I value sleep tremendously, mainly because it's never come easily. Some of my earliest memories involve lonely insomnia - lying there, wide awake in the wee hours, wondering why mommy's sheep-counting didn't work for shit as soon as she exited the room and I was left alone in the dark.
My inability to slumber inevitably led to one of two reactions: mild mischief, or downright evil-doing. I would either sit quietly and build massive block structures until my mother wandered by, scolded gently and ushered me back to bed, or, the more exciting alternative: I would bounce joyously out from under the covers and creep silently out of my room.
There, I would cautiously peer around the corner and down the hallway to where my parents sat eating dinner and calmly discussing their respective days, no doubt relishing the few kid-free moments rarely afforded them while raising three little hellions. I would wait patiently, lurking in the darkness until the conversation had reached an appropriately pleasant lull. Then, seizing my moment, I would hop out of the shadows, leap on my Big Wheel, and go careening down the hallway at breakneck speed, all the while screaming at the top of my lungs like a towheaded banshee. On a good night, I would crash into the kitchen table with a satisfying boom.
My insomnia partially stemmed from the fact that I was TERRIFIED of the dark. As a result, I refused to sleep without the light on, and spent the majority of my childhood bathed in the reassuring glow of a 70-watt bulb streaming down on my little bed. Every so often, my mother would walk by, listen to my breathing until she was certain I was sleeping, and turn out the light. If she had misjudged and I had not yet drifted off to sleepyland, this would ellicit a series of shrill, ear-piercing shrieks until she returned and flipped the switch. Truth be told, the fear of the dark lasted for years, alleviated only by adorning my bedroom walls with countless glow-in-the-dark adhesive stars sometime in junior high.
Not content to merely be a moderate pain in the ass, I descended into true brattiness when I decided that I could no longer sleep without my Fisher Price record player playing at top volume.
I loved my record player - it was white and orange, and possessed a fascinating number of kid-friendly buttons for pressing and poking. Every night between the ages of 4 and 10 (and possibly older, though I'll never admit to it), my mother would put on my favorite record - Disney's Peter Pan soundtrack. It was one of those amazing illustrated records, with art from the movie covering every spare inch, enabling me to listen while simultaneously watching Peter and Wendy spin around and around and around until I entered a trance-like, meditative state. Once it was playing, my mother would sit with me until I was lulled to a sufficient wooziness and then creep quietly out of the room, leaving me to drift happily off to sleep under the blazing artificial lights beneath my pink-and-white flowered sheets on my big girl's daybed.
However, there was a crimp in the plan - my Fisher Price beauty was prone to skipping, so every so often there would come a jarring moment in the middle of "You Can Fly!" or some such classic when Peter would suddenly descend into lunacy and start repeating himself over and over and over. Inevitably, this would snatch me from even the deepest pre-slumber calm and send me into near hysterics as I lay there screaming "MOMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!" until she came to remedy the situation.
Looking back as an adult, I have never considered myself to have been a pampered child. However, as I write these words, I realize that I must face the truth: if I couldn't be bothered to get up, walk 18 inches and poke the needle myself, I was officially spoiled.
As I grew older and my fear of the dark dissipated, a new terror arose to take its place. One fateful night, during my parents' unwise attempt at trusting my oldest brother to babysit, I wandered into the living room where he had just popped George Romero's classic "Night of the Living Dead" into the Beta. I sat, transfixed, and watched the whole thing.
Now, if you haven't seen this fine family film, let me tell you what it can teach you (especially when you're 8):
Lesson one: In case of zombie attack, SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD. It's the only way to kill those motherfuckers.
Lesson two: In case of zombie attack, BARRICADE THE WINDOWS. It's clearly the best preventative measure, as evidenced by the tactics of the film's main characters in their creepy house out in the woods.
By the end of the film, I was sitting petrified in the middle of my living room, shrouded in blankets, too terrified to even turn my head toward our massive WALL OF WINDOWS looking out onto the forest. Somehow I managed to creep back into my bedroom, where all the lights in the world could not have saved me from the terror-inducing FLOOR TO CEILING WINDOW WALL occupying one side of my room, which, conveniently, had nary a curtain or blind to block out the legions of undead doubtlessly lurking outside. Where was a gun when I needed it??
