People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.
~Leo J. Burke
My husband and I had been sleeping champions. You know how some people love bacon, or traveling, or pets? That’s how we loved sleep. In our pre-kid years, we were known to sleep until noon on weekends. Our bed was an oasis of memory foam, the softest cotton sheets, a white noise machine nearby, and a cozy down comforter for cold nights.
Sleep. Was. Everything.
So, of course, when we began to discuss becoming parents, we reassured each other constantly.
It’ll just be hard those first few months.
We’ll tag team.
Most babies sleep through the night after four to six months.
It’ll be fine!
And then Baby Insomniac arrived — beautiful, bright-eyed, and not at all interested in sleep at any point, day or night.
At first, the pediatrician simply advised us that our infant’s days and nights were mixed up. He’d adjust soon. But when the mix-up was still going on at twelve months, then twenty-four months — yet there was no sign of a medical problem or bad sleep “habit” — the doctor eventually just shook his head and told us that perhaps our son was one of those rare babies who didn’t need as much sleep as “normal” babies. It happens, he said.
Yep, we were proud parents of a Baby Einstein, another person from history who notoriously didn’t need sleep. But here’s the thing: I really don’t think Einstein’s mother held down a fifty-plus-hours-a-week job at a fast-paced marketing agency. Because it wasn’t working out so well for me.
Our son was about six months old when I fell asleep for the first time in a client meeting. Thankfully, it was a teleconference, so the client didn’t actually see me nod off, and I had coworkers with me in the meeting who took over as I descended into sandman-land, virtually in mid-sentence. The only lasting impact was the coworkers’ chiding that continued for a week or so.
The next incident occurred on a business flight. It was a fairly short flight, and I was heading straight to a meeting once the plane landed. I had papers out on my lap, reviewing things in preparation for the meeting, when I feel into a deep sleep. The passenger next to me woke me up as everyone else was disembarking. My mouth was hanging open, I had an imprint of the seat in front of me on my forehead, confidential papers were scattered everywhere, and I basically had no idea where I was. Fun times.
In the coming months, I fell asleep in the middle of typing an e-mail. I fell asleep leaning against the office copier. (That hum, that warmth!) I yawned while the president of the company announced I’d gotten a raise.
But the worst incident happened during an in-person client meeting, one of those important meetings when a potential client is deciding whether or not to sign on with the agency — potentially leading to a huge chunk of change for my company. I was slated as the third person to speak during the presentation. But Baby Einstein hadn’t slept even an hour the night before, and as was often the case, the baby in question did not want Daddy — only Mama. Even with a triple shot of espresso, I was still in a bit of a daze.
As clients droned on about their needs for attentive account services, I willed my eyes to stay open. As our senior vice president vowed to provide a new energy to the client’s communications, I pinched my leg under the table to keep from dozing off. I jotted down incoherent notes, trying to stay focused. I swallowed yawns again and again, trying to hide it all with a mute smile.
But when it was my turn to speak, I’m not going to lie. There was drool.
I wasn’t even embarrassed — until I woke up to a strong shoulder nudging and a table full of client representatives looking at me in horror. At that point, it was quite possibly one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.
Colleagues were not amused. And we didn’t get the account.
After that, I knew a solution was needed, and stat. And since we could not in any way afford a night nanny, and drugging the kid was frowned upon, I had to think outside the box. Or outside the bed, so to speak.
My solution? During lunch, while other coworkers went to the gym, for a walk, or to the neighborhood restaurants for a quick meal, I headed away from the phone and e-mail and office chatter. And I slept. In my car.
That’s right. With an alarm set on my phone, I allowed myself to take a daily power nap in the reclined driver’s seat of a Dodge Durango, with no one to hear me snore, for forty-five minutes to an hour.
It was bliss. Short, sweet, close-my-eyes-and-check-out bliss.
It wasn’t a pretty solution — people often stared at me in the parking lot and several times someone knocked on my window to make sure I was indeed alive. And once I slept through my alarm.
But it was just enough to save my job and my sanity — until my son finally slept through the night at age three.