Here’s another thing about being pregnant. You. Pee. All. The. Time. Night. And. Day. That translates to never being able to get far from a bathroom during the day, and never getting a full night’s sleep. For me, this translated into a foggy (because all things except for searing terror of impending labor were foggy in those days of chronic sleep deprivation) sense that life was really, really unfair. I mean, here I was, participating in The Miracle of Life, wanting to look my fresh, dewy, soft-focus best, and instead I had puffy ankles, aching hips, anxiety and depression, and bone-deep exhaustion brought on by nights spent primarily in trips to and from the bathroom, with brief rest periods in between. And at the end of it all, the prospect of yet more sleepless nights.
It seems unfair–expectant mothers should be able to sleep better, to store up rest in preparation for the long, sleepless nights of new motherhood. Instead, what we get is ever-increasing broken nights, followed by labor, followed by yet more broken nights. I was incredibly lucky–I worked with a group of evolved men who made it possible for me to sleep in the afternoon, but that didn’t mitigate the fact that I was clocking upwards of a mile and a half a night in trips to and from the bathroom.
If you’re in the later stages of pregnancy, chances are good you’re experiencing the same thing. If you are, you have my sympathy. It’s not fun, having to wake up, get up, walk around, then go back to bed only to repeat the whole cycle an hour or two later all night, every night. It’s particularly draining if, like me, you’re one of those people who seem to be programmed to fall asleep once a night–and once you’re awake, you’re awake for good.
And it’s precisely for people like us that those nights are absolutely crucial. The deeper wisdom of the broken nights of late pregnancy is that your body is retraining itself–it’s teaching itself the vital mothering skill of being able to wake up, get up, walk around, and go back to sleep again. It doesn’t happen easily or comfortably, but it happens for all of us. Our bodies make sure of it, so when we bring home those tiny, cuddly, needy, demanding bundles of love we are able to wake up in the night, feed them, and then go back to sleep.
Your body keeps you up in late pregnancy so you can fall asleep as a new mother. It’s training itself to see the day not in two major blocks–Day, Night–but in many little blocks–active/resting, active/resting, active/resting….
None of which will help with the sleepiness. What might help a bit with the exhaustion is understanding the new pattern your body is trying to help you establish. Try seeing your days as well as your nights in shorter increments. Give yourself time for short naps interspersed throughout the day, if you can. Work with your body. Help it to learn the new pattern. And know that the skill you’re learning will stand you in good stead as a new mother.