Friday night, 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Stay up late to watch your favorite television show, because you almost never get to watch TV anymore unless it involves cheesy cartoon characters, fuzzy puppets, or a bunch of Australian guys singing about a rose-eating dinosaur.
11:30 PM – Change into your jammies and slip into bed. Just as your head hits the pillow, your four-month-old baby will begin to sing. This is something new she’s started doing, a little bedtime serenade of cooing, yodeling and not-quite-howling that goes on for about twenty minutes. Lie awake and debate with yourself whether or not she’s actually fussing and needs your attention, or if she’s just screwing with your mind again.
Midnight – Lie awake for the next hour, waiting for baby’s encore. Eventually doze off.
1:00 AM – Wake up with a start, recalling that you forgot to turn off your radio alarm which is set to go off at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM, your usual wake up time during the week. You certainly do not want to get up at 4:30 AM on a Saturday, so you crawl out of bed and stumble across the room to switch off the alarm. Curse as you trip over your husband’s shoes and ask yourself: why keep the alarm on the other side of the room? Answer: so you will be forced to get out of bed to turn it off at 4:30 AM, thus ensuring you will be up and wide awake in the morning. Spend the next half hour contemplating this cruel fact of your life before drifting off to sleep again.
4:00 AM – Wake up to the sound of your baby crying. She’s not quite in full-blown screaming mad mode, but she will be if someone doesn’t hustle his or her ass out of bed to take care of her. Decide it’s his ass that needs to do the hustling this time and jab your husband in the ribs several times while muttering, “The baby’s crying… get up… baby’s crying… GET UP!” Husband eventually rouses and gets the baby. Meanwhile, your three-year-old has also woken up. She starts up her own scream-fest, and since your husband now has his hands full with a howling infant, you become the parent who must deal with this pre-dawn crisis. Stumble into the three-year-old’s room. Listen to her hysterically describe the monster that woke her up by vomiting all over her bed. Sit on the mattress and discover as you land on something squishy that yes indeed, one of the cats has puked up a hairball all over the sheets. Curse at the cats. Then discover that your daughter has wet the bed. No, not just wet it; flooded it, in spite of the fact that you allowed her no fluids after 7:00 PM last night (my god, is it tomorrow already?!). Pull the three-year-old out of bed and change her pajamas. Strip wet sheets and blankets off the bed and remake it. Soothe still howling three-year-old and convince her that she really does need to sleep in her own bed because you just know that your darling infant daughter is waiting to be nursed and you are way too tired to do it while sitting in the glider. Return to bed and discover that yes, you were right, and take whimpering infant from husband as you crawl back into bed. Doze off while the baby latches on and sucks the life out of your right breast.
4:30 AM – Wake up as the baby unlatches and drifts off to sleep. Swear at your silent radio alarm clock as you trudge back into the nursery and put baby to bed in her own crib. Trudge back to your own bed and crawl under the covers. Swear again as your three-year-old wakes up screaming again and comes running into your room. Swear even louder as she knees you in the gut while climbing over you to get into your bed. Resignedly scoot over to balance precariously on the very edge of your bed so your daughter can have plenty of room to sleep between you and your still snoozing husband. Fight the urge to throttle her when she complains that you’re still hogging the bed and she needs more room. Fall asleep wondering if you’ll wake up before or after you roll out of bed to crash land on the floor.
5:00 AM to 7:00 AM – Sleep fitfully, waking up repeatedly to catch yourself as you fall out of bed. In between times, answer questions in your sleep as your daughter interrogates you about her upcoming trip to Disney World.
7:00 AM – Wake up again as the baby begins to howl. Reach over your peacefully sleeping three-year-old to smack your husband in the head. Order him to go take care of the baby. Doze off. Wake up a few minutes later to see husband attempting to hand you the baby to nurse. Realize in horror that baby has blown out her diaper and has stinky, runny poop going all the way up the back of her pajamas. Explain to husband that he will clean up the baby if he values his life. Answer three-year-old’s questions about what she’s getting for Christmas this year. When husband returns, explain to him that the bed is getting way too crowded and he needs to take the three-year-old downstairs and fix her breakfast. Doze off as husband and three-year-old exit the room and let the baby proceed to suck the life out of your left breast.
7:30 AM – Baby unlatches and rolls onto her back, drooling breast milk from the corner of her tiny mouth. Sesame Street plays at full blast on the TV downstairs. Realize that 7:30 AM is actually three hours later than when you normally get up (remember that 4:30 AM alarm?), so technically, you have slept late and now it’s time to get up. Enjoy your day! And for extra fun, repeat the whole process for Sunday morning.
And just to illustrate my point, here’s about how I feel after two days of “sleeping late.”
Self-portrait of a very tired mother, 15 October 2006