Adventures in Not Sleeping

  My sleep schedule has been "off" since birth. My mother says I never slept, EVER, until I was 12 years old. And then I never stopped. At least, during the day. I was a total vampire at night, which made getting up for school in the morning an ordeal. My friend Tara said my siblings and I were the only people she knew who always stumbled in the door bleary eyed and yawning. My parents enforced bedtimes, but they had trouble keeping me from getting up at night and reading in the bathroom for hours, or the classic hide under the covers with a flashlight. This was replaced in later years by sneaking out to meet a guy.

Although I never napped as a baby, I became a championship napper in my adolescence. And I've continued to this day, though not by choice. I try to sleep at night, but I do this thing called "parenting" and it never, ever stops. I usually have at least two of my four children in my room at any hour of the night. My husband sleeps through most of it, but he likes to point out that his 6'5 frame is forced to lay on approximately 2 inches of space in our king sized bed. So even if he's sleeping, it's not exactly good sleep. When I do sleep, it's usually lightly, and when I do manage to dream, often my dreams are so incredibly detailed that I feel like I was up all night anyway.

I felt this lack of sleep keenly in the last few weeks. I was given more work at my freelance job at the newspaper than ever before. One night I stayed up the entire night, tossing and turning and generally panicking about my deadlines, so much so that I was unable to function the next day. My husband took my kids to school so I could sleep in, and then I immediately went to the doctor to get a prescription for anxiety meds. I haven't used it yet,'s there.

But I if thought it was difficult to deal with my normal life (loosely defined here) and major deadlines, I had no idea what a challenge it would be to deal with it all while sick. But just as one deadline was approaching, I came down with a wicked stomach virus, which soon swept to every other member of my household, except the baby, who decided to get Impetigo instead, which meant he couldn't go to Mother's Morning Out (which is where he GOT IT). I was feeling a little flummoxed. I was sick, I was trapped in a houseful of sick people, how would I ever get it all done?

And then of course, when would I SLEEP? I tend to write at night, after everyone else has gone to bed. This can start quite late, as my husband is also a night owl. One night I started to write at midnight, and didn't stop until 2:30. I left my 7 year old son sleeping in the living room chair. He had the stomach virus, and it just made sense to let him sleep wherever he was comfortable. I went to bed and settled down by playing a few games on my phone. It was 2:50, and I was just about to close my eyes when Linus wandered in. "Mom, I threw up in the chair." *Sigh* I let him lay down in my bed and made sure he had a barf bucket handy, and I went downstairs to deal with the damage. Not too bad. I was able to clean it quickly with vinegar and a towel. Back up to bed.

At 3:00 am, just as I sat down Linus said "Mom, do you have anything to drink? " *Double sigh* I got back up and went downstairs and got him some water. Climbed back into bed. Played a few more rounds of Solitaire, Bejewled, and Scrabble to wind down.At 3:30 am my daughter Alice came in the room and told me she was scared. I told her Linus was already here, not to mention her baby brother Felix, and to go back to her own bed. She started to sob and wail. I was too tired to deal with it, so I said, fine, YOU sleep here. *I* am going downstairs. I hate sleeping on our sofa, so I threw a couple of blankets over the damp, recently puked on and reeking of vinegar chair, and attempted to go to sleep. Again. At 4:00 am I heard a loud sound that woke me out of the beginnings of sleep. Precious, beautiful sleep. The closest I had gotten so far.

I went upstairs. I never did find out what the sound was. Perhaps a warning? Because I was greeted by something that, while not loud, is horrible and odious. The odor met me first. DOG POOP. Our dog had been known to poop in the kid's room, but never in the middle of the night. I went back downstairs for paper towels and vinegar, most assuredly muttering bad words under my breath.  I started cleaning up the poop and I stepped in the poop. Even more bad words. I went BACK downstairs to discard the poop and wash off my foot.

So, while I was cleaning up someone else's crap, my husband had to clean up mine, because ONCE AGAIN I could not function. I could not get up to get my kids to school. You have to realize, I am dealing with a sleep deficit here that goes back 30+ years, and they say you never really can catch up on sleep. I want to take my 16 year old self my shoulders and shake her. "All those nights you stayed out until 4 am? And then went to school the next day? THEY ARE REALLY MESSING WITH MY ABILITY TO COPE." My husband got the boys off to school but forgot to take my daughter to pre-school, so she stayed home. I laid in bed with a pillow over my head and occasionally asked her to fetch a banana for her brother while they watched Toy Story and Yo Gabba Gabba until I was slightly coherent.

I once saw a commercial where the children complain that Mommy forgot to fix them dinner because she was drinking...again. I sat straight up and thought..."I'm an alcoholic?" No Kate, just an insomniac.

