Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Sleep | 13 Comments »

“So, Louie next door?” my mom said. (This was some years back). “Turns out he’s a necrophiliac.” She announced this quite matter-of-factly.

Louie, our long-time neighbor at the house I grew up in, certainly qualified as a small-town eccentric. One of those men who never married. Not that that’s so odd, but he always lived with his parents. Eventually—years ago when I was a kid—they died of old age, and he just stayed on in the house.

Louie must be in his seventies now, and I doubt the guy’s ever had a girlfriend. But I also couldn’t imagine him with, well—with a corpse.

Whaaat?” I bellowed at my mother. She was imparting this freakish tidbit with the emotion she might use to mention we were out of paper towels.

“Well the other day I was in the yard,” she explained, somewhat defensively. “And I went to the side of the house to rake. I looked up and there’s Louie, lying down in the middle of his garden. I thought, ‘Ohhh God, he’s had a heart attack!’ I thought he was dead.”

“Wait, so what—?” I asked, wondering how this was going to tie into his predilection for necrophilia. “Was he spooning with a dead body?”

Mom looked at me confused, and forged on with her story. “So I dropped my rake and ran toward him and the closer I got I started to hear snoring! And it turns out he’d been out weeding and—” she snaps her fingers, “he fell asleep! Just like that! Keeled over on top of his tomato plants. After I shook him awake he told me he just got diagnosed with necrophilia. You know, that disease where all of a sudden you fall asleep.”

Mom!” I moaned. “Necrophilia is when people are into having sex with dead bodies. What Louie has is called nar-co-lep-sy!”

Ah, what a difference a few syllables make.

When I was just in Little Rhody, I bumped into Louie when I was in the old ‘hood. And as it turns out he didn’t nod off during our brief conversation. But I nearly did.

I wish I could peg my exhaustion to something glamorous like jet lag (“Just in from Paris and mon Dieu! Je suis fatiguee!“) or a night of reckless partying. I’d even accept staying up late writing as an enviable reason for sleepiness. Alas, it was none of those. Just standard mommy fare.

And I don’t want to name any names here, but it’s all Paige’s fault.

Miss Paigey came home from the hospital a star sleeper. She snoozed through 12-hour nights consistently as an older baby. You’d toss her in her crib and she’d fall asleep on her own—no excessive nursing or rocking required. It was brag-worthy stuff.

It wasn’t until age two-and-a-half, newly installed in her Big Girl Bed, that our taken-for-granted nights of sweet slumber were suddenly shot to shit.

Yes, any glimmer of desire I’ve had to ever have a third child has been beaten out of me slowly and painfully by Paige. Because she’s been waking up several times a night since last July—let’s see, that’s NINE LONG EXHAUSTED MONTHS AGO.

Here’s the routine: She’s miserable getting to sleep—coming out of her room or bellowing from her bed multiple times. Then in the deep of night she calls out to us (or rather me: “Mama!”) and Mark or I get up and tell her it’s time to go to sleep. And she does. Until the next time she gets up and yells for us again.

So I’m getting all the sleep deprivation a newborn provides, without the weight loss from breast feeding. Though if this continues much longer I’m considering getting the girl back on the boob. Hey, I mean, she’s three years old, but I’d like to get some benefit from all these REM interruptions.

If each night isn’t grueling enough, we’re all too aware that every new one we pass this way cements this despicable pattern more firmly into place. We know we have to make it stop, but we’ve got NO IDEA what to do.

I’m a huge champion of calling the pediatrician for anything. And I’m always telling other folks to do the same. Someone’s kid is being weird about potty training? Cawl the dawk-tuh, I say. Toddler won’t eat anything but mac and cheese? See if your pediatrician has advice. Don’t know what color to paint your living room? You’d be surprised what that man can help you with.

So, of course, when Paige suddenly started erupting in the night like Old Faithful, I took my own advice and dialed the doc. I had, for all intents and purposes, a monkey jumping on the bed.

Mama called the doctor and the doctor said—? Well, the doctor said, “Say the same thing to her. Don’t make it fun for her to visit with you in the night. Be boring.”

Boring. Right-o!

So, we’ve tried that. Our sentence: “It’s time to go to sleep, Paige” is droned with such emotionless monotone that Mark and I should both be awarded Oscars for how fantastically boring we can act.

Weeks—now months—have gone by. Boring has gotten us nowhere.

We’ve threatened to close her door if she doesn’t stop yelling at night. We’ve made chart after chart to recognize her (rare) full nights of sleep. We’ve warned the neighbors and spent nights trying to ignore her wails. I’ve stayed with her until she’s fallen asleep, and brought her into our bed after her sixth wake-up.

