July 9, 2005

Bedtime Stories

I have always taken sleep for granted. I mean, I could sleep pretty much whenever I wanted. I might stay up late one night to watch a movie knowing I could make up the sleep the next night or by taking a nap during the day. Now, the idea of sleep consumes me. Like a dieter obsessing about the food he cannot have, I have fixated on sleep and how lacking sleep affects my life on a daily basis.

I used to be very sympathetic to parents of a newborn baby when they would talk about tired they were. They would say things like, “I have the 3 to 7 a.m. shift so I’m really tired.” A “shift”? I dream about having a “shift” people. With two babies, there is no such thing. When it’s time to feed the babies, all hands are needed on deck – especially if we want to keep the feeding to under an hour and get back to sleep as soon as possible.

We have settled into a routine where we feed the babies between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. We then try and get some sleep, knowing we have to get up in just a couple hours. Before we go to bed, however, I have to wash the pump accessories and prepare the bottles for the next round (we hardly breast feed for the late night feedings right now – perhaps later when they get better at it) before heading to sleep. At 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. we get up to feed the babies (or they announce it’s time to feed them by wailing from the crib) after an hour or two nap. We feed them, change them, and put them to bed as quickly as possible. It never takes less than 45 minutes. If we’re lucky we can now get 2 to 3 hours sleep before they start to wake up hungry. Lately we have been trying to put off this second feeding for as long as possible. Once they start to fuss, we will pick them up, bring them to bed with us and let them sleep with a pacifier for as long as they’ll do it. Sometimes we can pick up another 45 minutes to an hour. So, now, we end up feeding them around 5:00 a.m. Again, this takes about 45 minutes or so and then we go back to sleep. I have to get up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work. That last 30 to 45 minutes of sleep are so short, it’s downright cruel. I stagger out of bed, shower (it’s amazing how much more awake I am after a shower), get a large cup of coffee and head upstairs to feed TheMonk first, then Swee’Pea while Andrea sleeps. I do this to pay pennance for the fact that I’m leaving my wife outnumbered two to one for the next 9 to 10 hours. I am out the door by 8:00 a.m. (or so) and hopefully at work by 8:30 a.m. Once at work, no one is allowed to tell me how tired they are.

So, I have been averaging about 4.5 hours of sleep a night. When I got home last night, the babies were calm and Andrea suggested I take a nap. I fell into one of those induced-coma-like sleeps with drool oozing onto my pillow only to awaken to the phone ringing. I stagger out to our loft area and Andrea tells me my cell phone rang while handing me our house phone. I try to shake the cobwebs out of my head as I instinctively head over to where my cell phone is. I pick it up, not sure yet what I plan on doing with the phone, when Andrea says “Matthew there’s someone on the house phone!” I look down at the other phone and slowly put it to my ear. “Hello” I mumble. It is my friend Jean-Luc Neptune (his real name, I couldn’t make that up) from New York, in town with his lovely wife Sarah. We have a conversation about seeing each other the next day. I’m not sure what is said. I cannot recall the conversation. I hang up with a sense that we made arrangements to see each other the next day. I’m sure he thought I was on drugs.

Now, all I want is more sleep – but then Andrea says it’s time to feed the babies. My help is needed. After feeding the babies we all go back to sleep. The twins sleep longer during this night and I’m rewarded with over three hours of continuous sleep. This is the first time since the babies were born almost four weeks ago that this has happened. I wake up this morning and I am as refreshed as I have been in a month. I do the math and calculate I got 6.5 hours of sleep.

This is what my life has become – thanking God for 6.5 hours of sleep.

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