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A Night in the Life of a Sleepless Mom

Patty Onderko

"You better enjoy your sleep while you still can!" When you're expecting, you hear this bit of advice, always delivered with an evil little laugh, from moms and dads who have already lived through  -- and apparently been scarred by  -- the sleep deprivation that comes with baby's first year. I wish I could enjoy my nights! But at 27 weeks pregnant with twin boys, I dread them. Though I'm exhausted, have an aching back and a heavy belly, and want nothing more than to get some rest, I know that sleep is no longer what my nighttimes are about, even before my babies have entered the world. I now think of the hours between about 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. as a gauntlet of various pains and discomforts to be endured until I make it through to the sunrise salvation of morning. Here's a little look at last night:

10 p.m.
My wife, Emily (I'm married to a woman), says good night and turns off her nightstand light. I decide to keep reading my new book on twins just to postpone the frustration of trying in vain to fall asleep.

11:30 p.m.
Put on a Breathe Right strip (my nose has been constantly congested for weeks now) and turn off light.

11:45 p.m.
Wonder if Breathe Right strips are causing my nose to permanently change shape. After all, I've been using them every night for six months. Emily says I'm addicted.

Gather all pillows from the floor and create an elaborate incline system for my head and neck, since lying flat is making me feel like the blood to my head is being cut off. Or that all the blood is rushing there...I can't tell the difference.

12:15 a.m.
Angrily toss all pillows off bed; incline system not comfortable. Get up to pee. Then create a mental checklist of all the things I need to buy before the babies come: a hands-free telephone headset (I've heard this is a must when you have twins), slippers for the hospital bag, a new coffee table (the one we have now is a metal-and-glass infant death trap), a rocker, thank-you cards, diapers!


12:45 a.m.
After switching from my left to right side every two minutes for the past half hour (God, I miss stomach sleeping!), I finally give up and flop onto my back.

12:50 a.m.
Worry about how much damage I'm doing to my babies by sleeping on my back. Turn to my left side. My back is killing me, so I pull pillows back onto the bed and wedge one underneath my belly and another behind my back. It doesn't help at all. I actually start to whimper a little.

1:05 a.m.
Get up to pee. Two whole drops!

1:10 a.m.
Brainstorm creative ways of answering the question  -- "But who's the real mom?"  -- that Emily and I will inevitably get from strangers after the boys arrive. Can't come up with any polite but still zingy alternatives to "We both are! Now mind your own business, dummy!"

1:20 a.m.
Feel like I have to pee again, but know my bladder's gotta be empty. The idea of an empty bladder makes me scared that I'm not drinking enough water and possibly dehydrating the twins, so I get up for a drink, and then pee again.

3 a.m.
"Holy *%@%#!!" Leg cramp, leg cramp, oh God, leg cramp. Angrily shake Emily awake as I grit my teeth and wait for the excruciating pain to pass. It's not fair she gets to sleep through all my torture.

3:01 a.m.
Ahhh, leg cramp has ended, but I moan for another five minutes as I flex my foot so that my wife understands the true cruelty that is a middle-of-the-night calf cramp. I swear, some pregnancy god devised this quirky little symptom for her own amusement: "Oh look, she was finally sleeping and now she's writhing like a hooked worm on speed. Mwhahaha!"


3:30 a.m.
My Breathe Right strip is slipping off. I try for a while to reaffix it  -- I don't want to waste one since they're surprisingly expensive  -- before giving up and putting on a new one. Addicted, apparently.

3:40 a.m.

3:45 a.m.
The babies begin their nightly acrobatics act. I giggle, then moan, then giggle, then moan for the next half hour as they flip, kick, and punch. I love these boys! I hate these boys! Will I ever get sleep? I pull Emily's hand to my belly to feel them, not caring that she was fast asleep. In the morning, I'll tell her I just wanted to "include" her in the "magical" experience.

6 a.m.
My wife gets up to go to the gym. I can't believe I've actually been sleeping! I'm simultaneously excited that the night is almost over and panicky that I have only another hour to sleep. For the next 60 minutes, I float in and out of a dream about breastfeeding (the twins try and try to nurse, but my breasts will produce only peanut butter) and fantasies about what I'll eat for breakfast (an oversize full-fat bran muffin...yum!).

7:03 a.m.
Rub my belly and tell the boys it's time to get up. I reprimand them for keeping me up all night, and they give me a few kicks in response as if to say, "Just you wait, lady!"

Patty Onderko is a senior editor at Babytalk. Her twin boys were born in July.