By: Jessica Azar
Before embarking on the journey of growing a tiny human inside me, I seriously took the ability to sleep late for granted…. To sleep whenever I wanted and remain relatively uninterrupted. I knew that generally that when I woke up from this glorious style of slumber that I would be alert and refreshed… And if I wasn’t it was probably my fault for staying out too late and I could just catch a snooze later on. Once I became pregnant, that all changed. I thought that I would have a nine month reprieve from the impending sleep interruption that all seasoned mothers kept warning me about, but I was so wrong.
For one thing, being pregnant makes you sleepy…. Especially in the beginning. All you want to do is sleep all freaking day and if you have a full time job like I did, this is not an option. You’re not supposed to drink caffeine, per the pregnancy experts, so how in the world do you stay awake?! I started out by trying to force myself to get up and take a small walk when I felt the sleepies coming on, but as I got bigger and more tired from carrying around extra weight, I turned to caffeine. Don’t judge. And I’m probably paying for it now, because my oldest son is a wild child, and I probably caused it by infusing his amniotic fluid with caffeine.
Finally, you give birth to this tiny human and you love him so much all you want to do is watch him sleep when he’s not demanding you breastfeed or attend to him…. Even though you’re freaking exhausted from being woken up every two hours around the clock. Everyone told me to “sleep when he sleeps” but after finally springing him from the NICU after living there for his first week of life, I wanted to take it ALL in. And I was so overtired I couldn’t fall asleep when he slept anyways…. And the visitors/friends/ well-meaning family members stopping by unannounced at all hours nixed any possibility of me getting snack-sized snoozes. And being that I was nursing, I thought that I should be the one getting up to take care of him all night long because my husband, The High Roller, had to “go to work” the next day. I was being misogynistic martyr at my own expense… And I didn’t even know it. If I had known the huge switch that was about to flip within my baby, I would’ve take sleeping pills and power slept for a week to build up my reserves. Stupid Hindsight.
After a week of having the baby home, Colic, aka The Devil’s Scream stormed into our lives. It can strike the fear and induce panic in even the most competent, experienced of parents… And I was neither. I was a sleep deprived, hormonal, emotional wreck that had no clue what to do with any baby, let alone one who screamed from Midnight to 4AM every single night. For three freaking months. Nothing would satisfy this child… Nothing. Being inexperienced I decided that it had to be because I was a bad mother or that he didn’t like me, which, of course is ridiculous. Or at least I still tell myself that. The screaming wasn’t limited to the wee hours of the morning either…. He was a very touchy baby that lost his cool the second something happened if he didn’t like it… Or if his food wasn’t served fast enough.
Sometime a couple of weeks into this hellish quagmire of care taking 24 stress-filled hours a day, I decided to stop nursing, in hopes that it would give me a little more freedom to hand him off for a feeding. I decided to celebrate my return to the “adult world” by relaxing with some nice Belvedere Vodka on the rocks. Yes, I’m hardcore. No I didn’t realize how dumb it would be to drink straight liquor after being completely alcohol-free for ten months.I poured myself a double and left the baby in the capable hands of my husband so that I could unwind in front of the computer, listen to music and be left alone. That first drink went down pretty quickly, and because I was finally starting to relax, I poured myself another. Yep. And for some reason, I decided that listening to one of Merle Haggard’s more downbeat drinking songs was a good idea. It was not a good idea. I kept listening to “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good” on loop…. Because it seemed to fit my mood of helplessness and feeling like that having a baby, especially one of this caliber, kept me from ever having fun again.
Well it didn’t take long for all of that alcohol to hit me like a ton of bricks. My father in law had come over to visit that evening, and I can vaguely remember sitting on my couch trying to intelligently discuss the stock market with him through a very thick tongue that kept slurring my words. At some point, and I don’t remember how, I wound up back in my bathroom on the carpet in front of my vanity…. And I had the spins. The most godawful feeling in the world that makes you feel like you’re on a tilt-a-whirl that won’t stop. And of course, I was crying. I was crying because I was exhausted…. Because I couldn’t make the tilt-a-whirl stop… Because I knew I had chosen all of these things by having a baby…. And because I felt like a horrible mother for cracking under the pressure. Let me tell you, I think this kid might’ve made a Navy SEAL crack under the treatment I endured…. I’m not a weakling.
My husband came in to check on me throughout my caterwauling and told me to just “pass out”…. I knew he was right… I really did… But I kept fighting it… Apologizing to him for being a bad wife and mom by getting myself obliterated like this. Being the control-freak problem-solver that I am, I started demanding he call the Nurses Line at our baby’s pediatrician to ask them how to help me sober up more quickly and feel better. (That right there should tell you I had spent some serious time on the phone with those ladies) I also started insisting that he call someone named Pat Brown, because I was positive that Pat Brown could tell us how to handle this situation. The thing is, neither one of us know anyone by that name. Never have…. Still don’t. No clue where that came from… But it’s obvious I was well beyond the realm of being reasonable. I decided that eating bread to sober me up and soak up the alcohol in my gut was a good idea, so I told the High Roller to go get me some bread.
The next thing I remember is waking up, face-down on the floor, with an entire loaf of bread smushed under me. He must’ve brought me the bread just before I crashed down like Goliath. The alcohol had finally slated my consciousness…. And although I was still drunk when I came to, the spins had ceased and I was actually able to get up and go in search of my husband. I found him rocking our son in the nursery who was winding up his colic time and getting ready to finally be put in the crib for a little while. My love for my husband grew a hundred-fold at that moment in time…. As I tearfully stood there and apologized again for getting trashed and passing out. He reassured that me that it was okay…. That I was not a horrible mom or wife and that he loved me. We both went to our room and fell asleep for a couple of hours, until the baby woke me up and the High Roller had to go to work.
Later that morning, as I dealt with the screaming baby and tried to recover from the hangover from hell, I found a small note on my bathroom counter from my husband. It reassured me once again that he was proud of me and that he still loved me. It finally helped me to realize that I could not be everything this baby needed, that I myself still needed to be taken care of, and that I had married the King of Men (sorry Jamie Fraser). I also learned that a mom can be driven to drink by colic. Motherhood may steal your sleep, and leave you exhausted, but it also steals your heart and leaves you more love than imaginable.