09 May 2008

Everything's wrong on the wrong side of dawn

As a mother, I am at my worst in the middle of the night.  There's no such thing as the time of day when I'm as patient as I would like to be, but this is generally mitigated by my genuine desire to be a good parent when I'm fully cognizant.  Not so at 2a.m.  

Last night, for the second night in a row, Gabriel woke up and cried, keeping me awake for well over an hour.  Now that it's over with and I've gotten on with my day, I can see quite clearly that last night's episode would have been much shorter and less unpleasant if I had been able to pull myself entirely out of my dreams and into the business of being a mom.  However.  Last night was the second night in a row.  I was angry as soon as I felt myself being pulled into consciousness.  

What? Shhhh.  Go back to sleep honey, it's okay.  Hush now.  What's the matter?  Shhh.  You need to go to sleep.  It's the middle of the night.  Go back to bed okay?  What's wrong?  Why are you crying?  Go back to sleep.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??  NOTHING.  Nothing is wrong.  You need to lie down.  Your diaper's clean, you're warm, you're well fed, you can sleep wherever you goddamn please would you JUST SHUT UP?!?   I have to wake up in 2 1/2 hours.  Gabey I cannot do this right now.  I don't get to take a nap in the middle of my day.  What do you want?  What do you want me to do?  What do you want from me?  Whatever you want you can have it.  Words.  Use words.  Pick a word and use it.  Just please.  I need to go to sleep.  You need to go to sleep.  Actually I don't care if you go to sleep, but for the love of all that is holy, please stop.  Stop screaming.  I'm done with you!  I'm sleeping on the couch!  I don't care.  No, I don't want to hold you.  I want to be left alone.  Leave me alone.  Lie down.  Be quiet.  Oh fine I'll hold you but only if you'll calm down.  There.  I'm up.  I'm holding you.  What do you want from me.  No you can't have juice.  You can have water.  I don't care.  No I WON'T turn the light on.  It's the middle of the damn night.  WHY ARE YOU CRYING??? THERE IS NOTHING WRONG.  I'm really sorry, I love you, but I CANNOT be nice to you if you're going to scream in the middle of the night.  You're making me really, really mad.  Sweet Jesus could you just. calm. down.  GABRIEL.  Stoppit.  Please.  Fine.  Here.  I'll get up.  You want me to get up?  I'm up.  Are  you happy?  No.  You're crying.  And I'm up.  What am I doing out of bed if you're just going to keep with your screaming?  I can't comfort you right now I'm too mad.  Just give me a minute.  For fuck's sake it's 3am.  What do you want from me?  Could you please lie down and go to bed?
 At some point, and having absolutely nothing to do with me and my sub-par midnight parenting, we did both get back to bed.  I woke up this morning in a fog of exhaustion and guilt.  How could I be so mean to my baby?  He probably just had a bad dream or something.  If I had just got up and gotten out of bed as soon as he had woken up, we probably wouldn't have lost more than 10 minutes sleep.  I need to be more sensitive, or more loving.  

But I can't.  I don't have the patience.  I don't know how to be kind in the middle of the night.  I need to sleep.


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  1. Not to worry, Jenny. You're human. Functioning on no sleep is worse than difficult. I think it's a form of torture!

  2. We all feel that way at times, it's normal. Doesn't make us feel any better for it, but it's true.

  3. Oh, don't worry. We all do that at some point. I love my sleep too, and I need it desperately, and when my girl wakes up in the middle of the night, I find myself INSTANTLY ANNOYED. And I am short with her too. I just want to SLEEP!!! Don't feel too guilty; you are not abnormal in your response.

  4. Ms. Grace - I wish I could agree but you never know if that's the memory they carry in their heart forever. I tried very hard as a mother to butterfly my son's forehead, caress his back, do the things that I would have wanted to feel better. An hour is so nothing in your life...it's so very much in his. You can't take it back...ever.

  5. I think what some people are trying to convey is that you are human and thus imperfect, not that it is desirable to be grumpy with your son in the middle of the night. Obviously not everyone agrees that it is okay to make mistakes. Some seem to be concerned that on that fateful night you very well may have ruined Gabriel's entire life, creating deep seeded fear and loathing of yourself and all women of this cruel world. Pity the child raised with such impeccably high standards of inhuman perfection. Talk about a set up for self-loathing.

  6. Thank you vintagemama. That's more or less what I was refraining from saying.
    I have to be okay with being imperfect. And it helps to be okay with it if you can bring together a group of moms to talk about it, be it online or otherwise.
    In the meantime I'm going to assume that My constant and steady love for my son, along with the very best of intentions, will leave him adequately equipped and well adjusted for adulthood.