This past  weekend, Zach and I spent an evening watching a Bradley Cooper movie called Limitless. It wasn’t a spectacular film and the ending was all wrong, so don’t take this as a recommendation. Nevertheless, the premise is worth a mention.

The story line follows a fellow named Eddie as a new mind-enhancing drug allows him to transform himself from a greasy-haired sci-fi writer who never writes to a charming, brilliant Wall Street sensation in a matter of days. This renewing of his mind is depicted nicely in the film: his grey, dismal New York City suddenly glows as he becomes able to see, synthesize, and explain everything he glimpses. This drug affects his memory, as well: every latent, subconscious fact becomes available and organized. A word he encountered once twenty years ago is now part of his working vocabulary. He can quote passages from a book he flipped through in a waiting room. If he plays a Rosetta Stone program while he sleeps, he wakes up fluent in Mandarin. Every particle of his brain is active. He assimilates information instantly; he solves the trickiest problems in a matter of seconds.

Watching this character gain such a degree of mental illumination was strangely moving for me. As Eddie realized his intellectual potential by writing a book in 48 hours and making millions in the stock market, all I could think was “Ohh…that’s how it was before I got pregnant!”

And, yes, that’s an exaggeration, but compared with the fog that presently clouds my mind, I was pretty much a genius two years ago. These days, I feel so dull, so slow. It’s a challenge to come up with conversation over dinner. Even planning dinner is a challenge: I have to read through a recipe 4 or 5 times in the process of making a loaf of bread. I had to look up Limitless online because I had already forgotten the main character’s name. Nothing sticks.

This fog and frustration are no doubt caused / exacerbated by the fact that at five and a half months, Sam is still not sleeping through the night. Sure, there have been half a dozen miraculous nights when he didn’t wake up howling, but even then Zach and I would lie in bed wondering if he was still breathing.  He was so close at four months, but things have gone downhill lately. This morning, over breakfast a 5am, Zach said he felt like he didn’t get more than 20 minutes of rest together all night. I don’t know how he can handle five preps this year: even teaching part time is a struggle for me.

Naturally, I find myself wondering if I’m ever going to be the sort of calm, confident, capable mother who patiently listens to her infant wail for hours on end. I can’t let Sam cry it out. What’s more, I don’t want to. I hate the idea of my baby alone and unhappy in the dark. But we both need more rest and I don’t know what to do.

Motherhood is wonderful in so many ways, but I long for the energy and mental wherewithal that I’ve lost. Will I ever find it again?



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9 responses to “Limited

  1. Janet Schamp

    NIce to have you writing again. I’ll be praying for Sam to sleep through the night, regularly! Soon! Maybe it’s time to move him into the next room? If it makes you feel any better, when you were between 2 and 3 and had been getting up in the night sick, ear infection or something, and then wouldn’t stay asleep after you were well, Dick practically had to sit on me to let you cry it out, because nothing else worked. You did. We both survived. I love you, and think you are a great calm and capable mother. The confidence only comes with time….

  2. If Sam is anything like Ransom, he will sleep through the night. I can’t tell you when, of course, but all the La Leche League mommies tell me that babies do this progress/regress thing where they do some wonderful thing like sleep through the night, just a little bit, and have you thinking it’s a wonderful new development then go right back to terribleness. Ransom went straight to sleeping through the night at 10 months once we got all settled in to Indiana and away from 90-hours-a-week-both-parents-working in D.C. But before that, it was awful. I felt the same way. Like I was no longer “a real person” because I could hardly think thoughts. It’s better now. Sleep really is a big deal. Once you get some regularly, you will start to feel human again.

    We also struggled over “crying it out.” I never wanted to, either. One time we let him scream for an hour, and he was still crying when I picked him up and said “Never again!” Nathaniel is “the mean one,” though, and it helped us a lot because he switched him over to the crib from our bed using naptimes and letting him fuss. Nathaniel putting that tenacious firstborn down consistently at the same naptime every day and ignoring him for a while (10-15 minutes) before going in really did teach him to put himself back to sleep. I just couldn’t handle it myself, but you could try it for naps first. If the crying hurts your heart, go outside and set your cell phone for 10 or 15 minutes to return. I think we will do that with baby 2 (due December). I’s worth trying for two weeks at least. Not with a newborn, but by 3 months I think a baby could start “sleep training.”

