The Importance of Sleep

Writing this sentence is flat out exhausting. Why? Because I am so tired. Christina went back to work a month ago, and I took on the duty of watching my son during the night. I am not a night owl or a morning person. I am probably one of the most high-maintenance sleepers on the planet – 10:00 pm to 8:00 am is my sweet spot. Nine to ten hours a night is my goal, and with a child, that goal is laughable at best. I don’t have problems falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. My problems come during the day – I cannot sleep in, I cannot nap, and I cannot go to bed early. As soon as 8:00 am comes around, my eyes are wide open until 10:00 pm – no matter how much sleep I had the night before. For example, while in college, I tried to party like all my other classmates. I stayed up till 3:00 am, drinking, laughing, and having a good old time. Guess what? At 8:00 am I was awake while all my other friends slept till lunchtime.  The same problem occurred as a child during sleepovers. The chatter of young men would go late into the night, and everyone would finally fall asleep by early morning. Not me. I would stay up as long as possible – usually, I was the first to crash – and guess when my eyeballs would pop open? 8:00 am! Being the first to wake up at a sleepover is the worst experience in the world. After staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, I would sneak away to the bathroom. After relieving myself, it was inevitable to run into my friend’s mom – an awkward conversation at the kitchen table ensued until one of my deadbeat friends’ woke up begging for pancakes. For these reasons, I did not have many sleepovers in my life nor parties at college.

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I thought as an adult I would never have to worry about my sleep schedule – no more peer pressure from drunk friends or adolescent sleepovers with too much sugar. But plans never work out, and I married a woman who has virtually no requirements for her sleep. Christina can function on five hours of sleep and amazes me with her energy. Her whole family is impervious to sleep – my in-laws regularly wash dishes at 2:00 in the morning. I bring all this up because I believe my son has inherited my wives sleep requirements. He is a baby, and I know babies have weird sleep patterns….but Teddy is one of a kind. Teddy sleeps sporadically during the night but rarely naps during the day – combining both his parents sleep patterns. The result is a nightmare for my sleep requirements and my ability to be productive during the day. For the past two weeks, I have simply sat on the couch and watched reruns of SportsCenter. My brain was in a fog, and my reading felt like the mental equivalent of treading through quicksand. Suffice it to say, my Aristotle book is on hold until I can get better sleep. Things are improving though, and within the past couple days, I have had enough energy to move from the couch to write this blog. Teddy is starting to nap more and sleep for more extended periods – he is now four months old, so I think the future looks bright. My point for this blog is to remind everyone that sleep is the most essential thing in our lives. If we don’t have sleep, we can’t be our best selves – physically mentally, and spiritually. When we sacrifice sleep, we sacrifice our ability to philosophize, to be optimistic, to eat healthily, and to connect with God. If you have a baby, I feel your pain. If you don’t have a small child then I implore you to shut the electronics and get some shut-eye – nothing else matters. If you feel like a zombie, you will function like a zombie.

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Pregnancy Update – Third Trimester

Christina is officially in the third trimester! The big 3. The final stretch. The big belly. Reality knocking at our door. Theodore is quite the active baby and kicks Christina repeatedly in one spot. I actually felt him kick one time and I pretended to love the experience – in truth, it felt like I was in a Ridley Scott production of Alien. Baby clothes are starting to accumulate, and we are covering the wall of the baby room with owls. Christina has weird food cravings and is quite the picky pregnant women – the only meat she cares for now is shrimp. She was actually worried about not gaining enough weight, but I quickly looked up Filipina growth charts and reassured her that she was average weight in a petite-Asian world. Several times we thought Max was smelling her belly because of the baby; we later found some food stains were in the vicinity.

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I recently went to a friend’s wedding where everyone was either pregnant or talking about their kids. I felt left out of the conversation like a younger brother whose older brother is going through puberty. The advice that expectant parents receive is always the same:

“You aren’t going to get any sleep.”

“Say goodbye to your free time.”

“Blame all his bad genes on your wife.”

I agree with most of this advice, but I think it falls in the same category as corny advice one receives at a wedding…“A happy wife is a happy life.” Although corny, I know it is partially true, and I am mentally preparing myself for the changes in the future. One of the biggest things I need to work on is constant worrying. I find this a pathological attribute of most parents, and I am by no means immune. I worry about Teddy now, and I know it will get worse when he comes into the world. That is why my single greatest preparatory step during these last three months is stopping myself from worrying. Is this even a possibility? I am not sure at this point, but I am committed to trying. I am trying to pray more to God and giving Him my anxious thoughts – easy to type but hard to do in practice.

