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Late nights with babies and talk shows

I miss Conan.
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The lanky late night talk show host kept me company on the many nights I spent wide awake nursing, rocking and holding my daughter, Mara, after she was born five years ago.

I would look forward to the replay of his shows around 3 each morning. I hated Saturdays and Sundays.

My bizarre infatuation with Conan O’Brien speaks to how sleep deprivation affects a new mother’s mind.

Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t truly understand the delirium caused by being awake around the clock after undergoing the grueling physical experience of childbirth.

It’s also quite lonely, knowing that most of the world is asleep. I dread the early morning hours. After 2 a.m., infomercials rule the airwaves. Most people are in bed, snoozing away. Even the morning newspaper has been put to bed.

I had forgotten how debilitating sleep deprivation is and have been just as overwhelmed by it the second time around.

After about 20 hours of labor, Charlie was delivered Feb. 22 by Cesarean section. I spent the final hour or so shaking from head to toe because of a 103 degree fever and my body’s reaction to the epidural. (I wasn’t aware of this, but the nurses said shaking is normal after an epidural; I hadn’t experienced it when I had one with my daughter.)

When I came out of recovery, I was physically exhausted. I was drowsy from the pain medication. I was afraid to move because of the incision I could feel, but didn’t want to see.

Because Charlie was born to a mommy with a fever, he had to be treated with antibiotics for his first 48 hours in the world. I also received antibiotics through an IV for two days.

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The already challenging job of nursing a wobbly headed newborn was complicated by the IV in his tiny arm, the IV in my arm, the six hospital bracelets on my other arm and the C-section incision, held together by 21 staples, low on my tummy.

While we were in the hospital, Charlie spent some time in the nursery, but the nurses brought him back to eat, which was about every two hours.

At some point, I started to dread falling asleep, because I knew it wouldn’t last.

It took about a month for Charlie to fall into any sort of rhythm I could count on. Even now, at 10 weeks, his sleep patterns change. Some nights, he snoozes until 4 a.m. Other nights, he’s up every two hours.

I have become accustomed to a lack of sleep. Or maybe I’ve just developed a huge addiction to coffee.

Most days I can carry on a conversation, but there are awkward moments when I stop talking mid-sentence and forget what I wanted to say.

Each night, I remind myself that this stage won’t last forever. I know that Charlie will eventually sleep through the night. I know I will be well-rested again someday.

In the meantime, I’m giving Jimmy Fallon and his new show a chance.

Kara Eberle is a basic cable subscriber and won’t be able to see Conan on TBS. Sign up for a free subscription to Smart magazine


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