    All the experienced moms I knew (including mine, a mom of 7, and my husband’s, a mom of 6) told us to let him cry and I just couldn’t listen to them before. Now I understand why they all said that.

    Come back and tell us how things are going when you can! God bless you all and help you rest! Do nap with the little guy if you can’t sleep through the night, and maybe let your hubby sleep on the couch or somewhere quiet a few times so he can get rest, too. You can do it–and once it’s over you won’t remember a thing. The sleeplessness will see to it. 😉

  3. Great to have you back and posting, my friend! I fully empathize with you and your feelings of dullness and slowness. Like Joy mentioned, it’s definitely the sleep deficiency, and your sharpness will return once sleep does. In the meantime, be sure to take care of yourself AND, maybe, rotate nights with Zach, so that each of you will be getting some solid sleep at least once every two days. Also, it is OK to take Sam to a good child care or a relative and sleep during the day, five or six hours, or even three will do miracles. You’re in it for the long haul, so try not to “tough it out”. Instead, take small measures now to make it better. (I know, easier said than done).

    I’ll back Joy on letting your child cry (either through it or partially through it). I did with Vierra, and she was sleeping the full night by four months. I didn’t with Leo, and now, almost five years later, he still wakes up at night. So, yeah. You don’t want that.

    Much love, and hope to be hearing more from you!

  4. Stefanie R.

    I have to stand up for the other side… we never let our babies “cry it out” and they all learned how to sleep through the night! I think it depends on the personality–our kids were (and are) all very cuddly and they just needed to be held some more sometimes. The baby stage goes by SO FAST and we are glad we held our babies! I know I am in the minority here but I don’t regret it. You can be a calm and confident mother even if you don’t want to let your baby cry it out!! (I’m also aware people define “crying it out” differently…we didn’t run in at the first peep, but I also never let a baby just scream until exhaustion set in. We tried it once with Jake and it did not work but it was traumatic for everybody!)

  5. Kjerstin Kauffman

    That’s hard, and I know exactly what you mean. On the practical side, I’d say to have patience, because the brain returns. 🙂 But Laurel, you’re living the gospel, even if its in places only your family can see. You’ve always had a kind of wisdom and graciousness about you, and you don’t need to write proliferously or teach thousands or bake fabulous bread for those who love you to see that. I’m sure that motherhood has only strengthened your inner grace.

    A friend forwarded me this link a while ago, and, whatever you think about John Piper (and some of this is a little heavy-handed), there’s a lot of good stuff in there that I keep coming back to again and again when I’m frustrated or tired (and I often am):

    Love you!

  6. Laurel, first, you’re one of the finest persons I know. Second, I promise it gets better. These are just seasons–admittedly, very, very difficult seasons–and they will pass. I promise. Keep the faith, my friend. And, I have no doubt you are an amazing mom; as amazing a mom as you are a person.

  7. orthodoxfastingrecipes

    Hang in there. My 2 year old still wakes 2-3 times a night. Eventually you brain will compensate.

    • orthodoxfastingrecipes

      Obviously, it won’t do a very good job. That should say, “your brain will compensate.” Oy.

  8. Hi Laurel, Just read this post as well, and brought back so many memories (and not the happiest ones). I don’t think anyone mentioned teething – which could be the culprit. Maren did the same thing – was doing great at 4 months, almost sleeping through the night, and then bam – waking often and we returned to the newborn haziness. When her teeth popped through she was a new baby and slept much better. Just a though. I promise, promise that one day you will feel “normal” again. But it does take a while. For me it didn’t happen until I weaned. And Maren didn’t sleep through the night until a year old. I’m against “crying it out” and really think each child is different. My two cents would say Sam is still too young to have him cry it out. But above that, each mother knows best. You know your child better than anyone, and you be the judge if he is ready to sleep through the night. Two things (among others) motherhood has taught me is 1) patience and 2) consistency. You never think your child will be able to do something and then one day you wake up and realize they have been learning from you for months. Be patience, pray, and be consistent. One day it will come.

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