Sleeping Through the Night Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

The Cost of Sleep: Is It Really Worth It?

This past month I went away for the weekend with out my family. This was the first time I had left my daughter for more than one night.  There have been many bedtime and morning routines which I missed due to meetings, work, or an occasional show. But this time was different; I would be in the woods away from the phone and unable to even call to say good night. And though we are use to being away from each other for hours, sometimes days only broken up by a quick dinner or late night nursing, I was scared to go.

The times I am able to, I admit I love tucking my little girl in at night. Her sleepy eyes fighting to stay awake as she savors the evening nursing session; it is as though she is saying, “I don’t want the day to end.” For me it is a mixed feeling – do I want to crawl under the blankets and fall back asleep, tickle her feet and try to keep her up a little more so we can have more time together – or let her fall asleep and then sneak off to my office for work.

We don’t have many nights when I am afforded the luxury of making this choice, but when I do it is always a tough call. My husband might laugh and say what usually happens is I am so exhausted myself I am barely able to stay awake for the bedtime story, let alone get back up to go work. He often comes to bed on these nights and says “I need to move her now,” as he lifts our daughter and places her in her own bed, which is right next to ours, almost an extension, because inevitably she will find her way into our bed to snuggle.

So imagine me sleeping on a foam pad in a cabin out in the woods, while away on retreat for the weekend. I close my eyes with this slight haze of guilt, as my body is able to finally relax and sleep a full night, for the first time in 3 years. No toddler insisting she can only sleep if she is latched on, draping over my chest while touching daddy’s chin and drooling on the dog. Oh how quickly the guilt washes away as I embrace this long lost luxury of rest.

It didn’t even matter to me that I woke before the birds, I felt so refreshed from this solid night of sleep. Energized, I ran out down a trail to sneak a peek at what was hiding in my glorious surroundings. I wondered how the night went at home and blew a kiss over the distance to my family. I used my love as a meditation for them while doing yoga out on the deck. Is it wrong to think that moment was divine?

Don’t get me wrong, the weekend encompassed work, developing my doula skills as the retreat was also an intensive workshop. Work by any other name is still work, right? But should I feel guilty because I love what I do?

I was open and honest about my worries of being away from my daughter. And imagine my surprise when I walked into the house after being away all that time and my daughter refused to say hello or hug me. Instead she grabbed to my husband, her eyes reflect high protest. Sadness creeps in as I think “Oh NO!” I feel all my work to keep her close has been destroyed by one weekend away. I can’t persuade her to come see me, she just wants daddy.

Finally my husband tells me, “It will be okay. She missed you. She’ll come around in no time.” I sigh and start up the stairs “I’m going to go take a shower, I haven’t showered in days!”

The sound of delight echoes through the house as my daughter comes running as fast as she can. “I’m taking a shower too,” she exclaims, and begins to climb the stairs. “I go with Mama!” she yells as my husband tries to convince her to slow down. As a mom of a toddler, showering with my child has become a major life savor! She loves it and I get to take a shower and not worry when I can get her bath in, or what she is doing in the other room.

I smile. It seems she is back to her old self, bouncing around my feet and through my legs. Hanging on the side of our claw foot tub, as she lifts a leg and tries to get into the tub.  She is giddy with joy. This glee makes me so happy, I beg her again for a kiss, and she is willing to oblige. She runs to my open arms and hugs me tightly, then gives me a wet toddler kiss (which feels like she is trying to push her face into mine and involves a head butt).

She pulls back and looks at me then says matter-of-factly, “You need to take your clothes off to take a shower Mama! Hurry up, PLEASE!”

I laugh, seems she can’t hold a grudge. I am relieved and can finally feel okay about having to let go of all my fear about being away. Reminding myself to be in the moment, present and involved, I am suddenly lifted of the burden I have been carrying; I no longer worry about the effects of my job as a doula will have on my daughter’s impression of me as a mother.

We take our shower and put our pajamas on and head to bed. My eyes fight to stay open as my husband explains he was going to have a fire for us in the yard. He pulls the blanket up over my shoulder and says, “But I see you two girls are very busy.  Maybe tomorrow night.”

For a moment I feel guilty, but I hear the routine of lights being turned off and I know he is heading back up. Soon he is walking into the room and says “This seems like more fun.”

The soft breathing of our daughter asleep and sprawled out in the middle of the bed makes us smile and laugh as my husband goes to pick her up. I put my hand on her and say, “She can sleep here,” and I pat my chest. I missed her.

In the end, as most mother’s know, it turns out sometimes sleeping through the night isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Alisa J. BlanchardAlisa J. Blanchard

A Berkshire transplant, Alisa is a: tattooed mom of an almost 2yr old girl; a photographer; singer (with her local chapter of Sweet Adelines International); writer; trained Doula (labor and postpartum support); and all around life enthusiast. She supports her family with her “day job” as a bookkeeper and fills her need for artistic expression in many diverse ways. When she is not making a mess with paints and her daughter; playing pranks on her husband; gardening; or hiking with the dogs; Alisa can be found working on her passionate dream of becoming a full-time photographer (Common Moments) and doula.

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