Years ago, as I was entering into the deep dark depths of postpartum PURGATORY, I suddenly lost my ability to sleep.
It’s like, as soon as Arizona started sleeping through the night, I stopped.
I remember how it all began, distinctly. Brian (my husband), was starting to feel less wary about leaving me home alone, even in my emotionally unstable and incessantly weepy state. We had Arizona on a pretty good sleep schedule at this point; she was only waking up once per night. He was ready to resume his “normal” life again.
“I’m going out with Eric tonight, see you later,” he said, one Friday evening after work. I told him to have fun and settled into my nighttime routine at home. I remember starting the night off, feeling extremely confident in my newfound motherhood abilities. “I got this,” I said to myself.
Baby girl was going to sleep by 7pm those days. Even though she wasn’t waking up multiple times throughout the night anymore, I never knew exactly when she would wake up for her single night feeding. It could be 10pm or 1am; and so I never slept deeply or definitively. I always slept with one eye open, ready to leap at that first cry.
I was breastfeeding exclusively at this stage and felt tied to my child’s needs, whenever she needed me for anything.
And so, I put Arizona down to bed that Friday night, puttered around the house for a few hours, returned some emails and changed into my cozy pajamas. I might have even taken a shower that evening; probably the first one of the day.
Either way, I was SO ready for sleep. Arizona was swaddled up cozily in her own room across the hall. I was exhausted from the past few months of sporadic sleep. I crawled into my bed, pulled the covers to my neck and closed my eyes in anticipation of deep and luxurious slumber.
But because my husband wasn’t home yet, I felt vulnerable. Every time I started drifting into a sleepful state, I started panicking : what if Arizona woke up but I didn’t hear her? And, Brian wasn’t home to hear her either, so who was going to HEAR HER if I didn’t?? Who would take care of my BABY? Who??
My mind continued to race until I found myself in a full blown tizzy. My heart started racing and I jolted out of bed, ready to cater to my daughter at the first peep.
Turns out my husband didn’t come home until 1am that night, completely oblivious to my full blown battle with SLEEP. That night, and for 2 weeks after that fateful night, I didn’t sleep ONE minute. Not one minute in 2 weeks.
I was exhausted, but worried so much about not being able to fall sleep every night that I COULDN’T FALL ASLEEP.
My (male) doctors told me to drink chamomile tea and take a nice, relaxing bath (what a joke). Then they told me to exercise more during the day and to stop drinking caffeine (note : I never drank caffeine). The list of remedies went on and on until they finally started prescribing sleep medication, the first time I had ever tried something of its kind.
I guess it worked; the first night I took Ambien and DID fall asleep. But, 3 hours later, I was wide awake, heart racing, eyes popping out of my sockets, waiting for sleep to come again. It never did. Note : have you ever tried to take Ambien CR (slow release to put you asleep and KEEP you asleep) for only 3 hours at a time? Well, don’t. You end up feeling like worse CACA than ever before. By the morning, I was a hot mess and ready to jump off the roof.
Yet and still, I was determined to train my body how to sleep again. It was such a farce : how could I be so exhausted, yet fight sleep so vehemently?
Dr. Khalsa, my holistic / naturopathic chiropractor, called me one night. “You need a mantra,” he said, matter of factly. “Okay,” I said, open to ANYTHING at this point.
And he gave me this, to repeat as I laid there wide awake, yearning for sleep :
“I am ready, willing and able to receive peaceful, restful and rejuvenating sleep.”
I breathed in deeply, repeated these words over and over and over. I listened to my husband snoring beside me, envious of his deep and uncomplicated slumber. I closed my eyes, repeating the words again and again. It was 4am when it finally happened, but it did : I fell asleep. On my own, I fell asleep. I did it!
And today, even though my sleep issues are long gone (I pass out within 2 seconds of my head hitting the pillow), I have still kept the practice of calling in peaceful, restful and rejuvenating …
This time, not just sleep but a LIFE full of this. It is our birthright, to have THIS kind of life.