Two years… and still suffering from PTSD (pre-toddler sleep deprivation)


I’m exhausted.

There, I said it. I firmly believe that at this stage in my life, I might as well just put it out there. Perhaps a name change is in order so that we’re all very clear—my resume will read Erica Donahue-Tired. At least expectations are set, right? “I’m Erica and I’m insanely tired.” I’m owning it like a newly-sober AA member.

One of my best friends just had a baby. He’s beautiful, sweet, precious, innocent… and a sleeper. And I hate her a little. I’m a tired baby-mama hater. There, I said that, too.

My LO just turned two, but when I heard that newborn wail… I was transported right back into never-never-sleep-land. The trauma is real. How I made it out of that first year alive is still a mystery to me—trying to not only work, but climb the corporate ladder too, while on a steep motherhood learning curve that seemed to turn right the minute I’d swerved left.

My anxiety in those first 12 months was through the nursery roof. I spent an inordinate amount of money on binkies, rock-n-plays, movers, shakers, blinds, sound machines, sound apps, soundproofing… and finally a sleep consultant. Moms are queens of resource and resilience, right? We will research and hunt and gather and fetch until we drop. I would’ve done pretty much anything that first year to get this kid to sleep a solid 8-hour stretch, never mind 12 hours like most pre-walkers. If he nodded out, I wouldn’t dare mess with him: I’d let him sleep in a swing unbuckled, share my bed, sleep on top of me. I was convinced I needed a “magic suit,” but it turned out not to be magical. I even did time in his crib.

I’ve had friends who’ve done the same desperate acts and more… like midnight drives as far as the next state over. I have heard of a woman who put a hippo on her kid. Ok, it was a beanie baby, but trust me, I would’ve probably hired a real hippo if some mommy blogger swore by it and said it was safe and had a positive outcome. (Not only did this beanie baby hippo idea work to replicate her hand weight, but she then parlayed it into a booming swaddler business called Nested Bean—because, guess what, there’s a market for things that help babies sleep and parents maintain sanity. Admittedly, none of my ideas were entrepreneurial in nature and I went right back into my Netflix show-hole, not Inc. Magazine. Anyway… I digress).

I have to face it: I will never NOT be tired again, but here’s my hindsight… I’m not here to tell you how many lullabies to sing or how many binkies to put in the crib. What I did learn is that most of us moms—whether your kid snoozes soundly or prefers 3am parent parties—are in that same pressure cooker of trying to do it all and do it all perfectly. Frankly, that’s as insane as not sleeping for 8 months straight.

I now know there were so many things I should’ve let go of… like my old life, for starters. I resisted the wholesale life change that motherhood brought. Instead, I still was trying to be pre-mom me—racing, sleeping, stringing cohesive thoughts together, eating something besides leftover Cheerios off the floor.

My point, mamas: Give yourself a break. We are our own biggest haters/critics and we need to lean on others—and maybe even a hippo from time to time. There’s no perfect 10 in motherhood. As long as they’re unharmed at the end of the day—after all your back-bending and daily contortion—you’re doing okay. Sometimes, good enough is good enough… for now.

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