Tuesday, September 2, 2008

# 15 Yawn, Yawn

I have a wish. I want to fall asleep at a decent hour (let's say 11 pm) and wake up in the morning around 7ish. This means going to sleep at night and not waking up until morning. Is that asking too much? If I remember clearly, before children and before I shared my bed, I went to sleep at night and woke up in the morning when my alarm went off. If I happened to have a dream and it wasn't too scary, I fell right back to sleep. Back then, I didn't get up to go to the bathroom, I didn't listen down the hall for the sounds of my children's breathing, I didn't start making mental lists of all the things I had to do, and I surely didn't gingerly climb into bed so as not to wake up my husband who if moved from that most wonderful position, might start to snore. In which case, it could be a very long while before I fall back to sleep.

I digress... What I'm trying to share with you is that although, on average, I am a little sleep deprived, the pain is worth the gain. Let me explain.

The time is 1990 -- about 6 months into my marriage. Since my husband and I are both dog lovers, we couldn't wait to bring a fluffy little bundle of joy into our new home. Because we lived in Washington DC and in a condo, we wanted a dog that would make us feel safe, but also one that didn't bark a lot. After reading dog books and talking with many "dog" people, we decided on a Doberman. We went to a breeder, played with 7 little Dobies and brought our Zoe home. She was 8 weeks old. We kept the cage in our bedroom and took turns being "on call" for the middle of the night walks. Talk about zombies. I was working shift work in the ER and my husband was working part time and spending his off time studying for the entrance exams for medical school. Let's just say Zoe taught us a lot about parenting. These lessons included: carrying on our daily lives on less sleep than we thought possible, sharing responsibilities, loving a warm tiny body that pees on you, taking turns out of turn without getting nasty with each other, and cleaning up messes of all kinds. Luckily, our experience didn't stop us from wanting kids, it just made us a little smarter and probably a lot more tolerant. Let's move forward a few years.

The time is 1995 and my daughter is almost 3 months old. We have just moved into our 250-year-old money pit. I'm 33 years old and working a 60-hour week in the Emergency Department. Even with a toddler, a new house and a demanding job, I still got up for those middle of the night feedings. Although I was usually asleep on my feet, I LOVED doing it. To this day I can still remember her baby smell, her little hands playing with my lips and nose, the absolute quiet and Zoe laying at my feet. Those were some of the best 20 minute increments I've ever spent. Not surprisingly, once back in bed I fell asleep like the dead, but had no problem waking up at the slightest squeak from down the hall. I have jokingly said that my daughter aged me. I wonder though if there is an equation where you count the number of hours of lost sleep and relate that to the number of years that it's aged you. Lets talk about recently.

About 3 weeks ago we adopted a dog from a shelter. He's somewhere between 2 and 3 years old. I felt so lucky when I discovered that he was 'potty' trained and understood many commands. I thought that, unlike a puppy, I wouldn't have to get up in the middle of the night to let him out, nor would I have to listen to his crying because he missed sleeping with his mommy and siblings. May I inform you as to how wrong I was? Let me share this information with you. My dog has to be the cleanest dog in the neighborhood. During his first two weeks living with us, I thought I would go mad [the insane kind of mad]. Between 3:00 and 5:00 every morning he would start to clean himself with long, loud, luscious, lip smacking licks. I mean a total body bath! I wanted to pull my hair out. Well, we are now into our third week and when he starts 'a-lickin - I say, "NO Iggy", and he stops. I hope by the 4th week he'll have figured out that cleanliness is not next to Godliness and that in this house and at that hour it's more likely to get you booted out of the master suite. Oh, did I mention that dogs have dreams and 'some' dogs talk in their sleep?

So, what have I figured out from all this? I know -- don't let your dogs sleep in your bedroom. However, mostly I've realized how well I can function on so little sleep. I've also realized that I interact with amazing women every day who live and sleep as I do, and you'd never know it. They are vibrant, intelligent and beautiful people who only occasionally, in their exhaustion, may forget to take their kids to a dentist appointment or forget to pick one of them up from an after school activity. Perhaps, lack of sleep caused by the performance of loving acts is mathematically a plus negative on that equation of aging. Since this babble is sort of a time line, I'll finish with this. The year is 2011. I'm told as we reach menopause our sleep becomes even more interrupted. At this point, lack of sleep is so part of who I am that I might not even notice....

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