Sleep is Like An Orgasm (or, Finding Empathy)


Usually, when I watch my daughter try to fall asleep, it is with utter confusion. It’s obvious she’s tired, it’s clear that she wants to be asleep, and yet, there she is, awake. It’s unbelievable to me, the sleep deprived mom. How can she want something so badly and not be able to just give into it, just go to sleep?

I jump through all her hoops; I hold my body just so while we side lie nurse, I pace the floor in just the right rythym, I sway her in my arms just right – not too fast, not too slow, and move my own body just the way she likes. I didn’t make these hoops up, they are time tested and proven, the product of many nights’ trial and error. And yet, sometimes, they just don’t work. I haven’t empathetically understood her inability to just go to sleep…until tonight.

Tonight a new epiphany struck my tired mind. (How tired? Keep reading…) Mabel flopped from one position to another, trying to find the perfect spot and when she couldn’t get comfortable enough to find sleep, she whined and then cried in frustration. Watching my daughter try, actually work to, fall asleep, it struck me – it’s like an orgasm.

Now don’t freak out, I’m not attributing sexuality to my infant daughter. I am attributing sexuality to myself (which, to be frank, is an equally absurd idea lately, I might choose sleep over an orgasm). I have found a way to wrap my head around this physical inability she sometimes seems to have to fall asleep.

Think about it. Even if all the right buttons are pushed, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, even if you hold your leg just so. Right? Sometimes you could just cry from the frustation of it. Right?

Okay, it’s weird. But tonight, when my back and knees were loudly complaining at the extended nursebounceswaytwist combo we had going, the humorous parallel bought me enough bemused patience that I was able to get Mabel to sleep, gently and lovingly.

Find your own thing, your own way to understand what it is the tiny, nonenglish speaking, mass of doughy rolls and toothless mystery, is going through. Whatever you choose – humor, zen, actual research – you’re going to need some kind of perspective and empathy to get you through a bazillion nap and bed times with sanity intact.

What is your strangest coping strategy for nighttime parenting?

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