That Time Our Son Stopped Sleeping

About a month and change ago, our son stopped sleeping. With the exception of a regression here or there and the dreaded time changes that left us out of sorts for a few days, William has slept through the night since he was a few months old. He’s always been an early to bed and early to rise kind of kid, but his early bird tendencies never bothered us since he usually goes down easily at 7:30pm each night, only to wake the next morning.

It started with a skipped nap on the weekend, then a rough bedtime, which coincided with the first time anyone other than family was over for dinner in ages. Next, it was a wakeup at 2am, then at midnight, and a few 5am wake-ups that made us miss our usual 6:15-30am wake-ups. Soon, a few nights of inconsistent sleep became a few weeks. Ian and I took turns sleeping in his room but often resigned to carrying him into our room for just a few hours of sleep.

I started writing down what was happening each night to try to uncover a pattern and took William to a pediatrician where we did learn he had an ear infection. But, after he completed antibiotics and the pediatrician confirmed the infection was gone, he still wasn’t sleeping and the lack of sleep was affecting all of us.

I initially blanched when a friend suggested a sleep consultant. Had it really come to that? Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Losing sleep is part of having kids right? Desperate one afternoon while trying to focus in a meeting and dreading the uncertainty of the night ahead, I reached out to a consultant. As I type we have had five nights of uninterrupted sleep. More than that, it turns out William isn’t such an early bird. He’s been waking up closer to 7am daily and I’ve noticed a difference in his temperament in the morning and that he isn’t as tired late morning. There is so much shame associated with needing extra help (and paying for it, which we are fortunate to be able to do), but I’m so happy we did.

On Routine 

We established a routine early on that mutually benefited us all. Bath, books, bottle, bedtime became dinner, bath, books, bedtime. The nightly routine was a sanity saver in those early months, and sticking to it has helped William transition when we travel and made moving houses easier on us all.

But recently, everything about our routine has felt stifling. 2022 has been off to a bumpy start. We all got Covid in January and isolating while working full time for weeks with a toddler who, thankfully but also frustratingly never lost his energy while he had the virus, was beyond draining. 

When we emerged out of survival mode and got back to our normal routine, it wasn’t the relief I thought it’d be. I wasn’t finding joy in driving by the bison in Golden Gate Park on the way to daycare, efficiency in squeezing in a Pilates tape before work, or in our tried and true bedtime routine. 

So, this week I tried to switch things up. The bedtime routine has remained more or less the same, but altering other everyday patterns has made a difference. On Monday, I brought William’s toy trucks into the kitchen so he could play while I made banana bread. On Wednesday, did a foggy Lands End hike after dropping William off. 

On Strength

I’ve never considered myself a strong person. Resilient, sure. Hard working. Check. Ambitious. Check. But not strong.

Becoming a mother forces you to look at yourself differently. It forces you to change because you have to. I was terrified of labor, but I did it. I made it through my darkest days with postpartum depression, but I did it. I went back to work after having my son at the start of what would become a global pandemic, without any family around.

When I went back to work our daycare was closed due to Covid, and over the past couple of years we’ve weathered periodic pandemic closures and we’ve had weeks with William home with no more than a runny nose. Those were tough weeks, months even, but nothing has compared to the past few weeks.

Three weeks ago I came down with a virus that knocked me off my feet. I tested negative for Covid and the flu but was bedridden for days and barely left our bedroom. A week later, our daycare closed to an exposure. Two days later, Ian woke up with a fever, tested positive, and – thanks to the vaccine – was sick for just about 48 hours. For William, it was more gradual. A runny nose turned into a cough, all without a fever. In the end, he tested positive and we isolated for 10 days, both of us working full time, chasing a toddler, cooking and cleaning and somehow surviving.

We are almost on the other side. William is back at daycare and Ian is back to 100%. As for me, I’ve never felt more exhausted or run down. The stress of working full time while parenting full time, sleepless nights watching William toss and turn on the baby monitor, making sure we are all hydrated and fed and medicated, the constant testing, the counting of isolation days, the mental juggling of schedules, it’s been a lot. And we are the fortunate ones, with work-from-home jobs and the ability to get groceries delivered.

