Owl Always Be Tired–In Which We Talk Regression

Dear Lily June,

You were born in the year of the Owl. When I was pregnant with you, your dad and I couldn’t throw a pacifier without it smacking into some adorable owl-themed item. There were owls on blankets, owls on onesies reading “Owl Always Be Loved,” tiny footies shaped to look like you’d crammed your toes into owls, bath towels with a hood made to look like an owl had partially-digested your face. (It’s called a T’Owl. Get it?!)

The scholarly side of your parents activated, we found this trend appealing. Owls, after all, are associated with great wisdom. They are the only animal, for instance, in the animal kingdom that knows how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, a fact your dad and I were inundated with even as late as the 1980’s.

And in that day and age, the closest we came to STEM training was having to dissect, not the cliched frog in class, but an owl pellet. My middle school even had us reassemble the full skeleton of an entire mouse from the owl’s regurgitated stomach contents, gluing each bone to a black piece of construction paper until we were able to make the world’s creepiest poster to take home.

In all of our infinite wisdom, neither your dad nor I considered the other well-known trait of the Owl: That it’s a nocturnal creature, known for not needing sleep at night. And suddenly, I feel pretty stupid to have hung owls over your changing table and bought a wooden puzzle spelling your name out next to an owl.

It occurs to me now that we should have gone after your actual Chinese Zodiac animal, the one we count to get to sleep. By that scale, Lily, you were ironically born, you adorable insomniac, in the year of the Sheep.


For awhile there, you actually were catching Z’s like a champ. A bath here, a bottle there, and you were out like a light for 8-9 hour stretches as early as 4-5 months. Your dad and I couldn’t have been more proud of you (or more passed out beside you) having, early on, been terrified that unlike the other newborns, you seemed to have NO PHYSICAL NEED OF SLEEP WHATSOEVER. Pulling alternating 23 hour shifts just to stay awake with you, every even day one of us was your primary cuddler; every odd day, one of us dropped into a coma.

It was enough to make us want to resort to the Samuel L. Jackson narration of this children’s classic:


But something in you lately has reactivated like a bomb at 2:00am each morning.

Is it the teething you’re doing? Is it, after an ill-fated tumble off our bed when you were playing, a reaction to dreams that you’re falling? Are you just a tiny but very beloved masochist who wants to see how much of your parents’ sanity you can ring out by not only waking up during the witching hour, but also pulling yourself up into a standing position in the crib next to the bed to hover like a creepy crying stalker until one of us fetches you just to grant the other a few precious hours more of slumber?

I know there’s a science as to why babies go through patterns of sleep regression. I know that, at almost ten months, you’re much older than the infants this NPR article refers to. In the dumbest development in the history of scientific study, researchers in Israel found that a mother sleeping next to her baby doesn’t sleep as well as a mother who doesn’t. Now that that COMPLETELY OBVIOUS truth has been discovered, I’m hoping PhD’s can turn their attention back to curing cancer.

In the meantime, my sarcasm meter–as well as my coffee-maker–have been going full speed into overdrive. Which means more pain in the bladder which means less sleep at night which means more coffee which means more pain which means…Dadgummit, daughter, please go back to sleeping the night through so we can get over the hump of this living nightmare.


There is something very sweet to the way you can look like a gleeful grinning baby instead of a sleep-killing demon in the weest of wee hours of the morning.

But my darling dear, I never imagined that I’d be relating to Wallace Stevens’ “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock” (only, where it says old sailors dream of catching “tigers in red weather,” replace that with old mothers dreaming of catching a nap between bottles).

Or to Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” (the line of which reading “I learn by going where I have to go” seems to perfectly encapsulate new parenthood).

Or even to contemporary poet Jay Hopler’s “The Howling of the Gods” especially to the lines:

“…sleep was impossible– / All that howling!”


All of which is to say, dear Lily, that you must let your mother get some shut-eye. Lack of sleep does crazy things, especially to an already crazy person. For instance, lately, you’ve been running your finger over your lips while humming–a gesture I associated with conveying to someone that they’re stark raving mad.

But I’ve spent literally almost a half-hour at work trying to figure out what that gesture is called or where I learned it or whether it’s actually real, and the closest I can come to is something called “flubbing” which this mother is doing by applying her finger to her son’s lips. It’s the same gesture, only you’re using your own hands to do it.

But whether anyone else uses it to mean mental instability is something I couldn’t prove or disprove after various Google searches. And now I’m scared that I’m so crazy, I invented a gesture for crazy that I’m projecting into your weird but adorable new development.

Am I crazy? Or am I just tired? A good scientist, Lily, always conducts an experiment to determine the truth of her hypothesis. Tell you what, you sleep the entire night through tomorrow, and if I don’t wake up absolutely nuts, we’ll know that it’s not me, it’s just the insomnia talking.

Please? PLEASE, Lily?! For actual advances in the field of science?


Picture Credits:

19 thoughts on “Owl Always Be Tired–In Which We Talk Regression

  1. bitsfromheaven says:

    As only a mama can I feel your need for zzz’s…in which I express my own displeasure in my 11 month olds lack of need or desire to sleep. I too have a bladder that hates my coffee binges. With my other kiddos it wasn’t an issue. I just did it. But this time around I feel my age as it is, older, no wiser, but sleepy still.
    Let me know if you find the cure? As I would pay handsomely! πŸ’œ

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amy says:

    Ugh. There is no comfort for a sleepless mama. The “this too shall pass” doesn’t alleviate the agony nor does it solve the problem. (But it will pass, for the record, and mine all I’d this around this age.) the Samuel Jackson narration and story were new to my husband and me: thanks for the laughter and remembrance! (Much funnie, maybe, on this side of it?) and I love, love, love being reminded of baby lip noises (I obviously don’t know what to call it either. But I still love it.)

