women

THE LAND OF WINKIN, BLINKIN, AND NOD

No matter how much of a dedicated sleeper you are by nature, pregnancy and birth and the new demands of motherhood have probably upset your cycle. Sometimes it can be difficult to drop off to sleep even when the opportunity presents itself and you’re exhausted.
Here are some tips that can help you fall—and stay—asleep:
 
Remember how we organized your bedroom with the idea of creating a sanctuary ? I had a secret agenda. A room like that will enhance your ability to fall asleep, especially now. Look around and see if you are keeping up what you created. It might be time to reinforce some habits. Take back ownership of the space.
 
In addition to being organized, your bedroom needs to be dedicated to sleep and play. If you turn it into an office, gym, or full-time nursery, there will be no environmental support to help you relax and fall asleep. Use screens if you can to block your views of gym equipment or the computer.
 
If your partner prefers to watch TV or listen to music here, give him an early Father’s Day gift: headphones.
 
Check the state of the bathrooms since your return home. Did the reality of the baby cause the order you created to vanish ? Take a minute to restore the room.
 
Avoid stimulants like caffeine, action movies, the news, Aunt Edna, or exercise close to your desired bedtime.
 
Drink a cup of warm milk to relax late in the evening. If Aunt Edna is itching for something to do, ask her to cook a turkey. Eat the low-in-calorie, high-in-tryptophan white meat. It’s what makes everybody sleepy on Thanksgiving. And tell Aunt Edna her turkey-making rivals her diaper-changing skills!
 
Do some fragrances relax you? Why not introduce them with a scented candle about twenty minutes before you get into bed? It’s best to use beeswax or soy candles with pure wicks. Regular candles are petroleum-based products and can put toxins in the environment. The same is true for cheap wicks, which can have lead in them. Try a lavender sachet under your pillow.
 
Are the sheets clean? Sorry, I had to ask. What about your pj’s or nightgown? You may be so sleep-deprived you are too exhausted to do laundry. This is an Aunt Edna assignment if ever I invented one.
 
Don’t toss and turn. You’ll associate your bed with not sleeping. After twenty minutes get up and try reading in another room. Read something gentle and relaxing. Now is not the time to review the history of the plague in Europe!

ELIMINATE HAZARDS

Never leave a burning candle untended. If you have toddlers, pets, or live in earthquake country, your candle flame can move from atmospheric to destructive in seconds. In addition, be sure the room is well ventilated. Baby’s lungs may find fragrance of any kind irritating so use with caution. And please don’t smoke in his presence.
Do you live in an apartment with noisy neighbors? Try a white noise machine.
 
Wash your face and do your brush-andfloss routine a few hours before bedtime; that way you won’t wake yourself up when the desire to sleep overtakes you.
 
Stop eating three hours before the time you wish to retire.
 
Just before you get into bed meditate for a few minutes to calm your nerves. Meditation should ideally follow no less than two hours after eating so your body can first devote its energy to digestion.
 
Finally, try one of your baby’s lullaby CDs. After all they are designed to induce sleep! Put on your headphones and lull yourself to sleep. Or try a guided meditation designed to help you sleep. You’ll find my favorite source in the Resources section.

ROUTINES AND RITUALS

I’ve previously noted that routines and rituals will serve you when you need to get and/or stay organized. They are equally powerful when you want to induce sleep. Why not try some of the suggestions above and then weave them into a ritual of steps you can repeat each evening? The routine you create may require some tweaking over time. Gradually, however, you’ll find yourself getting sleepy the minute you start the first step, even if that happens about three hours before bedtime. If you review your evenings now, you’ll see that you may have unconsciously embraced a sleep-repelling routine!

That would be an accurate description of this month. It will never come again. It’s overwhelming to bring an infant home. And yet in no time you’ll be an old hand offering advice to other mothers. I thought I’d close out this month with a poignant story.

My friend Lynn married Keith right after graduation from college. At the time he was planning to be a career Army pilot. Lynn became pregnant almost immediately and gave birth to their first child in South Korea. Lynn and her daughter came home from the hospital two days after the birth; Dad promptly left for ten days of maneuvers. When Vanessa was seven days old, she cried nonstop for hours. As a new mom, Lynn didn’t know what to do to comfort her daughter and get her to stop crying. They lived off base in an apartment building. Lynn had no phone of any kind, no friends, and certainly no family nearby to consult with. Nor did she speak any Korean. She decided to put Vanessa down in her bassinet and do some dishes. In less than a minute the baby’s crying stopped. Lynn felt her body flood with relief—until she went to check on Vanessa and found she was listless and turning blue. She quickly tried baby CPR, smacked Vanessa’s bottom, and clapped her hands over Vanessa’s head. The baby started to breathe normally, but Lynn had no idea how long her infant daughter had been without oxygen.

Talk to your doctor if you find it impossible to adjust your sleep cycle. He may prescribe a sleeping aid for shortterm use. Be sure he knows if you are breastfeeding (so he can choose a medication that’s safe for baby).

Clad half in pj’s and half in street clothes, she wrapped Vanessa in a blanket and tore out the door. She raced through side streets to get to a major thoroughfare where she could grab a taxi and get to the American base. Minutes later, Lynn was dropped at the base gate. She asked the guard to call the MASH unit and alert them that she had an emergency with the baby. Fortunately Lynn had done volunteer work here during her pregnancy and knew most of the physicians on staff. A base cab delivered her to the MASH unit, where waiting docs grabbed Vanessa and whisked her away. A man Lynn didn’t know escorted her into a room, where she waited for two long hours to hear news of her daughter. She feared the worst. She remembers that he tried to take her mind off the situation by engaging her in meaningless chitchat about their hometowns. It didn’t work.

Finally a surgeon she knew came in to reassure her that her daughter was just fine. She was breathing; they had examined her and run tests and found that all was well. Lynn was free to take Vanessa home. Lynn burst into tears again and said, “This was all a terrible mistake. You all made a mistake when you let me take her home in the first place! Clearly I can’t care for her.” Lynn remembers the doctor’s kindness. He told her that everyone feels this way at first. In fact he assured her that if she didn’t have doubts and concerns, he would think something was amiss. Back on the streets of Korea, Lynn walked home with Vanessa in her arms.
Vanessa thrived and was followed over the years by a brother and a sister. Today she is a mother herself. Remember this story the next time you are overwhelmed and feel certain you just can’t be a good mother. Taking care of a baby is a learning curve, but you can do it. And many astonishing moms have been there before you.
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