NOTHING works.

I’ve scoured BabyCenter, The Motherboard, and Mamapedia seeking the wisdom of pediatric pundits, sleep specialists, and other mamas. I even posted on some message boards seeking advice—something I’d never done before. I got gratifying misery-loves-company responses: “I have no advice, because I am going through the same thing you are. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in this! My 3yo does the same thing.”

And I’ve gotten tips—most of which we’ve already tried—or couldn’t. We don’t, for example, have a dog that can bunk in Paige’s room with her. And we’re leery of approaches that involve Mark or I huddled in a sleeping bag on the floor by her bed. Seems some things just substitute another bad habit we’ll eventually have to break.

But one piece of advice drew me in. A mama suggested we get this $23 turtle that’s a hybrid stuffed animal and nightlight. Said her kid loved it. There are buttons on the turtle’s shell so the kiddo can turn it on easily themselves. It projects stars onto the walls and ceiling, and stays on for 45 minutes then turns itself off. Paige gets up in the night? Don’t call for Mom or Dad, just hit the button, see the lights, and go back to sleep!


I clicked the “Two Day 1-Click” button on Amazon with the smug sense that I’d solved this nasty problem. I showed Paige a picture of our dazzling sleep solution (so simple! a turtle!) and she loved the idea. In fact, she was heartbroken that night when I told her it hadn’t already come in the mail. (She’s got high expectations for Amazon Prime.)

When it did arrive, I gently carried the box in from the porch like it was a fragile priceless relic. Herein laid the solution to our endless stream of shitty nights of sleep. I nearly wept with joyful optimism.

At bedtime that night we turned on the turtle she’d named Tina and Paige screamed, “No! Light off! NO TINA!!!”

Alrighty then. On to Plan G. Or are we on Plan H by now?

Big Sis Kate, who I think of as my Second Lieutenant Mother, even has some skin in the game. Last week she made a totemic construction paper chain and gravely taped it to the headboard of Paige’s bed. “Here’s how it works, Paigey,” she explained in her most patronizing tone. “If you wake up in the night, you just reach up and shake it. Then you’ll fall back asleep.”

Yeah, a nice idea, but that hasn’t worked so much.

Finally, finally, we can’t take it any more. Mark and I are crying out “Uncle!” to anyone who’ll listen, and lying in our bed, limp with fatigue, waving white flags.

Which is to say, we’ve decided to pony up $150 an hour for a sleep specialist.

But here’s how it is with me. On the days of my long-awaited haircuts, my hair looks fabulous. I bring my car in for a rattling noise, and on the drive over it suddenly disappears. If I want to get over the flu, I just make a doctor’s appointment.

I’m not sure what this means. That I procrastinate long enough that whatever was ailing me gives up the fight?

Of course, the thing is, once you see one of these patterns emerging you think you can harness it, right? Like how many couples do you know (or have you heard of) who’ve had fertility issues then decided to file adoption papers—with no real desire to adopt. I mean, everyone knows you get knocked up the second you have your home study, right?

Yawning and bottomed-out, I finally emailed the Sleep Whisperer—a nurse who got several five-star Yelp reviews from formerly irritable parents who have, under her guidance, successfully gotten their kids some shut-eye. All without mention of restraint straps, door locks, or duct-taping mouths—though God knows at this point I’m open to anything.

And the next night, A MIRACLE HAPPENED. Paige slept through the night. We woke up Sunday morning—at like 8AM. Feeling oddly well-rested I turned to Mark and ventured, “How many times did she get up?”

And he said, “SHE DIDN’T.”

I immediately emailed the friends we’d hung out with the night before. I was mildly hysterical. “Paige slept through the night. So we are now coming to your house for dinner every night. We must  replicate everything about last night, including outfits, food—even conversation. Think of it like Groundhog Day. Eventually we’ll come to love the ritual of it all.”

I was certain that the Universe laughed at me the minute I was willing to shoot up a flare for help. But I didn’t care. It was over. Our long national tragedy was coming to an end.

But then the next night she got up roughly a million frickin’ times.

Our meeting with the sleep specialist is Monday. I have no idea what she is going to recommend, but I can assure you we will follow her directives with OCD precision.

If this fails, I’m not sure what we’ll do.

I guess we could spring for a plane ticket to have Louie come visit. Maybe if he and Paige spent some quality time together she’d pick up on his knack for falling asleep.


