My daughter’s birthday falls on July 20, which also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. Pondering how this is my 50th year as well, I wondered what it was like for my parents on that fateful date. When you consider I would have been merely three months old at the time, I suspect they were exhausted. Did they even manage to remain awake during the footage of this incredible event?
I think of my own life and the birth of my daughter. Despite it being 22 years ago, the memories are clear and vivid. I can tell you exactly when she began sleeping through the night. It was four days before I was due to return to full-time employment. Those three nights of mostly uninterrupted sleep were a balm that restored my body enough to facilitate return to the workforce.
When she was two months old, I was still rising every two hours throughout the night to feed her. Mr. Harris and I had a pretty good groove going. On maternity leave, I’d eat dinner with him once he got home then I’d nurse her and go to bed. At 8 p.m., he would wake me and I’d nurse her again and go doze some more. At 10 p.m. we’d repeat the drill and all headed off to bed together.
She and I would then wake at midnight, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. before the household awoke at 6 a.m. and another day unfolded. Chances are if the Apollo astronauts landed in my own backyard, I would have barely noticed. Ongoing exhaustion will do that to a gal.
At 13 weeks, she slept through the night for the very first time and I still recall the panic. Both of us woke up and stood over her watching her sleep. We struggled with a sort of choked elation recalling the bliss of sleep contrasted with concern over whether she was OK.
It sounds funny now, but it took me several nights to become comfortable with the idea that I was allowed to sleep all night again. If you’re in the throes of sleep deprivation, my heart goes out to you. It does get better — maybe not tonight, but eventually.
Of course if you’ve had a baby, you already know sleep — however you get it — doesn’t last long. Teething, illness and growth all cycle into the picture and fractured slumber becomes the normal pattern. I used to joke that by age 12 you’ll get your uninterrupted nights back.
Of course that changes when they start driving and again as curfews grow along with age and responsibility. Sleep is merely a suggestion for most of our children’s lives. Even when they sleep, well, like babies, we groggily muster on through.
A friend recently wondered aloud how someone who had just had a baby would manage her demanding career while raising her children. My response was a shrug and assurance that you just do. Like all things in life, we somehow find the way to accomplish all we must or want to achieve. When you shoot for the moon, it’s the journey that counts and the process is just as important as the final landing.