No Nap Days
November 29, 2010

Some days are good, some days are bad, and some days are from hell.  The hell days are the days when a confluence of different factors–work schedule, errands, a toddler outgrowing his nap–make it so that I miss my own nap in the afternoons.  This is bad.

You might know that I’m not currently on any medicine for my narcolepsy.  Crazy?  Yes.  Stupid?  Yes.  But with the drugs available for treatment being classified as l3 or l4 drugs–making them questionable to risky to breast-feed with–I feel like the choice is clear.  I can endure exhaustion for a year so that my daughter can have the best start at life.  But even if the choice is clear, it doesn’t make it easy.

If I miss a nap, my risk for sleep attacks increase.  This means whenever I sit down to nurse or read a book to my son, I doze off.  And given Noah’s rash cream debacle–we’re still trying to scrub the Desitin out of his hair–it’s clear that CONSTANT VIGILANCE  is required.  It also means that driving gets dicier; I’ve been in one sleep-related crash before.  I don’t want to do it again.

My mood deteriorates.  I get cranky, impatient with insignificant things.  The brain fog makes it difficult to play creatively with my son or even to interact meaningfully with my infant.  Coffee helps, but we’ve all done the stimulant to patch over exhaustion thing in college.  It leaves you feeling jittery and fried, which is why I hated the Ritalin so much in high school.

There’s not really a solution to my no-nap days, except that at some point after Teagan turns a year old, I’ll wean her, and some sleep doctor will come to work and find me scratching pitifully at the glass front doors.

“Provigil…please…” I’ll rasp.

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Family Planning and the Narcoleptic
October 20, 2010

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I made the leap from thinking we were done having children to knowing we were done having children, thanks to a urologist and my husband’s unflappable temerity.  The means was largely my husband’s decision–many of the other officers he works with have done the same thing, plus the (small) fail rate for other forms of birth control was still too much of a risk for him, given how fertile we seem to be (four pregnancies in four years.)  Plus, a police officer and a would-be writer?  Maybe not able to support a family larger than four.

We’re both young.  We know that.  Even though life seems complete with our house and Josh’s career and our college educations and our two healthy babies, we know we’re young in the scheme of things.  But we’ve always done everything young: marriage, kids, home ownership…why not sterilization?

Anyway, Josh’s opinion and finances aside, the most important reason we’ve decided to limit our family is my narcolepsy.  On the spectrum of the disorder, I’m lucky.  I don’t have cataplexy for one thing, and, as long as I follow a napping and caffeine regimen, I can go unmedicated long enough to breast-feed my daughter, but as soon as she’s weaned, I’ll be racing to get that prescription.  Another child would mean another two or so years without medicine, taking in account pregnancy and a year-ish of breast-feeding.  And I don’t think I can do it.  It’s getting worse and I think it won’t be long before my nap and a cup of joe isn’t enough.

I know this all sounds faked or whiney or petty.  How can a nap be so important?  Hardly any parent, working otherwise, gets to catch up on sleep.  But if I don’t fight off that sleepiness, I’m a hazard to my kids.  It’s not safe to drive them (I’ve been in one sleep attack-related accident before), and it’s not safe to stay alone with them now that Noah can open doors and there’s a tiny infant to stomp on.

It’s hard to think this way, of myself as a hazard to my own children.  But the price is too high not to be realistic about my limitations.

Danger aside, there’s also the quality of time I spend with my children.  More days than I’d like to admit, I find myself encouraging Noah to color or read or do anything that involves us sitting because I’m too tired to move.  I use Teagan’s feedings as an excuse to slug on the couch, even though I know what Noah needs to be doing is running around in the last of the nice fall weather.  While I’m unmedicated, there are too many days when the babies only have half a mother: an exhausted, impatient half.

So we made the choice to stop.  I’m curious about other people.  Do/did you have a reason to limit your family size?  Because of a physical limitation?  An emotional one?  A financial one?