    I’m just so sorry for your lack of sleep. Are you praying? He’ll help somewhere; I’m sure of it. Love to you and prayers too. Oh! And thanks too for the tootsie roll commercial! You’ve taken me down a number of memory lanes this afternoon! Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Allie P. says:

    I know you are suffering. I do! But having survived through nights upon nights of those similar terrible moments I have to admit I am cracking up reading about your misery. I read a study that found that there is in fact damaged caused on the woman’s brain during pregnancy and those early years which causes us to either forget the pain or, at least, compartmentalize it into some amusing nostalgia, otherwise the entire continued survival of our species would be in question.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. lindalanger6 says:

    It is not a baby that keeps me from sleep…it is lifelong insomnia. I am so familiar withe monsters that proliferate at night. That said, when Jennifer was a baby and her mother was on a business trip, I experienced a bone-tiredness beyond anything I had ever experienced. I think that might have been a tiny peek at the mother/daddy fatigue you guys are having. It is terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Blathering says:

    Re. “flubbering” – I think babies are just excited by being able to make a funny noise, and it feels quite fun to do it, so there’s a tactile enjoyment as well. My daughter had her own weird variation on this, where she flubbered – or “burbled” (as that seemed to more accurately fit the effect her noise made) by making a humming “b” noise out of one corner of her mouth and then the other, in quick succession over and over. The overall result is about the same as the “flubbering” with a finger, but we thought it was endearingly eccentric of her to do it that way. It seemed slightly more as though she was imitating an old drunk.

    I hope, of course, that this was not inspired by my partner or I, but I was frequently incoherent from lack of sleep. For the first few months, she was commonly awake until midnight and up again at 5am, and would not sleep for longer than 20 minutes until 10pm the next night. Even once her night-time sleep finally stretched out to a decent 8 hours or so – although always broken up into 2-4 hour stints, at least for the 9 months or so – she never slept much in the daytime, and rarely longer than half an hour – and she stopped daytime sleeps altogether literally on the day she turned 2. It was particularly cruel because I used to have insomnia most of the night whether she slept or not, and then be bleary and half-dead most of the day, desperately hoping she’d have a long nap, and always being bitterly disappointed.

    The whole sleep thing was a nightmare for me and probably a significant factor in not having a second child – at the time that it was a realistic option, I didn’t know if my own mental health was resilient enough to go through that again. Maybe if other things had been lined up I might have been optimistic about handling the sleep better, but that’s all theoretical now anyway. I’m just glad for the one kid I’ve got!
    So I feel for you and hope that Lily will go back to sleeping through!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ellie P. says:

    OMG! The dreaded sleep regression phase!! Besides that teensy bit of empathy, I have two things to say.

    1) Whatever you do, when you get up with her, DO NOT PLAY WITH HER. DO NOT MAKE IT A HAPPY AND FUN TIME. Me, I used to grunt. No words, just grunting. Hey, on 2-3 hours of sleep, that’s all you’re capable of anyway, right? I mean, some books might say you gotta tire them out, so they’ll go back to sleep. NO. the time to tire them out was BEFORE BEDTIME. Now what you want is to BORE them back to sleep. I’m hoping little Lily – dear, sweet (grrr) little Lily, will get the message that now is not a particularly pleasant time to be up. No. It’s dark. It’s quiet. It’s borrrrrinnnnng. Yeah yeah, u can give her water but that’s it. Diaper change? If u insist, dang it. Then: Dark. Quiet. Boring.

    2) My daughter, who is uppermost in my thoughts as I write this, didn’t need much sleep either, bless her. But get this: she is SO SMART. So I have a theory: the less sleep they need, the more intelligent they are. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s small consolation now, I know, but just think – someday – she will support you from the riches earned by her astrophysics career and/or extraordinary inventions based on string theory/quantum mechanics/that’s all the fancy words I know.

    So enjoy. πŸ˜‰ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lonna Hill says:

    I remember those days. Now, with a five and three year old, they just wake me up really early–6:00 every morning, including weekends. They were still waking me up during the night until earlier this year when I finally decided to keep a mattress on the floor of our room and told the kids that if they wanted to come in and sleep in our room they could, but they had to come in quietly and go to the mattress, not to our bed. I worked pretty well . . . but I also know that Lily is a long ways from being able to do that. Hang in there, it really does get easier.

    I remember the challenging days, how utterly exhausted I was, but oddly, I still find myself longing for another baby sometimes. I try to remind myself how consuming and exhausting and just plain hard it is, and I try to get myself to snap out of it, but it’s hard. My kids are so much fun right now at 5 and 3, but now that I know my baby days are gone, I look back at them and want them back again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      Lonna, clearly I’m getting caught up on my sleep, because I’m able to go back through my blog now and see how many comments I left unreplied to. Forgive me, lady.

      I wish you a day of peaceful respite from stress, and of soul rest, which is so much more valuable, anyway, than sleep. (And when you are rested, please write again. I’ve been checking your blog for updates lately like crazy!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lonna Hill says:

        Thanks for the reply. Summer is a strange time for my family. We are totally out of schedule mode. My focus during these precious weeks is the friends and family I can only touch and hug during the summer. I haven’t been doing much writing or blog-reading lately. But to be honest….I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love these visits, and they only happen once a year.

        Once school starts again I’ll be back to a normal schedule. Hope you are doing well.

        Liked by 2 people

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