The next night I had to stay up late writing again. My husband told me to just stay downstairs and sleep because we would inevitably wind up with a bunch of kids in our bed again and it would just make me cranky. I agreed, and curled up in the brown recliner where I spent the majority of my pregnancy with Felix. All was well, I was entering REM sleep when BOOM. SCREAMING. Not from my kids, from outside. A man and a woman. I opened the window and looked out, and saw a woman hobbling to my side of the street and shouting, and two men, one on the porch and one in the street.

I have a rule. If you take your domestic disturbance outside your house, I call the cops. I do not tolerate disturbing the peace, and I have witnessed a man sitting on his wife's chest and punch her in the face in his front yard on Easter Sunday. I know how quickly shouting matches can turn very, very ugly. And if you disturb my sleep (or my viewing of SNL) well, you get what's coming to you. So I immediately called the police, but I didn't know the address so I had to stand at my door and flag them down, which was nerve-wracking because although I have no qualms about CALLING the police, I don't necessarily want the people I called them  to KNOW it was me. A few minutes later there was a knock at my door, which made me jump out of my skin. "They're after me!"  I was certain the neighbor was coming to tell me off, or kill me, or something.

It was the police, letting me know it wasn't a domestic disturbance, just some college kids acting like idiots. Whatever. Now can I please sleep?

Fast forward to last Sunday. I must have gotten enough sleep, because I was able to get 3 kids and myself out to door to church. Linus was still sick as was my husband. Halfway through class Felix's teacher came and got me. She wanted to show me something. It was Felix. He had laid his head down on the table and had gone to sleep. At 10:30 in the morning. "Does he do this at home?" No. That is a sick child. I scooped him up and went to tell the pastor's wife we were leaving early. Just as everyone was swarming the foyer Felix vomited all over my dress.

That was the beginning of a very, very rough time.

I still was working on a bunch of deadlines for the paper, and now the smallest, most vulnerable member of the family was ill. The list of issues my family had experience that last week was starting to make me dizzy. Intestinal virus. Impetigo. Pinkeye. Parasites. Bacterial upper respiratory infection. Sore throat. Ear infection. Surely, this had to be the beginning of the end. We tried to keep Felix laying on a towel, but on Tuesday morning he vomited all over the sheets and pillowcases at 5 a.m. That's when I lost it. That's when I cried. I felt like I hadn't slept in weeks, I was working my hind end off, and everyone was sick. This had to be the beginning of the end.

And in a way, it was.

Felix didn't get better. Tuesday at 5 am was the last time he vomited, yes, but he just never got better. I was really starting to panic because did I mention we were set to go on an 8 hour road trip on Friday? A surprise party for my Grandpa's 80th birthday? In MICHIGAN? I finally broke down and took him to the doctor on Thursday morning. By Thursday night we were admitting him to the hospital. My baby was completely listless. His lips were cracked and bleeding. There was blood in his mucos. He had been drinking and nursing, but not enough. Diagnosis? Dehydration and Pneumonia, probably complications of a bacterial infection.

The first night I didn't sleep much. Hugh was on the couch, and I was on this weird fold out mattress on the floor. There were people in and out of the room all night. Checking vital signs. Switching IVs. Giving breathing treatments (which he hated.) Not to mention the lumbar puncture and blood tests that were taken when he first got there.

I was always awake to help. The next day the nurse told me I should take a nap. I agreed, it was a great idea. But I couldn't wind down. Too much Diet Dr. Pepper and pure adrenalin.

I tend to panic at small things. A pile of dirty dishes. A deadline. Leading a meeting of any kind. But when crisises occur I kick into stoic, heroic mamma mode. I am strong and void of emotion. I didn't even really feel tired.

The next night Hugh and I discussed sleeping in shifts so we could help the nurses with the breathing treatments and just be generally available to our sick child. I told Hugh there was no need. I am a light sleeper, he's a heavy sleeper. I would surely wake up anytime someone came in the room, and definitely if the baby cried. When it was his turn, I could wake him.

I went to sleep at midnight. Around 4 am Felix cried out, and I found him attempting to get out of his bed. I put him back in, and settled him down. He went back to sleep, and so did I.

I didn't wake up again until 9 am.

9 hours of almost completely uninterrupted sleep.

I didn't wake for any breathing treatments, or IV changes, or vital sign checks. And no one needed me to.

Maybe it's the mattress. Hugh says the one at home probably isn't stiff enough for me. Perhaps. It might be because for once, there were no children or dogs crawling into my bed. And I knew my baby was in good, caring, capable hands. Maybe that's what helped me relax.

I don't know why I slept so well. I am just going to take it for what it is.

A Gift.