My first thought coming out of the past few weeks was how weak I felt. But then I realized how strong I’ve had to be. So that day, after putting William down for a nap, I napped myself. And then I got on the Peleton and did a 45-minute ride – something I never do.

Working Mom Poker Face

There are limitless articles about what to put in your work bag when you’re pumping at work and how to prepare for going back to work after having a baby, but no one prepares you for the quick transformation from William’s Mama to your work self. It often has to happen in seconds, giving you whiplash.

Like the time when your son, who never cries at daycare drop-off, cries at daycare drop-off. And you’re already five minutes late to a call with your CFO.

Or the time, when your son was home sick (again), you’re leading a virtual meeting and trying to wrap it up quickly because you can hear that’s he’s outside the door asking for Mama.

Or the time your son falls at daycare and may have chipped a tooth and you’re driving over, palms sweating, tasting his blood in your mouth, and have to call a client to let them know you’ll be missing a big call starting in three minutes.

Or the time you have to take a call while feeing your son dinner, forget to turn your video off, and have to be a serious person and answer questions when you know everyone saw the funny faces and dances you did to get him to eat.

Oh, the Places We’ll Go

Italy, Japan, Indonesia, France. Before having William, we planned one major trip per year. And as my belly grew and grew with the baby that would become William, we talked about all of the places we’d take him.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where my late grandfather lived.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey, where my husband grew up sailing and learned to surf.

Italy, where we honeymooned.

Tokyo, Japan, maybe our favorite place we’ve been to together.

Then, five months into William’s life, the world shut down and travel as we knew it stopped. The majority of William’s major milestones have happened during the Pandemic, and we haven’t been the well-traveled family we aspired to be as a result, but we’ve still managed to take William to some of our favorite places within the U.S. (and snuck in one international trip when things briefly went “back to normal” last summer). Here’s where else you’ve been, William:

Here we are in Bodega Bay. William’s first time leaving
San Francisco when he was two months old, for a long weekend after Christmas in 2019.

La Quinta, California where Pop Pop and Grandma live, in January 2020.

Summit, New Jersey to meet your (other) grandfather in hospital, in February 2020.

Big Island, Hawaii, just before the Pandemic arrived, in early March 2020.

St. Helena and Napa for your dad’s first Father’s Day.

Boonville to see Great Aunt Linda and Great Uncle Andy over the Fourth of July.

Park City, Utah to be with family in August 2020 (and again that September).

Los Angeles to meet our friends’ fellow Covid babies, in September 2020.

Sea Ranch, California right after your first birthday – we were there on your second Halloween!

Olema near Point Reyes Station during the long MLK weekend.

Cambria, California for my 35th birthday.

Napa again for your dad’s second Father’s Day (starting a tradition).

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – your first international trip! Daycare summer break spent well.

My hometown, Newport Beach, to meet your godmother, Jacqueline.

Truckee and Lake Tahoe within a few months of each other – for a wedding and a long weekend with your best friend Goldie’s family.

Mendocino, California for New Year’s 2021.

Not bad for a pandemic!

Things Worth Giving Up

When I was pregnant, seasoned parents loved to tell me about all of the things I’d be giving up when our son arrived. Sleep was number one, but the list also included brunch, my body, any free time, showering, and more. I’m now over two years into motherhood, and I’ve found that yes, I do go to brunch less (ha), but there are a few things other things I’ve given up that I didn’t expect to – things that are worth giving up.

I’ve always been self conscious singing or dancing in public, and even with close friends. I only sing along to music when it’s cranked way up loud, sing happy birthday in a group at barely a whisper, and the thing that stressed me out most about my wedding was having to get the dance floor going. But, I will sing and dance for and with William in total abandon, not self conscious at all. When he was a brand new baby, I would sing in order to get a shower in or make it through witching hour, watching his face transform from a scowl to the sweetest smile. Even my terrible dance moves make him grin ear to ear. My son is my favorite dancing partner and we sing most days on the drive home from daycare.

