It is 1:51am on a Saturday night (or is that Sunday morning?) There was a time when being up this late on a weekend was because I was out with friends, driving home from Disneyland, or dealing with insomnia. Tonight, it is none of those things keeping me up late. Rather, it is the constant coughing, leading to retching, leading to vomit for my baby. But it’s not just her. The toddler is coughing too. Her body gasps for air, and her body tenses, forcing out coughs more powerful than a little body should be able to.
I’m tired. For two weeks, I’ve gotten so little sleep, I begin to try and add the few hours per night and multiply it by 14 nights and my brain fails. I think it’s from lack of sleep, but to be honest, I’ve never been very good at math.
An hour and a half ago I lost my cool. The weeks of no sleep have caught up with me and won over my emotions. I began crying and Milkman held me while my daughters watched me meltdown. Captain is somehow sleeping through the never ending coughing, my crying, and now his father’s rare, but very loud snoring. Milkman is sick too.
I have these memories in my head of being a very little girl and coughing in the middle of the night. My mom a black, blurring outline, illuminated by the hall light, bringing me sticky medicine that tastes like earwax and weird dreams. It never struck me that she might have been in the middle of sleep, I just knew she some how magically knew I needed robitussin.
My own children have no concept of how little sleep I am running on. In the morning, they will be concerned with their own routine. Up before dawn, begging Milkman for kefir and crying for Little Einsteins on Netflix and fighting over their place on the couch. They will argue throughout the day and play happily and loudly. They will fight their naps, not realizing that every argument adds to vinegar to the baking soda volcano that is my very emotionally fragile and tired, hurting body.
My broken foot throbs as I try to sit in a contorted position to keep Peach’s tiny body elevated. I’m getting proficient at catching her phlegmy vomit into burp cloths, receiving blankets, and t-shirts that have found their way to the crack between our mattress and wall. Each cough feels like it’s physically assaulting me. I wince in fear that she won’t be able to breathe, that she will vomit again. When she stops coughing for a few moments, my eyelids pull downward and I begin to optimistically (and foolishly) think the coughing will die down enough for me to sleep. The moment I relax, another coughing fit comes and shakes her body like whiplash.
How did my mother never seem tired? Or maybe she was and I, like my children, was too self focused to see or care? The woman never stopped. I find my brain chanting “be like mom, be like mom, you can do this, be like mom…” And then I realize she was probably tired, too.
It’s 2:20am, and my mind is struggling to form coherent thoughts. Words run away from me as I try to grab them and lock them into type.
I’m so tired. I don’t know how I’ll survive this. I feel like I can’t do this for another night. I feel like I will implode and collapse.
And yet, I won’t die. I will survive. I’ll make it through this and other illnesses. Goodness knows I have years of this ahead of me. My mom survived it. Your mom survived it. You will survive it too.
Solidarity, my fellow Sisters in the trenches of night time Motherhood.