutes later, ready to start her day, so I didn't really sleep for 3 years. I also didn't have anyone who'd take her off my hands for an hour - so, sort-of like a single parent without daycare. It sucked, pure and simple. And unlike raising a child, there was no reward.

    Hmmm. I really should delete this, rather than publish. Hug the girls for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. hi Steve, Thanks for your comment. It made me think. I hesitated a lot before publishing this post bc, let's face it, parental whining can be more annoying than this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX1YVzdnpEc (which in itself is only slightly more annoying than this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWNaR-rxAic).
    Ultimately it all comes down to relativity (one of my favorite topics) what "right" have I to complain when I am so fortunate compared to most? And if you throw in the fact that I have access to $7/day daycare and a one year paid maternity leave AND a hubby who does his fair share and more... I have zero "right" to complain. But the thing is... what right does anyone living in Canada, the US and other wealthy developed countries with access to clean water, education, the essentials of life and much more etc. etc. when the situation of the vast majority of humanity is so poor in comparison. I know I am extremely fortunate compared to most and that the rewards of what I am doing are great... but to quote, well you actually, (not verbatim but the idea) knowing these things doesn't make me any less tired when for the third night in a row the longest stretch of sleep I got was 45 minutes and the total sleep was about 4 hours. So, yeah, my post was kind of whiny but I really felt like I needed to get it out. But I do thank you (and please take this at face value since it is hard to interpret tone in written word) for keeping my perspective in check.

    ReplyDelete
  6. thanks for your comments ana maria & beefy, they make me realize that this too shall pass and i know i will miss it when it is over. it's true that just getting one or two nights of decent sleep is amazingly restorative... we somehow learn to make do with less.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh thankyou everyone - can't wait!!!

    But seriously honesty is far better than glossing over the bad bits for me :) I wonder how I'll cope....

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't mean that the way you took it (and I'm on my fourth consecutive sleepless night - for no apparent reason!). It turned out that I still haven't got over the mess I went through and that surprised me a little. Now I have to go watch the videos.

    ReplyDelete
  9. insomnia is hell regardless of its cause. i am actually somewhat insomniac myself so most of my extreme sleep deprivation is actually due to my inability to fall asleep or fall back asleep every time I am woken up by one of the kiddos (hopefully that makes any expectant mothers feel less scared!! hate scaring the pregnant ladies!!). Anyway Steve, I hope you get some sleep soon and don't start on the sleeping pills like I did... recipe for disaster!

    ReplyDelete