Gestation: 12 Weeks, 6 Days
I’m struggling with an intractable case of pregnancy insomnia.
I haven’t wanted to write it down in black and white because in doing so, I’m acknowledging that it exists and may, in fact, never go away.
I’m praying this is my First-Trimester-Through-Hell.
When I was pregnant with Clare it was unrelenting digestive issues, which don’t need to be detailed too thoroughly.
I’m exhausted each night by eight p.m. and commence my trying-to-go-to-sleep rituals.
- Taking a hot bath
- Sipping a hot liquid, such as chamomile tea or Ovaltine or warm milk like an elderly, celibate cat rescue lady.
- Then I might read something extremely dense, way over my head; Anna Karenina, Dante’s Inferno, the Bible. Retaining nothing from any of them except, “Jesus wept.
After I’ve done all of these things, I clamber into bed, usually around eleven.
My husband, Henry, lies beside me, his head buried beneath two pillows, one arm flung protectively over the entire mass so it cannot be dislodged thus keeping any sound, such as my voice, from entering.
Henry’s also a bit of an insomniac as he suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome.
I feel the sheets twitching as his legs move restlessly and think about how incredibly bourgeois we are, with our Sur La Table kitchenware, our Sundance catalogue lamps, our upper-middle class insomnia.
Why can’t we sleep, I wonder?
We have enough to eat, we have a roof over our heads, we’re not living in a mud hut sporting a thatch of gnarled leaves that barely cover our genitalia.
I’m filled with self-loathing.
Now it’s midnight.
Deciding I don’t want to keep my twitching husband awake by sighing — tossing and turning — thrashing — getting up to pee — turning my book light on and off, on and off like some optical Morse code through a forest in the DMZ — I get up and meander into the guest room, sprawling out with my head at the base of the bed to shake things up a bit; throw the insomnia a curve with a new sleeping position.
Then I decide just to rest, to try not to sleep. It works. I don’t sleep.
Two hours later, I get up and stalk into the living room to peruse my pregnancy yoga tape.
The women appear to be pregnant in 1972; they’re white women with moderate afros and saggy leotards.
There’s something faintly sapphic about their poses.
I try to do a few yoga stretches, the downward dog, the praying child thingy, the corpse pose where I lie flat on my back and listen to my Ouija breath.
Now I’m eating something. An apple, a Fig Newton. I want chocolate, but the spartan traces of caffeine in it might keep me awake.
I wonder if you can die from not sleeping? It’s been two weeks straight. I’ve made an appointment to see a sleep specialist, one of those lab guys.
I’ve never been away from Clare overnight.
But am willing to sleep in a lab for a month on a gurney, with electrodes jutting out of my forehead, pectorals and wrists, while I’m surveyed through a monitor by perfect strangers as they play cards, get stoned and masturbate to alleviate the tedium of their job.
This is how desperate I’ve become. I’m brutally alive at night. I can taste the air. Hear the neighbor’s cat breathing.
I’m filled with a dangerous kinetic energy that might be found in super heroes who vanquish villains on a far-flung planet called Narwal. Or Shleeboggen.
But the days are a fog, or perhaps more like a bog.
Like living underwater, moving slowly across the bottom through mud and reeds, everyone seems to be talking to me from a vast distance, overhead, floating.
When someone touches me it feels like there’s a layer of scales on top of my skin. When I look at them there’s sandpaper inside my eyelids, viscous glue in my tear ducts.
At three o’clock in the morning I return to the guest room in a funereal manner, close to mental collapse, psychosis.
What if this insomnia isn’t hormone related? What if this isn’t just a different version of the First-Trimester-Through-Hell?
What if I’ll never sleep again and, post pregnancy, will have to start living on uppers and downers like Marilyn or Judy Garland?
Who will raise my children when I overdose on Lunestra?
It’s four o’clock. I sleep, very lightly. I know I sleep because the comedian George Carlin keeps walking into the room.
I’ve never even seen George Carlin’s act. I barely know what he looks like. And, of course, he’s dead.
Yet he keeps walking into my guest room, staring at me with profound disgust. He can’t even joke about my insomnia it’s so ridiculous.
At six fifteen a.m. Clare begins to cry. She never wakes up happy. Even though she’s a happy baby, she’s always woken crying like she’s suffered some travesty of justice in her sleep.