Posted by: alegra22 | March 21, 2009

the failure of earplugs

many of our photos from that first year are of us sleeping, like it was a sacred event to be captured and remembered

many of our photos from that first year are of us sleeping, like it was a sacred event to be captured and remembered

My entire nervous system was rearranged with motherhood. It began with conception and the way hormones spread through my body like an angry tide of PMS, only on steroids. My nerves became tangled, jangled, and generally a short-circuiting mess.

That first year of motherhood was a lesson in endurance, in a fatigue so complete that my nerve endings wilted, surrendering their sparks. I remember waking up one morning with my six pound baby sleeping on my chest, realizing that I had not changed my position the entire night, that one part of my mind had scurried off to a dark corner, while the other had turned into a monitor, keeping track of Sol’s breathing, heartrate, the slightest movement of his registered in my mind and went on record.

Dan, generally, can sleep through a train wreck. But certain things will send him flying up from bed like a very large ninja in striped briefs ready to take on an invader. I wish I could name these exact triggers and use them to my advantage but they have a secret Alegra-proof code. I can never be certain whether or not he will wake up to one of our children crying or if he will sleep through me sitting on his chest, pinching his nose and drawing on his forehead with a permanent marker.

I was thinking about this last night as I shoved earplugs in my ears. Even with our children sleeping a room away my mind seems to register their stirring before it even happens. A cry will begin in my dreams, grabbing at the edges of my sleep and ripping the blankets off. I wake up to a split second of silence and then…one of my children will cry out. My only hope for a deep sleep is to put earplugs in.

Our street has been quiet for months now, but it became restless last night. Disembodied voices roamed, howling like dogs. Pepita, the big oaf, was on full alert; growling and patrolling while my children and their father slept the long, deep, good sleep. After being woken up several times, I finally got out of bed and double checked that all the doors were locked and then searched in the dark for my earplugs. Earplugs inserted, I went back to bed and tried to follow my breathing to prevent my mind from sprouting limbs and ambitions, clawing its way out of bed and taking me with it.

That is when I realized the earplugs were not working. I could still hear the street pacing. The few times I drifted off, my dreams woke up me with a good imitation of my children crying. I pulled out the earplugs  and reinserted them, giving them that extra ‘do your job’ shove into my ear. But still, I could hear the house breathing. I could feel it in my bones.

Last night, as I lay in the dark, I understood that my hearing no longer has anything to do with my ears.

Now that I am a mother, my listening begins in my heart.



  1. What a beautiful post! I know it doesn’t help your sleep situation (or lack of sleep situation), but your children are blessed to have a mother who’s so in-tune with their needs.

    • :o) thank you
      My body has adjusted now that I am four years into it – but it still fascinates me. Last night was a vivid example of the way it seems like my mind registers things with my children before they have even happened. I imagine that this is true for most mothers.

  2. We moms can also tell the difference between ordinary quiet and too quiet. For instance, you’re going about your day and you suddenly realize that you don’t hear your children trying to maim one another…it’s way too quiet in there… Hmmm. Either they’ve fallen asleep (fat chance) or they are being sneaky…and that is never, EVER good! And usually your mommy-senses were correct; you find one of them drawing stick people on walls or throwing toys in the toilet. 😛

    • yes, the dreaded quiet! There is almost a hollow quality to it, as if you can hear trouble echoing…I have found my children in the most terrifying situations after being alerted by silence (such as Zaviera having managed to take the electric outlet guard out of the socket)

      • This is sort of off-topic, but do you EVER get to go to the bathroom by yourself? I mean, it’s as if my kids (and even the cat!) think that there is some secret trap door hidden in there where I make my escape. They knock (or meow), ‘are you in there?’. Yes…of course I am…you just saw me go in. ‘What are you doing?! Let ME in!’ What do you think I’m doing?! Really?! ~sigh~

        • Jennifer – I tried to reply but for some reason the comment threading is stopping at 4, I have to try to figure out how to fix it. But the short answer is: NO. Not when the kids are around. And when the kids are gone I have the dog to contend with. She thinks I get lonely in the bathroom. Guess what ya’ big oaf? I don’t! And no, your tail-wagging doesn’t encourage my efforts.

  3. I love this Alegra!! I amaze myself often b/c I will wake up just before my son starts to stir in his crib, it’s almost like the connection between ET and Elliot!! I feel him just wanting to wake up…..aaahhhh, will sleep ever really be restful again?? Love you!!:-))))))

    • exactly! It was so enhanced last night because of the goings-on out on the street that my mommy radar was on extra-sensitive. I kept waking up right before my kids stirred and it made me reflect on how often that happens.

  4. Awesome. I’m never going to understand the inner Mommy feeling, but I do get an inner sense feeling with my nephew sometimes.

    • When you become a dad, that inner sense you get with your nephew will turn into full daddy radar, I promise.

  5. Gorgeous. Sending you love and hugs 🙂

    • Right back atcha

  6. I’ve always been quite a light sleeper and especially so when our children were younger and living at home. Even now it doesn’t take much before I’m wide awake.

    • Yes, having children made me realize just how much my mind monitors my surroundings even when I am exhausted and in sore need of a deep, ‘the world is gone to me’ sleep

  7. What’s kind of interesting is how your children will, might, eventually look upon this very blog post and get a sense of what you were going through.

    I don’t know if you’re good with flattery, but your ability to express yourself is some of the most lucid, warm and vivid I read. (promise I won’t go and overdo the flattery, just sayin though..)

    • Compliments are always tucked away with gratitude and pulled out during my empty hours. Those times (and they are often) when I am in need of ‘go forth!’ reassurance…so thank you.
      I really should save all of these blogs and put them into a special book for my kids, save it for the right time to give it to them :o)

  8. Oh, so true. Becoming a mother changes everything and earplugs do not always work.

    Love to You!

    • I was wearing them the other night so that I could write but still be around the kids and Dan…about half an hour into it I realized that I had forgotten they were in my ears. I think my hearing has adjusted :o(.
      love you too

  9. I’m not even a mother, but could read your blog all day long. You are such an amazing writer, please write forever! 🙂

    • This comment was a gift! Thank you :o)

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