For the next several years, it's a miracle I slept at all. Finally I saw the film again at age 11, during a Halloween party at school. It took much convincing - and the fear of being the laughingstock of the 6th grade - to brave the classroom that day. After adamantly insisting to my classmates that it was doubtlessly the most terrifying film ever made and that they were all fools who would rue the day that they had it burned onto their psyches, I sat amongst them and watched, ready to hightail it out of there at the slightest provocation.
I was certain that they'd all be horrified, that they would come to me afterward, begging forgiveness for their flippant, ignorant ways, for laughing in the face of danger, screaming to the heavens, "Why, oh WHY hadn't we listened to the brilliant, all-knowing, zombie-saavy Paige??"
Instead, in the first ten minutes of the film, I heard something bizarre - laughter. A chuckle here, a giggle there - suddenly the whole room was alive with pre-pubescent cackling. Looking at the screen, I slowly joined them - zombies my ass! Wahaha! Who did the make-up for these poor fools? Look at that one! His prosthetic flesh is peeling off!
In the blink of an eye, my greatest fear went from terror-inducing, bloodthirsty undead hellbent on taking me out to desperately underpaid overactors with questionable special effects make-up causing them to resemble strung-out trannies (still disturbing, but at least they didn't want to eat my face). From that moment on, I was a card-carrying zombie fan.
During my freshman year of college, the insomnia that had improved in high school was exacerbated anew with the advent of a snoring roommate. To this day, I cannot fathom how such a massive sound could come out of such a tiny person. After countless sleepless nights, I resorted to simply chucking pillows at her head from across the room. Not particularly effective, yet satisfying nonetheless.
Miraculously, in recent years I've slept like a baby (and not a crying, screaming one, either - a happy, well-nourished, angelic, sleeps-through-the-night infant - like I'm sure LOOL will be). Though I'm still a light sleeper, I am now free of the many hang-ups and paranoias that previously crept up to taunt me at bedtime. For the first time, I love sleeping - and I excel at it.
Until recently. If you aren't aware, a woman is not supposed to sleep on her back during pregnancy. Evidently, the weight of a pregnant woman's massive, baby-containing uterus can impair breathing and circulation, cause changes in blood pressure, and put pressure on the vena cava, restricting bloodflow between the lower body and the heart. In short - bad for both mom and baby.
I discovered this when I was about 16 weeks along, and immediately made every effort to stay off my back during the night. I knew this would prove difficult - when I am capable of sleep, I'm a bonefide back sleeper. My favorite position is lying with my arms over my head in the plie position, perhaps the one thing I retained from my two years of childhood ballet. However, with my uterus growing rounder and heavier with each passing day, I was determined to change positions.
I initially accomplished this by propping two pillows on either side of my body and wedging myself into bed on my side, at an angle that rendered it nearly impossible for me to move, let alone flop on my back. Surrounded by my fluffy friends, I could scarcely see my lovely husband sleeping next to me. Oh well, I told myself. A small price to pay for a healthy LOOL. See ya in August, honey.
Until recently, this method has worked rather well. In conjunction with the "No back! No back! No back!" mantra I repeat to myself before getting into bed, it seems to have helped me sleep soundly on my side all night long. However, in the past week or so, I've repeatedly awakened in the middle of the night flat on my back. Invariably, this causes me to immediately begin silently chastising myself for my naughty back-sleepin' ways while flopping about searching for an acceptable alternative, until I become so worked up that I'm unable to go back to sleep at all.
Last night, I decided to try something new. I had read that back sleeping is acceptable as long as you are at an incline. Somehow, this alleviates the pressure from the uterus, and all is good and fine in the world. Excellent, I thought. Grabbing an old comforter, I folded and wedged it against my headboard, then topped it off with two pillows. Lying back, I congratulated myself on what seemed like a brilliant alternative - my head and torso were a full foot above my belly! Take that, vena cava!
As I lay back and prepared to slumber, I looked down at my husband, far beneath me on one side of the bed, and the floor, very, very far below on the other side. Leaning back and forth on my tower of bedding, I realized that my grand idea was also somewhat of a precarious perch. I struggled to get comfortable as my stack o' padding listed disconcertingly to one side and then another. Eventually, I managed to fall asleep.
I awoke this morning after a fitful night, neck aching, still atop my mound yet minus one pillow that I'd evidently deemed hateful in the middle of the night and chucked angrily across the room. Now I sit typing these words, unable to turn my head easily from side to side. It appears that my new method is flawed.
Back to square one. But at least I'm zombie-free.