13 Comments on “Uncle!”

  1. 1 Mary said at 11:30 am on March 18th, 2011:

    I love the start of the blog -and how you ended up at sleep training a 3 year old from people screwing dead people.

    Crossing our fingers for the sleep trainer. Oh, and by the way, my mom kept a hook on the outside of my door so I couldn’t get out. And then she put earplugs in and went to bed.

  2. 2 Matt said at 12:57 pm on March 18th, 2011:

    Your mom is Emily Litella!

  3. 3 Jack said at 1:39 pm on March 18th, 2011:

    My buddy in London who subscribes to Family Bed does NOT have the same problem. Must be an English thing.

    Great read. Good Luck Monday!

  4. 4 kristen said at 2:57 pm on March 18th, 2011:

    matt, i didn’t get the emily litella reference. thank god for the internets.

    for others not in the know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Litella

    mary, you seem unscathed by the lock-n-earplugs approach. perhaps mark and i need to butch up and put that into play. your mother certainly *has* benefited from getting sufficient beauty sleep. something for me to keep in mind.

  5. 5 jenny also said at 11:41 am on March 21st, 2011:

    The suspense is killing me. Did the sleep whisper work? Details please

  6. 6 Emily said at 11:59 am on March 21st, 2011:

    I love your blog. I am a new mom in Oakland and feel like this stuff is better than a sitcom! Real live people having similarly ridiculous problems as I do with a touch of humor, perfect!

  7. 7 kristen said at 3:32 pm on March 21st, 2011:

    jenny: the sleep goddess arrives at 6:00 tonight for our first meeting. so no news to report yet. wish us luck!

    emily: so happy you’re reading! welcome to motherhood and/or oakland. i’ve no doubt my family will continue to deliver the ridiculous…

  8. 8 Josie said at 7:46 pm on March 21st, 2011:

    I agree with Emily. And I’d like to add, I’ve been scouring the mommy blog scene for eons looking for a blog like yours. Ariel pointed me in your direction and I’ve been a groupie ever since. Sending you thoughts of fairy dust and the eventual creation of baby tylenol p.m.

  9. 9 BetsyRo said at 6:11 am on March 22nd, 2011:

    Ugh – this is just what I fear! Our great sleeper has to move into a big girl bed/her sister’s room in June so that our 3rd can have her crib. I’m so sure she’s going to become a bad sleeper with the transition.
    Hoping you share the sleep whisperer tips!

  10. 10 Rebecca said at 2:13 pm on March 23rd, 2011:

    I used to dream I would be the perfect mom, with four kids driving a Volvo station wagon in the carpool. Well, I am fortunate enough to have three healthy, beautiful children…. however, I don’t drive a Volvo… I can’t even drive! I was diagnosed with severe narcolepsy after the birth of my first child 17 years ago. Nearly 11 years later, my medication for what is a very disabling disease, had changed and we decided to try and have another baby. We were blessed with a precious baby girl and two years later, yet another.

    I came across your blog in search of an article on spring cleaning….

    I find your references to narcolepsy offensive and careless. The intro to your piece says your child’s sleep problems “have you dreaming of narcolepsy.” You suggest inviting your old neighbor over to get your child to sleep… hoping his condition might rub off on her, in addition to implying he could possibly bore her to sleep.


  11. 11 kristen said at 2:20 pm on March 23rd, 2011:

    rebecca: although i did make a feeble joke about hoping my neighbor’s sleep condition might rub off on my child, i meant it as that–a bad joke. so sorry to have offended you.
    i’m not sure how you felt there was an implication that he would also bore her to sleep…
    i’m sorry to hear narcolepsy is something you’ve struggled with too. but it’s great that it hasn’t stopped you from having kids.
    as for the reference to my blog on the motherboard site, that’s not my writing. you’ll have to take that up with them.

  12. 12 sarah said at 8:23 am on March 24th, 2011:

    OMG! I’m laughing my tuchas off! We’re just at the point of thinking about putting off thinking about transitioning to a big-girl bed, and I am absolutely fearful of dealing with this exact same situation!

    (Did you find a solution? I mean, you can’t have a dinner party every night, can you? Did the doc have any good suggestions? Do tell!)

  13. 13 kristen said at 1:01 pm on April 4th, 2011:

    hey josie: so happy to have you!
    in fact, we just had dinner with ariel this weekend. he’s one of my best grass-roots promoters. :)
    also, loved your tylenol pm for kids comment. so true. mark and i used to fantasize about a nap-duration toddler form of ambien.

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