Ah, the plight of the light sleeper. Sure, sleep when the baby sleeps, everyone said. They forget to tell you that the baby’s longest nap will be at 10am, when you can’t possibly make yourself sleep. Or that her naps will last all of 40 minutes, and if you’re like me, and it takes you 20 minutes to fall asleep, and you’re a light sleeper who jerks back awake at the sound of the baby stirring, you’ll get maybe 3 minutes sleep per 40-minute baby nap, and feel like you’d have been better off not even trying.
My sister is not a light sleeper. She’s one of those “anywhere, anytime” sleepers, and she seems to be coping with her newborn quite well, grabbing a 20-minute nap here, a 30-minute nap there, sleeping in that deep, restful way that I didn’t until my baby was no longer a baby. I’m not saying she’s not tired. She has the puffiness around the eyes and slowed-down thought processes that are the hallmark traits of any new mom, but she doesn’t seem to be suffering from total sleep deprivation the way I was when my firstborn was only a month old.
Part of that is mindset, I think. I expected to handle those early weeks of motherhood quite well. I figured as a lifelong insomniac and light sleeper I’ve had plenty of practice at functioning on far too little sleep. My mistake was the definition of “functioning.” I meant sitting at a computer in a quiet office, editing technical abstracts for 8 hours a day, on a steady stream of coffee. Not having to navigate a 2am diaper explosion while a baby screams to be fed, or trying to figure out how to calm a baby in a swing she hates while taking the shortest shower on record.
My sister also has the benefit of my experience to help her get through. I think while I expected the best-case scenario, she anticipated a much harder one than she got. I have to admit, I have a measure of pride in that. She’s the big sister, the brave adventurous one, and it feels good to be the one going through a tough experience first and doling out helpful advice for a change.