A Postpartum Life: Fighting the new bedtime

baby pic.jpg

I love each moment I spend with my kids during the day. I love the post-nap cuddles, the picnic lunches, and I even can appreciate the hard discipline and apologies when one of my kids is disrespectful or disobedient.

But I also love the freedom of nighttime. There is something about the necessary quiet enforced by sleeping children upstairs and the moments of decompression after a day of play and work. Tyler and I really cherish our time together at night, whether we’re playing a game, talking over a glass of wine, or spending time separately on different hobbies and interests.

We have some of our best conversations at night when we can speak freely without trying to talk over songs and chatter. As my first-born has gotten older - he’s almost 12 - our time together has been pushed back further and further. We’ve had to establish nights of the week where he reads or plays in his room so my husband and I can spend time together, but often he doesn’t go to bed until around 9:00 pm or so.

This has caused us to get creative. Sometimes he’s included in whatever we’re doing. We’ll play a family game or watch a movie. Sometimes video games are involved. Other times, we sit on the back porch and he stays inside.

Since the addition of baby Jesse to our family, things have changed a bit. While Jesse is sleeping better at night, we’re still not getting the amount of sleep we got before his birth. I’m still getting up 1-2 times at night, and I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted in the way that one is once the newness of an infant has worn off. I’m back in the world of commitments, library trips, and dinner plans. It’s not as radical as newborn sleep deprivation, but it makes me feel haggard and foggy and comes with a side of memory loss.

Because we’ve gotten back to normalcy, Tyler and I have been trying to stay up in order to hang out with each other. We know we need time together to keep our relationship healthy and talk about something other than logistics. But what I’ve come to learn is the extra time we stay awake ends up being a bad idea.

One of us falls asleep on the couch and we have a hard time getting up in the morning. Every once in a while, like when we have a date, staying up late benefits our marriage. And by late, I mean 11 p.m.

We’re fighting the reality that we must have an earlier bedtime. We’re pretending we’re still in college, and we can be up half the night and skip to our classes the following day.

When napping is impossible, or improbable, going to bed earlier is the only rational option. As much as I hate to admit it and as much as I covet and cherish the idea of those extra hours at night, sleep is important to my digestion, my energy levels, my ability to fight off disease, my mood, and a whole other host of physical and emotional aspects.

With three kids to care for, a dog who loves running more than anything else, and a wonderful husband, I have to keep up with my sleep, even if it means getting a few less minutes alone each night. I’ve come to appreciate the quiet of breastfeeding (when my 2-year-old is napping). I take time for myself instead of cleaning when both little ones happen to be asleep. By creating times of peace and quiet for myself during the day, I’m able to give up some of my time at night. I can focus on my husband for a little bit, and then I have to sleep. I can’t do it all, and I have to prioritize what is most important.

As much as I miss staying up, I know this is a season. Like all of life, it’s temporary. This season means going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, and regularly wishing I could nap all day. But it’s a beautiful season of sweet coos, tiny fingers, dirty feet, tractor sounds, and lullabies