Everyone talks about how motherhood changes your life in ways that only seek to highlight all of the things you’ll have to give up and that you’ll miss, but I’ve found it’s worth thinking about the things I’ve let go of that I don’t miss at all.

Wednesday Magic

I’m tired tonight. None of us slept well last night and I had a gauntlet of meetings leading right up until daycare pickup. As bedtime approached I tried to slow myself down, to not rush through the routine, to not think about the Slack messages waiting for me.

After teeth were brushed, William was delighted to discovered the new rug in his nursery. A soft, colorful replacement from the neutral sisal that was there before, I’d ordered the rug because the other one was didn’t survive a leak that sprung in our 1919 apartment after a recent storm. William ran across the rug squealing, turned around, and beckoned us to try, “Mama do it. Dada do it.” We took turns running across the rug before bedtime. He giggled so much he gave himself the hiccups.

To us, it was just a replacement rug. Another thing on my to do list on a busy Monday after the Sunday storm. To William, the new rug was magic.

William was here.

It takes a village

They say it takes a village, but I’ve found this to be one of the few parenting quotes that isn’t true for many parents today, myself included.

I snapped this photo yesterday, my son’s second day home from daycare. My laptop was to my right, too many tabs open, too many unanswered emails, too many reminders for meetings I knew I’d be late for or attend distracted.

On a normal week, my husband and I are just managing. It’s a delicate balance with both of us working now that we have William, but we are doing okay. The days when I manage to feel a semblance of balance feel like such a triumph. But if one thing gets out of whack, it’s hard to recover. This week Ian was traveling, so the balance was already off. Tuesday night he was up on and off all night – rare for him – and it went downhill from there. He was sent home from daycare with a cough Thursday and stayed home Friday, barely sleeping each night.

The question I kept asking myself this week was how, if it takes a village to raise children in normal circumstances, are we supposed to manage when we’re available for work 24/7, when we don’t live close to family, and when there’s still a pandemic raging? I was alone and had to just muddle through the week. I wanted it to be like the movies, when the lead in the romantic comedy has friends who are able to drop everything to come to her rescue. To pour a glass of wine while her son splashes in the bath. To make sure she’s eating while working long hours. In reality, the majority of my friends are trying to strike the same balance we are each week, and dealing with sick kids of their own much of the time.

I have a text thread with my close college girlfriends, the content of which has shifted since we all became moms, and another with two coworkers who live across the country but have kids close to William’s age. I have a Slack channel with the moms I met in baby group moms and dozens of Instagram DMs with moms I know from various stages in my life. We all share the same struggles.

Ian arrived home Friday evening and last night William finally slept through the night and woke up without a cough. It was such a relief but I still feel battered and bruised from the week. My eyes hurt from so much time spent working in darkness, just the glow from my laptop lighting the room as my stomach growled, reminding me I hadn’t yet eaten dinner. One night I held William’s hand through the crib slats until he fell asleep and my shoulder is still sore.

I know even just weeks from now all I will remember is his sweet voice asking to hold my hand, the weight of him in my lap during a work call, and maybe even the pride in managing it all. I also know I’ll still be waiting for that village to turn up.

Will he forget me? (on work travel)

It’s happening. After 16 months of working remotely and zero work travel, I am about to go on my first work trip since having my son. On Sunday, I’ll be on my way to Warsaw, Poland for a production. I’ll be gone for six whole days

One moment, I feel ready. My husband and son will be totally fine on their own and work travel is inevitable. More than that, it’s something I used to enjoy. The next moment, I don’t.

What if he forgets who I am?

What if I forget how to do my job?

What if the plane crashes?

What if my husband does such a good job that my son doesn’t know I’m gone?

I took this photo on my way home from New York in the summer of 2019. I was there for work and about six months pregnant. I remember working on the flight but also updating my baby registry. Sometimes I don’t even recognize the person who took this photo but I opted for a window seat to see if I run into her on my flight to Poland.