My Year of Disrupted Sleep

Way back in early June, I had a conversation with a friend about my sleep habits.

“How did you sleep last night?” She asked.

“Oh, fine,” I replied. “I got up to pee about five times—”

“Oh no,” she looked concerned and I had to laugh.

Getting up to pee five times in the night doesn’t sound like a ‘fine’ night’s sleep, does it?

But that was my baseline in May and June of this year. It was a fine night’s sleep because, even though I got up almost half a dozen times, I was able to fall back asleep easily afterwards. With the days so long in late Spring, I would often find myself lying awake while the sun was rising around 4:30am. I was tired, but I struggled to stay asleep.

Also around 4:30am, my left hip would start aching because I’d been lying on it for more than half the night. I couldn’t sleep on my right side because it aggravated my heartburn. I’ve never particularly enjoyed sleeping on my back, but that position was out because I found it hard to breathe when I lay on my back for more than a minute. And, obviously, lying on my stomach hadn’t been an option since 2021.

When you complain about lack of sleep during pregnancy, the unhelpful response you receive from most everyone is: just wait until the baby arrives!

One parenting book gave me hope, noting that although quantity of sleep goes down with a newborn, quality sometimes goes up—new parents are so bone-tired that when they do get to sleep, they sleep hard. After months of restless nights due to aching limbs, heartburn, and a bladder I could never seem to fully empty, a couple hours of deep sleep sounded great.

Well, Baby C arrived in late June and, on one of our first nights home from the hospital, I slept so soundly that I woke up disoriented. It was great. And confusing. But mostly great. Months of daily heartburn completely disappeared the day after I gave birth, and lying on my back had never felt so satisfying.

The first month of C’s life was tiring, of course, but she started sleeping through the night much sooner than we expected. We feel incredibly lucky to have a baby predisposed to sleep for long stretches. I’ll go ahead and take a little bit of the credit—prior to getting pregnant, I never had trouble sleeping. When people talk about whether they’re a morning person or a night owl, I always joke that I’m neither: I’m a sleepy person.

Of course, I hope my husband and I are also encouraging good sleep habits, but I’m not spending a lot of time pondering why C sleeps through the night. I’m mostly just feeling grateful that she does it.

Am I sleeping as well as I did prior to getting pregnant? No, of course not. But I’m sleeping much better than I was back in early June. I knew 2022 would be my year of disrupted sleep and I honestly expected the experience to be so much harder.

We have loved these first 5 months of parenthood, and we’re looking forward to the next 5, and the 5 after that, and all the months and years to come. Caring for C as she grows and changes is an enormous privilege.

Actually, a big part of why new parenthood is going so well for us is privilege. We live in a country with generous paid parental leave policies, which means we’re both able to be at home taking care of our baby full-time. We chose to both stay home with her and live partially off of our savings, but having access to that choice is a privilege that we don’t want to take for granted.

2023 will include more time at home with C as a family, and hopefully some international travel as a family. But it will also be the Year of Returning to Work. I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but, on my optimistic days (luckily, that’s most days), I’m excited to figure it out.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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