Thursday, November 14, 2013


When Son-One was a few weeks old, Hubby and I impulsively moved from our little furnished apartment outside of Altoona, Pennsylvania to my grandmother's house in the northwestern wilds of the state. I say impulsively because we had had no intentions to move, but while helping my parents move their household to that area, Hubby decided to apply for a job at the same grocery store where my mother was applying. It was a Saturday. He was hired on the spot and they wanted him to start the following night.

Hubby had desperately wanted out of the position he had at a shoe factory near Altoona and the move would mean we would be closer to family so I was all for it, but the logistics were a bit daunting. Yes, our belongings were meager. But, I would be moving them all from a second-floor apartment and trying to squeeze them into the back of an Escort GT with only a breastfeeding newborn and Youngest Sister for help. Oh, and did I mention I'd had a C-section only a few weeks before? Heavy lifting and repeated frequent stair climbing were not an endorsed part of the aftercare instructions I'd received from the doctor.

Anyway...we moved in with my grandmother,  my Nan, who was mostly happy to have us. She was, of course, full of advice for us first-time parents. Much of the advice sounded hilariously outdated, especially to the ears of someone who had prepared for motherhood with both book learnin' and the hands-on education of younger siblings, cousins and babysittees.

For instance, she firmly believed that holding a toy in front of the baby's face for even just a few seconds could make the baby cross-eyed. She believed, like many of her generation, and many even still, that picking up a crying baby too soon or too often resulted in a spoiled baby.

But the thing about which we butted heads most often was the importance of keeping the baby on a schedule. I was not working outside the home at the time and I had read a lot about the benefits of on-demand breastfeeding, especially in the earliest months. Add to that the fact that Hubby worked nights and there didn't seem to be any good reason not to let the baby dictate the schedule.

In the beginning, Nan warned, "That baby's gonna get his days and nights mixed up."

Eventually, of course, she declared, "That baby's got his days and nights mixed up."

And he may have a little, but it all eventually righted itself.

I have been thinking a lot about getting days and nights mixed up and what it means to be on a schedule that goes against your own natural rhythms. I have been working second shift (2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) for a little over four years now. Early on, I assumed I would adjust to it, but that hasn't happened so far.

I think I would be better off if I could just come home and go to sleep, but of course, I can't do that anymore than someone coming home at 5 p.m. would immediately go to bed. The minimum wind down for me seems to be about 2 hours, so I'm usually going to bed somewhere between 12:30 and 1, but on particularly stressful nights I'm up (or at least awake) until well after 2 a.m.

Since adulthood, and maybe even earlier, I have always been a very light sleeper who wakes frequently and has a hard time going back to sleep. That, too, has not gotten better with time. I often am awake at least once per hour all night long. It seems miraculous to me to make it through two or three hours of sleep without drifting to consciousness.

I linger in bed longer than I should, hoping to feel more rested, but instead, when I finally do get up for the day, I usually feel like I've been bludgeoned.

There's an old Steven Wright bit that I've always loved, he says, "My girlfriend asked me if I slept well and I said, 'No I made a few mistakes.'"

Sleep seems like it should be the easiest, most natural thing in the world, but I can't seem to get the hang of it. I wish my Nan were still around--I'm sure she'd know just what to do.


  1. I'd sell my soul for a good night's sleep. OK, since I'm agnostic, that probably does not impress you. I'm also in bed by eight every night (awake by 11:37) so I could NEVER work your schedule.

  2. 2nd shift is the worst for messing with circadian rhythms. I love the Steven Wright quote. (And, if I'm honest, almost all Steven Wright quotes.) We underestimate the power of sleep - good sleep - I wish I had suggestions for you, but probably you've heard them all already anyway.
    Have I said lately that I love your writing? I love your writing.

    1. Also, speaking of sleep deprivation, please ignore the punctuation nightmare.