Burning the Mommy Midnight Oil

Last night it happened again. At 3:30am I heard whimpers through the monitor. In a moment of mommy amnesia, I turned over, ignored, and wished in vain that they would stop on their own. (Surely there is a scientific name for what we commonly call “mommy amnesia/brain/catatonic state/etc.” I would wager good money that the brain scans of any mom shows the irreparable damage of severe sleep deprivation that starts in murderous amounts from her child’s birth. It gets better, for sure, but tired seems to be a permanent state of parenthood.) The whimpers continued to the point that I knew I had to move. Ugh. I begrudgingly dragged my tired self out of bed. On good nights, I used to slip out quietly and quickly especially in the height of Mike’s illness so as not to disturb him. Last night (like on many other bad nights), I threw the covers off with dramatic flair only omitting the heavy sigh of martyrdom.  Mourning my ever-increasing sleep debt, I trudged the worn path to the boys’ room where the scene is always the same: Ethan is snoring soundly and Connor is sitting up in bed with eyes scrunched and whimpers abounding. Most times the soft cries are easily appeased by a snuggle on the edge of his bed and an occasional quick sip of water. This was not the case last night. This time he was crying harder than normal. When he gets loud enough to jeopardize Ethan’s sweet dreams, I pull him out of bed and carry him to the next room over.

Connor’s old room is still the same as it was when we brought him home as a newborn. The rocking arm chair is our destination, and we rock as one until the crying ceases. Except this time there was no sign of ceasing. I am rocking, soothing, rubbing his back, trying to assess what’s wrong, reassuring him that everything is OK, that it was just a bad dream, that Mommy is here. Finally he manages to find his lost words and cry out, “I have to pee!!!!” Not “I dreamed the worst, most horrible dream in the universe that we all died a painful, slow death and it was so real that I am crying inconsolably.” Not “I have such intense, acute physical pain that needs medical attention STAT which is why I am crying like a banshee.” Nope. It was the cry of the bladder. And as simple as that, he is relieved in more ways than one. Why oh why couldn’t he just get up, go to the potty, do his business, go back to sleep and leave his Mama undisturbed?!

Just to be safe, I take him back to the arm chair and put in some extra rocks that will hopefully be the preventative steps to further disturbance. As his body goes completely limp and I feel the blessed weight of his torso meld into mine, my mind takes note as it does when such instances occur: This is a moment to treasure. At the same exact scene of countless days and nights that merged into one big blur, I rock my almost four year old baby long after his breathing indicates he has passed through a full sleep cycle. Begrudging martyrdom is quickly replaced by an intense desire to freeze time. I think of how this growing body will one day no longer fit so nicely on my lap. I even find my mind wandering to the day he might find his soul mate, someone else to snuggle and cuddle with, someone else to command to kiss his nose, eyebrows, cheeks, and chin, someone he may really become one with in marriage. My reverie is broken by a husband who wonders where his Academy Award winning wife went for so long. I am surprised he didn’t find a bawling mess. He prompts me back to the moment, and I return my prized package back to bed. I hear Eponine’s heartfelt lament, “He was never mine to lose…” and thank God for this sleep-stealing gift He has given me to care for in this time and place. These priceless moments to treasure pay in full (and then some) the debt to sleep I always seem to owe.

Mike busted out the guitar, so sleep-depriving Connor ran to find his harmonica for a jam session.

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