I used to be a sound sleeper. The train that came through town didn’t wake me. I hardly registered noisy teenagers walking by at two in the morning. Thunderstorms were my lullabies. Even hurricane Hugo didn’t move me from my bed, much to my mother’s dismay.
And then I got married.
Sharing a room with a little sister or a friend in the dorm is not the same as sharing a bed, a life. And the man I married snored. Not the gentle, rhythmic in and out, but a snorting, ripping sound unlike any I had ever heard. And then he’d quiet. After all the raucous. Was he still breathing?
In the beginning, my touch to check on him was gentle. Then quiet words. “Roll over, honey. You’re snoring in my ear.” But gentle hands and a quiet voice didn’t work. My man, a sound sleeper in his own right, didn’t budge. Unless I shook him, shoved him, grabbed his shoulder and rolled him. He’d grunt and mumble, finally face the other way, clutching the covers to his chin.
Then, I’d lie there. Awake. Still listening to his snores, though not so loud. Eventually, I’d toss and turn my way back to sleep, Big J dead to the world the way I used to be.
Over the years I adjusted, sort of, to his snores, learned how to sleep in spite of them. Though a part of me was always on alert, responsible for the man who slept beside me.
But when we brought Little J home, a switch flipped. Every breath, each noise woke me in an instant. Was he alive? What if he smooshed his face into the side of the bassinet? The second night we had him home I had to move the bassinet just outside our bedroom door so his every tiny sigh and movement didn’t keep me from sleep.
The same held true when Little E joined us. I tried those first few nights, so desperately wanting to keep her close. But with her beside our bed, my mind and heart refused to settle, every grunt and squeak she made causing countless fears and questions to hurtle through my brain. So she slept in the living room. Close enough to hear her cry, but far enough away the sound of each and every breath didn’t reach my ears.
Did that make me a bad mother, not relishing their closeness in the night? Or a wise one, understanding what was needed to give me a measure of sleep?
I’ve never functioned well on little sleep. So I did what I needed to survive those sleep-shy nights. And though Little J and Little E hardly call for me at night anymore, Big J still snores. I think my switch may be permanently switched.