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Sleep Deprived Mothers Unite!

by Gina of "Extreme Mom"
Photo by: iStock

From the moment I brought my first two children home from the hospital, barely 12 months shy of one another… nobody slept. My Irish twins were jacked-up baby Energizer Bunnies in stereo.

I gave birth to up-all-night babies who quickly grew into up-all-night toddlers who were about as difficult to settle as a pair of adolescent spider monkey’s on crack. I kid you not, my bald tail-less monkey’s would not. stay. in. bed. And yes, I tried everything from warm soothing baths, calming music, and dreadfully mundane bedtime stories to… yes, Benadryl.

Oh yes, I did.

Don’t go all judgy June Cleaver on me. I was exhaustipated with a capital E. In my defense, as a veteran RN, I’d carried out many physicians orders administering this very same medication to adult patients FOR SLEEP. I happened to be working in pediatrics at the time, so it was easy to figure out the safe dosage. Unfortunately, medications can have the opposite effect on some people. Particularly, small noisy humans between 2 – 3 foot tall, who are manipulative, sticky, little parasites whose sole mission in life is to siphon adult energy. As Murphy’s Law would predict, Benadryl turned out to be the equivalent of a double shot of espresso laced with pixie stick powder.

I quickly came to terms that there was no magic bulletNOTHING could guarantee to convert my hyperactive children into sleepy mode at sundown. Colassal bummer. In addition to holding the ever-taxing mom title, I had a full time job. I was so tired it hurt. More often than not, I’d simply give in to exhaustion and assume the vertical-cozy-position next to my bouncing balls of energy, which meant I was out for the entire night.

This all took place 18 years ago, before the explosion of social networking and subsequent 24/7 online moral support for Mommy’s-at-the-end-of-their-ropes. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I survived without the almighty Internet life-line.

I just do not know.

I just finished reading the new mom anthology, Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness, which is a funny and heartwarming collection of tales written by kindred sleep-deprived mom goddesses. Rest assured, fellow mombies, the sleep-deprived state you’re experiencing is indeed a widespread and universal phenomenon… and it’s also temporary.

You’ve just got to love nocturnal children and learn how to function without sleep. Easy.

The strategy I most often resorted to when attempting to wind down my hyperactive monkey-boy was to force him to lay on the couch and watch National Geographic while I took care of whatever needed to be urgently attended to – like washing the families underwear, tossing the after-dinner wreckage into the dumpster, or mopping up the lake left on the bathroom floor after evening baths. The drone hum of the National Geographic narrator was enough to put a herd of elephants to sleep, although predictably, it hardly had an effect on my high-strung, monkey-child who, incidentally, had been diagnosed with off-the-charts ADHD by the tender age of five. I can’t confirm that off-the-charts ADHD is an official diagnosis in the DSM, but I do hereby swear it came out of the psychiatrists mouth.

This particular memory came bouncing back into my consciousness like a baby grenade the moment I sunk my teeth into Motherhood May cause Drowsiness and began to read. I suspect it’s also very likely that I have a touch (or full-blown) case of PTSD. Even 18 years later, I felt better about my methods, and most importantly… not the only one to suffer, and recover from, this exhausting phase of parenting.

And on the glass-half-full-of-vodka kind of note – the ultimate pay-off for all the struggle – is that my eldest offspring are now 20 and 21 years old, meaning it’s almost their turn to join the up-all-night watch crew also known as Team Zombie… and I can hardly wait.

Gina is an obstetrical RN, blogger, wife and matriarch extraordinaire to four challenging young adults. She’s an active advocate for ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Depression. She writes the over-the-top humor blog Extreme Mom for sanity preservation and her own entertainment. She lives in Upstate N.Y. with her family, two dogs and ThatGoddamnedCat. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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