I was a (Sleep-Deprived) Mother

When Colton was 7 months old, his #tearlesscrying teamed up with three wake-ups at night, making me unrecognizable to myself.

At the time, my partner was busy preparing symphonic concerts and was in desperate need of rest.

Because I didn’t need to think beyond mere “survival” and hitting my sounds as a tap-dancing Santa Claus in Annie, I felt responsible to get up those three times/night.

Mercifully, Colton never stayed awake, he just squawked. I re-plugged him with a pacifier and he went back to sleep.

By that seven-month mark in December, I had not slept more than three hours at a time for 9 months.


It was the time in my parenting life when I most related to sleep-deprived mothers.

Disclaimer: No, I did not carry that child for 9 months. No, I did not push something the size of a melon through a hole the size of a carrot. No, I did not have hormones raging through my body.

I did not suffer more than mothers.

But at that time, I’d never been able to relate more to mothers.

I wasn’t tired in a narcoleptic way. I was numb, operating on autopilot.

A work colleague (a mother) consoled me many times.
“Do you want to cry?” she once asked.

“Maybe. But I can’t,” I said, my face stuck in perpetual zombie horrification.

“Does your core hurt?”


That was it: my core hurt.

I didn’t know I had a core to hurt without sit-ups.

I functioned on adrenaline and caffeine.

I didn’t gain weight, I didn’t lose weight.

My patience was frayed, but I wasn’t losing it.

I didn’t feel depressed.

I felt nothing.

I stumbled around in disbelief that I functioned at all and that my whiny, sleep-sabotaging kid sucked my soul.

But I would sit on the floor “crisscross apple sauce” and stare at the floor. Ellison would go about chattering with his trains while Colton crawled to me, pulled himself into my lap, clutched my t-shirt non-lapels, and #tearlesscried in my face.

I stared at him without emotion.

Because my core hurt.

I completely lost perspective on what to do in that state. (Losing such perspective in the midst of parental suffering has happened to me so many times. I even forget to just say, “Let’s take a walk and get some fresh air” in the midst of child melting-down afternoons. I can’t believe how often I lose perspective.)

My advice for parents: by 3 months, shut your baby in another room to sleep and do not retrieve them until you’re ready to get up. Don’t let them eviscerate you (like I did) for seven full months.

Finally, we switched our boys’ sleeping locales. Colton went into Ellison’s bed at the opposite end of the apartment and we shut his door.

Ellison didn’t argue with sleeping in a Pack-n-Play by our bed.

I took a sleeping pill.

That night I scored 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Colton might have squawked. And maybe he didn’t. It didn’t matter. He was fine.

My body jerked me awake at 6 hours and I drifted off for another 45 minutes before Ellison smacked me in the face. The Pack’n’Play was too close.

I picked him up to snuggle for fifteen minutes.

And my core didn’t hurt, anymore.

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