Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Filling in the details

This past weekend, I had planned to be in New York for the book industry's gigantic trade show/overstimulation-fest. But as I listened to myself talking about it, I realized that the only reason I was going was that it was on the East Coast again this year. It would have been my fourth one in a row and I still have ARC's floating around the house from the first one I went to.

When I decided not to go, I felt giddy, like I had just received a gift weekend, but A.'s parents had been counting on us coming to New York for a visit, so they came down on Sunday. Not a big deal by itself, but we had also turned down two social commitments on grounds of being out of town, a family birthday party Saturday evening and a bridal shower early Sunday afternoon. Those events got added back into the schedule. It was one way to learn I'm just not up to that much socializing in one weekend.

The birthday party was fine. It was all people we know from shul, and toddler-friendly. I left feeling like "y'know, this social thing isn't too hard."

Sunday morning I woke up with the strange pain that has replaced menstrual cramps since my period came back--I get nerve pain from roughly the right side of the base of my uterus, stretching down the inside of my thigh to a few inches above my knee. This is so exactly the same every month that I imagine someone with more precise knowledge of anatomy could even name the nerve, but it only puzzled my GP when I brought it up in my physical earlier this month.

Sunday was worse than it's been in awhile. With ibuprofen, homeopathics, heat, and more sleep, I made it downstairs just in time for lunch. Grandparent visits usually get Z. riled up beyond the point of napping, but to our surprise she took herself upstairs for a nap when lunch was done. As A. and I were getting ready for the shower (the grands had agreed to babysit), I felt more and more like I could handle no more people. If I could just lie down for five minutes first I'd be better. But I was crying by the time I had my glasses off. I had one of those outpourings of self-hatred that punctuate my life. I've dragged A. into debt, I can't do something basic like get myself to sleep on time, I am too fragile to go out in public, I can't even take the baby when she asked me expressly to give her time to grade, etc.

In the end I stayed home and napped with Z. while A. made an appearance at the shower. After our nap, I stayed hiding in the bedroom, reading the ARC for Sophie Gee's forthcoming novel, waiting for the next dose of ibuprofen to kick in, listening to the grandparent-induced hilarity happening downstairs and feeling cowardly and flat. Eventually A. brought up a bowl of ice cream and with this final fortification I felt up to rejoining the family.

This sleep thing is the dark heart of my state of mind.

My problem is that I get to the end of the day desperate for time to myself, so even though A. and Z. are usually asleep by 10, I stay up til 1:30 or 2:00 to get those hours in. Left to my own devices, I'm pretty much a 1am to 9am sleeper, so even when I'm very tired this doesn't seem that late to my body clock, especially in summertime when it's still light out at 8pm.

But A.'s alarm goes off at 5:30 and Z. is usually up by 7, so I'm losing a few hours every night. I also haven't slept through the night more than a handful of times since my second month of pregnancy, 3 years ago. This cycle builds on itself until I crash.


Phantom Scribbler said...

I get into a similar cycle myself when I don't get enough alone time. The only solution I've found is to monitor myself pretty closely and keep up an ongoing conversation with my husband about whether I'm getting enough time to myself so that we can work together to make sure I'm not running a deficit.

I don't know how you do it with the years of sleep deprivation. I start to unravel after only a few days without enough sleep. It's not pretty.

S. said...

A. is pretty good, but I think my alone needs are paradoxically heightened by my being so underslept. It's harder for me to handle people so I need more time to detox.

Surviving on minimal sleep is mostly a matter of constitution. I can run on fumes for a long time; Z. is also like this. A. hits a nightly wall and collapses. She regularly says something I will NEVER say: "I have to go to bed now, so I'm setting an alarm so I can finish this in the morning." It's like she comes from a foreign culture.

And I've adapted strategies to cope with night-waking, which is always triggered by Z. Since she was night-weaned (over a year now), I don't get up right away. Often she's crying out in her sleep but doesn't actually wake up. If I judge that someone needs to settle her, I poke A. awake because she falls right back to sleep and I don't. So I'm kind of like a human baby monitor.

But more sleep would be best. If only I could actually effing do it.

Magpie said...

The problem with being the human baby monitor is that you wake up. Can you put her in another room (Z. that is)? Even though my kid often wakes up and scrambles into bed with us, it usually doesn't wake me up.

I understand about the alone time though. I often head upstairs to bed at around 9, just to have the bed to myself for an hour or two. Conversely, if W. goes to bed early, I usually stay downstairs.

niobe said...

There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of, uh, enhanced interrogation.

Can any of the factors that prevent you from getting enough sleep be changed? Does A need to set an alarm to get up at 5:30? (I've never needed an alarm, but perhaps that's unusual).
Is there any other time that you can use as alone time? Can Z's schedule be shifted so she wakes up later?

