I hate who I am at 3am.
People remark that I am so patient. They tell me that they do not know how I power through epic tantrums without reacting in a physical way. They marvel that my hands are so steady.
“I’d be a wreck” they say.
I am a wreck.
Have you seen me lately?
I haven’t had a solid hour of sleep in three days now. I sleep in 15 minute bursts. If I am lucky, it might be 25. This deprivation makes me feel slightly insane. Like I could fly apart into a million pieces at any moment. My brain is fuzzy and my limbs feel heavy. My hair is falling out and receding. Those things that make us human…empathy, sympathy, love, concern, joy…I fake those some days, you know. In reality, I feel very little.
When the sun is up and there is no escaping that the true day has begun I pull it all together. I long ago stopped watching the clock, imagining when I might be able to expect a chance to nap. In fact, when Corrigan does fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon, I am often so hopped-up on caffeine, those blessed cups of coffee that help me motor through the morning, smile through therapy and be a present parent, that once Cor closes his eyes mine are wide-open, eyeballs vibrating from that 7th cup.
I manage though. I could sit on the couch and half-heartedly interact with Corrigan all day but being his mom is my job. Three hours of therapy a week is not going to get him anywhere, I think that those sessions are more to teach me what to do with him the other 99.9% of the week rather than teach him anything in those quick 60 minutes. So I slam cups of coffee, I force myself to smile, to cuddle, to play chase, to clean up fifty spills without anger, to teach…to stay focused.
But the nights? They suck.
Just move, they said. Make his bedroom safe. Child-proof. Let him be. Sleep while he plays during the night. Rest.
Between 3am and 6am this morning he woke me 7 times. It takes me longer and longer to fall asleep after each time until I just give up. Instead of sleeping I will lay there, listening to the sounds coming from his room, waiting for the next screech accompanied by wailing tears.
The wall that adjoins Cor’s room with ours has become his favorite wall to slam his heels against as he lays in his bed unable to sleep. My room shakes as he leaps from his mattress to his hard floor over and over and over all night long. The sound of his toys hitting the floor smacks like a gunshot through our mostly-empty house. I am woke time and again by screaming that echos out into the hallway because he lays on his floor, presses his face against the bottom of his door and screams out through the few inches of space between door and floor.
Mark has to work, you know. In the office across the hall, that room that is no better insulated against Corrigan’s noises. During the day, if Corrigan is playing upstairs, I listen for the first sounds that indicate an impending tantrum, flying up the stairs as quick as a whistle to diffuse the situation before the noise makes Mark lose a client. And I spend all night long diffusing Corrigan’s tantrums so that Mark doesn’t lose sleep so that he can work and not lose clients.
There is relief in knowing that Connor has his own space here, in a room built on to the back of the house, he is unaffected by the night-noises. It makes me happy to know that he gets real sleep now, uninterrupted dreaming and no more toddlers bouncing on his head at 4 in the morning.
But for me, there is no break.
And when you have not had a break in three years it is hard to be the same person 24 hours a day. At 3am I am no longer smiling. I storm into Corrigan’s room like an angry bull, yanking him up from the floor in front of the door with little concern for his comfort. I know that he cannot sleep, yet I still order him to his bed. I march him sternly to his mattress and feel my tempter rise even more when he makes himself go limp to try and avoid me picking him up and putting him back in bed. There is no kindness in my voice, or in my eyes, at three in the morning.
I wonder what Corrigan thinks of that mad woman that enters his room all night long, speaking to him meanly, tossing him into bed like a sack of flour instead of tucking him in sweetly, with so much anger in her eyes instead of the love he normally sees all day? I know that I don’t like her, not at all. I want to punch her in the face. Tell her to knock it off, to be thankful that she has that little boy in the first place…to get her damn act together and just deal, you know?
He is asleep right now though to be honest, I do not know where. In his room, for sure, but in his bed? I doubt it. I do not know because this morning when the traffic started sounding thicker outside my window and the alarm clock showed 6am, I let him scream. I couldn’t take it any longer and I didn’t trust myself to go in there for the eighth time and remain calm. I was past feeling rational, after this third night of torture. My hands were shaking, my heart was pounding and I laid there crying, as Mark rubbed my arms and told me it would be okay. That I was not an awful person. I let that baby scream on the floor, behind his door, his little fingers slipped under and out into the hallway.
And then there was silence.
I want to go in and make sure that he is not sound asleep on his cold floor, to pick him up gently and tuck him under his blankets. I want to whisper apologies in his ear for the tough night that we had, again. I want to rub his little head and pull his blanket up under his chin. I want to crawl into bed next to him and sleep but I dare not wake him.
He has therapy in a few hours. There are chores to be done and Cor needs a shower before Ms. Kelley gets here. His hair is crusty from the can of Mt. Dew that he poured over himself yesterday, and then rolled around in on my freshly scrubbed floor, after he already had his second bath of the day. There is so much I need to do between now and 9am. My window for sleep has closed. Corrigan has managed to time it, yet again, so that napping when he naps is impossible.
It is another day. I will quit watching the clock once his therapist leaves. I will putter around the house cleaning up here and there, avoiding the couch so that I do not get sleepy. I will clean up blocks and DVD cases all day long. I will avoid phone calls and emails because I don’t have the energy to fake it to another person. I will make up a list for the grocery store that will not be purchased because driving this tired should be a crime. I will avoid looking at myself in the mirror because it doesn’t matter anyway. I will wear the same clothes that I slept in all day long and pray that no one stops by to visit.
I will look like someone that quit caring a long time ago but I do care. I might be numb but I care. I care so much that it hurts. I am just doing the best that I can. I just wish it were a little easier.