Home Life Laurie Nigro The end of sleep as we knew it: motherhood

The end of sleep as we knew it: motherhood

I share Sunday blog space with the amazing and incomparable Eileen Benthal. She writes a lovely and poignant column that reflects the beauty of her soul, her personal struggles and triumphs and her steadfast faith.

Though (clearly) she and I are writing about very different topics and coming from very different places, amazingly, our columns are often about very similar subjects. Last week, I vacillated between writing about the absolute insanity of the male thought process, and sleep. So when I opened up SoutholdLOCAL on Sunday morning and saw Eileen’s piece, I had to laugh.

Nigro hed badgeEileen wrote lovingly of the many wakeful, nighttime hours she has spent caring for her daughter, and how that time is also an opportunity for her to commune with her God. I was touched by her compassion and her ability to find positive aspects of any situation.

I wasn’t going to approach the topic quite the same.

As a kid, I always marveled at what we called “mom sleep.” Though my mother may have appeared to be out cold, oblivious to the world and all of its cares, one sneeze or errant cough emitting from one of our bedrooms and she was up, propping pillows and handing out tissues. I believed that she heard everything and knew everything, which was both comforting and, as I hit teen years, terrifying.

Sleep was never a consideration in those heddy and carefree days. I was always an early riser and rarely suffered from too few hours of slumber. I was adaptable and never gave sleep a second thought, expecting it to come and taking its beauty for granted. Stay up late and watch a movie? No worries. Get up early for soccer practice? Sure, why not?

That all came crashing to a violent halt about four months into my first pregnancy. Insomnia became a constant visitor, rendering me wide awake at 3 a.m., with little hope for much more rest before the alarm clock blared.

I’ve heard people say this is your body prepping you for the night waking needed when your new baby comes along. I thought of it more like my body’s way of spitefully punishing me for creating the invader within. Whichever way you prefer to view it, it sucks. The end result was the same: a tired, cranky woman, overloaded with hormones and gaining weight at light speed while dealing with a neighbor who thoughtfully remarked, “You must be having a girl. They steal your beauty.” Umm, thanks? Perhaps she also wanted to share some horror story about her best friend’s aunt’s mail carrier who almost died having her first baby and now walks with a permanent limp.

Anyway, so the sleep thing went bad way back then and it’s pretty much not gotten better. Ever. Mom sleep is a totally different beast. While my husband snored away, wrapped deeply in slumber, I started waking to every sigh, hiccup, or slight movement of the new little being in our family. Did he need a diaper change? Was he sick? Was he hungry? Had the dog tried to eat him? Were kidnappers lurking outside my window, just waiting for me to slip into sleep, so they could creep in and steal him from my arms? OK, perhaps I should have sought help at the point when I was envisioning desperate crime scenarios.

As the firstborn got older and we added another to the undersized and overfilled bed, I started to understand the irrevocable change that had occurred. I would never sleep soundly again.

When the cat strolls across the floor in the wee hours of the morning, I sense the disturbance of air and wake long enough to insure that no child is in need. Next to me, Brian doesn’t feel the thump of the cat landing on his pillow, let alone the burrowing feline, as she shimmies up to nap against his feet. I often worry for her safety because should his sleeping self decide to move, he will swipe the poor beast across the mattress. Her reaction is to howl and claw me on the way out of the room.

My husband works many hours and has a ridiculous commute. Therefore, I can understand not waking to every bump in the night. However, I always found it difficult to understand how he could sleep through a child vomiting across the entirety of our bed. And then, to continue sleeping as I rolled him over to remove the soiled sheets and blankets. And then, to continue in unconscious bliss as I rolled him back over to put clean sheets back on the bed. This has occurred more then once.

The morning after the first incident, he woke me up to complain about the smell coming from the bathroom. Since it was 2:30 a.m. when I was slopping up puke, I had just thrown all the dirty linens in the shower. Red eyed, nursing a sick baby and praying for a few more minutes of shut eye, I hadn’t been thoughtful enough to start the washing machine (in the basement) before returning to bed. I’m such a heartless witch.

I suppose I should not be surprised by Brian’s sleep aptitude. My father could always sleep anywhere, at any time and in any position. At one point, we purchased him one of those neck pillows because we worried about the possible permanent damage that might occur to his neck from falling deep asleep in the extra innings of a night game. Or, the early innings of a night game. And sometimes the day games.

My kids are still not the best of sleepers and when you add in the menagerie of beasts and the odd hours we keep, it doesn’t look like I can count on a good night’s sleep for another 15 years. And this is why I drink.

If you can’t get enough sleep either, I suggest drugging the ones causing your problems. Naturally, of course.

According to Everdayroots.com, “Valerian is a hardy plant whose roots are used in a number of ways as a sedative and sleep aid. It is thought to work by increasing the amount of GABA (gamma aminobutryic acid) which helps regulate the action of nerve cells and has a calming effect.”

They suggest brewing a strong tea to serve about half an hour before bed.

1 tsp of dried valerian root
strainer or infusion device, such as a tea ball
8 oz. fresh water to boil
8 oz. fresh water, hot from the tap


Fill either the mug you wish to steep your tea in with the hot tap water to get it warmed up (warming it up like this can help keep your tea toasty for longer). Put 1 tsp of valerian root in your infusion device-if you are steeping the root loose, wait to do anything with it. Boil 8 oz. of water in your kettle, remove from heat, and empty your mug of the hot tap water. Place your infusion device or the loose root in your mug, and pour the hot water over it. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Uncover, remove device or strain, and get ready to enjoy a peaceful night. Add milk or honey if you’d like for flavor.

You don’t need to write to tell me I shouldn’t drug my children. It’s just tea, I promise. But if you have other suggestions for getting kids to stay asleep and leave your exhausted self the hell alone for the entire night, please share.

Laurie Nigro, a mother of two, is passionate about her family, her community, and natural living. Laurie resides in downtown Riverhead and is co-founder of the River and Roots Community Garden on West Main Street. Contact her by email.

Laurie Nigro
Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016. Email Laurie