This week I spent two nights away from home for business. I only travel occasionally for work so, on the rare occasions I do, it's a bit of a respite. The preparation is brutal - leaving five kids, a dog and a sweet, tired husband behind for 48 hours is no easy task. There are meals to be planned, playdates to be confirmed, backpack notes to be written and lists to be made. But, when all is done and I find myself at 30,000 feet, I have to admit, it's kind of nice to get away. And the number one reason why is SLEEP. Hours and hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The way I see it, I've been sleep deprived since I first found out I was pregnant in March 2004. Back then I couldn't sleep because my (extremely small, in fact, completely flat-chested!) boobs hurt. A habitual stomach-sleeper, I was in total agony and truly stunned that at just a few weeks preggo, I was being robbed of one of my favorite pastimes. Sleep. As weeks turned to months, my formerly peaceful slumber was routinely interrupted by trips to the bathroom and extreme discomfort -- between my sore boobs, full bladder and swollen belly, there was no rest for the weary. And that, of course, was just the beginning.
Having Liam really threw me for a loop. I'm not a night owl; I'm a morning person. Liam was the opposite. Like many newborns, he had his days and nights mixed up... and before I knew it, I did too. I was a basket case, a walking zombie. And it only got worse when Ciara was born. I remember one morning, I went to pick up the dry cleaning and they asked for my phone number. I stood there, racking my brain, searching in the deepest corners of my mind and could not for the life of me remember my phone number. When I finally blurted something out, I had to rescind it as I proclaimed with embarrassment, "Oh wait, that's my friend Steph's number!"
Then came the triplets. Believe me when I tell you, sleep is elusive when you have three babies growing in your belly and a one and three year old still routinely howling in the middle of the night. As my belly grew bigger, the nights grew longer. I would wait for sunrise, only to nod off as Liam and Ciara, active toddlers at the time, started clamoring for breakfast. Perhaps not surprisingly, when the triplets were born, it only got worse. We were feeding three babies every three hours around the clock while doing our best to provide Liam and Ciara with three square meals a day. I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that I didn't get more than 2-3 hours of sleep at a pop for at least three months.
That was three years ago. Now the triplets are three, Ciara just turned five and Liam is on the verge of turning seven. They are great kids. They are great sleepers. But they are still kids. And there are five of them. The odds of at least two waking up in the night because "I have to pee," "I lost my WaWa," "My tummy hurts," "I'm thirsty," or "I had a bad dream." is about 100%. This is why my husband and I now play a little game in the middle of the night. A little game called "Playing Dead." We are both wide awake, listening to the cries, the sniffles, the coughing, the whining, whatever it may be. And we lie very very still. Pretending to sleep. Keeping our breath shallow and low. Hoping, praying, yearning for the other one to get up and tend to the tots. Is this wrong? This game of Playing Dead? I don't know. I suspect there are other overtired parents out there who play dead too. Because they are tired. Really, really tired. And that is why, every once in a while, it is really nice to travel for work. Because I don't need to play dead in the middle of the night. I am dead. Dead asleep!