S. said...

Magpie, getting Z. into her own room is the plan, but that will put her a floor above us and I'm not ready yet (she fell down our outside stairs and broke her arm last Fall and I'm a wee bit anxious still.) We did move her bed away from ours about two months ago--we're getting there. And I know you're right, I will sleep better.

Niobe, A. is already on the train to work by the time Z. and I wake up, so from when we wake up to the moment A. gets home from school (around 5), I'm either on kid duty or at work. Recently that window has often stretched longer because A. has post-accident chiropractic appointments twice a week. And she's grading hard because the end of school is looming.

"Alarm" is a bit of a euphemism here--I can actually sleep through her alarm, but not the dog-barking routine that precedes it. The dogs expect breakfast at 5:30 in the morning and they can't stand the thought that we might forget.

A.'s commute is the part of this I would most like to change, and the sad truth is that possibility is gone. When A. was looking for a new job last year, ease of commute was one of her top considerations, right next to staff morale. She wound up (poor A.!) getting an offer from the district's top academic magnet, which means she's now on a different payscale (as a "demonstration" teacher) and that kind of wiped out the commute consideration. She's on the same damn 6:50 train she's been on the last two years and likely to be on it for the rest of her career. But she's a whole lot happier and we're mildly better off financially.

Z. should actually be waking up earlier because when I'm alone with her it takes me at least two hours to get her from bed to school. I am appalled by this fact, but I haven't made much of a dent in it. If I were dropping her off at 8 instead of 9:30, I would have that hour and a half to myself. But right now to do that would mean both of us waking up at 6:00, which I can't do if I'm going to sleep at 1:30.

Luckily she's out for the summer in less than two weeks, and A. is done for the year about a week later. A. becomes the primary parent and I get to sleep in.

So relief is in sight. And then we can start the school year all over again.

Lo said...

I also do not do well on too little sleep; I melt down after just a few days. And I DO NOT set alarms any earlier than I have to, I would much rather stay up late to get my work done. In fact I work the snooze button...

I am also nocturnal, as you describe. That's the one thing I hate about teaching is getting up so damn early.

I would guilt you about not coming up here, but you seem so sad. And...we weren't even here. (We were up north with friends and the Cutest Nephew on Earth.) And, I get to see A. in just a few weeks! Yay! (Even though I still need to see you and Z!!!)

S. said...

Lo, when I was teaching I managed to shift my bedtime a little earlier. Not as early as it needed to be, but earlier than now. But I still went through the school year sleep-deprived and caught up during the summer. I think that's a major factor in why so many teachers are so destroyed by the end of the school year.

The first week or so back was always miserablest because I was used to getting a full 8 or 9 hours.

He certainly is a cute nephew, and nyah, nyah, you have no grounds for guilting. And believe me when I say that I wish that Z. and I were seeing you in a few weeks, too.

Julia said...

Sorry it's so sucky nowdays.
I totally get it about alone time, and I really need it too. Staying up late is my signature way of dealing as well. And it's not like I ever get enough sleep time to compensate. Which sounds like you get.
Hope things get better for you soon.

E. said...

It sounds like everything is overwhelming enough as it is, and sleep deprivation does to you what it does to everyone--makes one have fewer emotional resources and less flexibility. I'm sorry to hear how hard everything has been.

It sounds like the problem is lack of down time. Don't beat yourself up about going to bed late, though. Even if you got Z. out the door at 7 am, morning time isn't the same as late night time. There's something about late nights when everyone else is asleep that makes it OK not to work, to really relax. Down time at a different time of day is not the same.

I wonder if one solution might be to get in-house help in the morning to get Z. up and dressed (so that you can sleep in). If the fear is that she wouldn't feel comfortable leaving you without her morning Mommy fix (or is it Mama? I can never get that straight), then would it be possible to send her to school in the afternoon instead of in the mornings? If you could get an extra two to three hours of sleep in the mornings, it would make a big difference. Being woken up at 5:30 is okay if you can get in another 4 hours or so after that point, but not if you're then woken up in the middle of your second REM cycle.

Also, have you tried earplugs? I know it sounds mundane, but, as someone who's had daily early morning jackhammering outside my window for the last two years, I've found it can really make a difference. That, and a fan turned to face the wall to create white noise. (Note: the fan stirs up cat hair but there's nothing to be done about that.)

S. said...

E., you are very wise. You're right, my daytime hours are not the same as my nighttime ones. Unfortunately, none of the solutions you propose will work for us--Z. is in full-day daycare, and even so that doesn't really give me enough time on days when I'm busy on the floor or with sales reps. And morning help is unfeasible in at least three different, insurmountable ways (cost, privacy, and dishevelment all spring immediately to mind.

No, I think I need to suck it up and become a healthier, wealthier (?), and wiser Philadelphian (early to bed, early to rise, etc.)--but it does go against my circadian rhythm.