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What is the key to not worrying? From what wisdom I have gleaned, it is to understand what is and is not in your control. I can not control every aspect of Teddy’s life. I can do my best to help him in life, but there is always a limit. I am attempting to step back and let Jesus take the wheel. If that sounds corny or reckless, just ask yourself the outcomes of your own anxiety? Have they come to fruition? Or more than likely just ruined many precious hours of your life? My request is not corny advice that is obvious, but rather advice on controlling anxiety – without prescriptions. What works best for you? I am always open to your wisdom.

Pregnancy Pressure – A Man’s Perspective

Christina and I are currently in the process of trying to get pregnant; yes, even while I am typing this sentence, we are working towards making a baby 🙂 Joking aside, it seems like there is a lot of pressure when it comes to getting pregnant. This pressure starts as soon as puberty occurs. As an 11-year-old sweaty, hormonal kid, I thought sex always equated to pregnancy. The stress for girls was even higher with rumors that kissing in hot tubs can lead to a baby in 9 months. For most of my life, pregnancy was equal to a death sentence and an appearance on Jerry Springer. Even after getting married, I felt like it was taboo to get pregnant – imagining whispers of “Honeymoon Baby” or “Shotgun Wedding.” I am at a point in my life where all those previous misgivings have totally reversed. The best way to describe how I feel right now is to think of using your credit card at a store. I have a credit card with a chip which requires me to insert it into a slot. When you insert the card into the slot, there is a prompt that says “Do Not Remove.” There is a lot of waiting and looking around the store during this time. The calm of the “Do Not Remove” phase suddenly changes into the most stressful experience of the whole shopping process.

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The credit card machine – as if holding a poisonous snake – starts to blink and screams at you to remove the card
. It goes from 0 to 100, and I get anxious every time this mercantile exchange occurs. There is no yellow light for a transition – only peaceful green to morbid red. For most of my life – through involuntary abstinence and careful safety precautions – my thoughts concerning pregnancy were minimal at best. Sometime in the past year, however, the light turned from green to red, and something changed in my brain. It is as if the card machine started to scream at me and now every time I see a baby or a pregnant woman my mind sounds like this…

“GET PREGNANT NOW, GET PREGNANT NOW, GET PREGNANT NOW!!!!!”

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Most of this pressure is self-imposed, but there is still a lot of real pressure when friends and relatives are getting knocked up like the contagious flu spreading through an elementary. If I feel this as a man, I can’t imagine what women feel like – even those who detest the idea of having kids. We are social creatures, and we like to fit in – especially anxious people like myself. Christina has an app which tells her when to have sex, and I have been studying it like the treasure map in The Goonies. Should we have sex every day during your fertile window or every other day? Do I even have enough bullets in the cartridge to last that many days? Is it possible to use a turkey baster if I fall ill? Should you stand on your head for a few hours afterward?

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I feel sorry for my sperm right now, and my nether regions are probably pushing production like its Christmas Eve at the North Pole. That is what I am feeling right now – pressure in both of my brains. I thought I share this because it is something we all struggle with but fail to talk about. Pregnancy is usually portrayed through gender reveal parties and cute pictures – the reality is a steaming conveyer belt of soldiers going down a booby-trapped tunnel which is accessible only a few days a month. I really think we need to expand our pregnancy scare tactics from just teenagers – let’s make a sex-ed curriculum for thirty-year-olds.

Feminism Inc: Specializing in Sperm and Egg Separation since 1970

At current, there is a tidal wave of Generation X females who are trying to have children but are realizing that they waited too long and are now infertile. This issue is addressed in the book The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Selvaratnam; I picked this book up because I wanted to broaden my masculine outlook on the world. Tanya is a vagina-wielding feminist who waited till she was in her late 30’s to try to have kids and subsequently had 3 miscarriages and an unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF). She pursued her career through her 20’s and 30’s and didn’t want to sacrifice her professional status for the necessities of raising a family. The feminist movement of the 1960’s/70’s made her, and many of her fellow friends, look at their mother’s domesticity as a prison sentence and men as the guards who got to leave for the freedom of the office.

Now, in 2015, there are a myriad of women trying to have babies in their 30’s and 40’s who are confronted with the fact that their uterus’ are dried up and not working. The chance of conceiving a child at age 15 is between 40-50%, at age 35 between 15-20%, and at age 45 between 3-5%. Additionally, a female has a finite number of eggs with 300,000-400,000 at the first period, 39,000-52,000 by age 30 and 9,000-12,000 by age 40; along with the decreased number of eggs there is an increased number that have chromosomal abnormalities which increase the risks for miscarriages and genetic disorders. So the big lie that Tanya writes about is that women can do what they want on their own time tables. This lie was made popular by procedures like IVF which created the allusion that having children later in life was a realistic possibility. The unfortunate truth is that IVF has a very low success rate; the averages fall below that of the natural conception averages which were listed above. Assisted Reproductive Technology, in general, is usually not covered by insurance (unless you live in select states), creates a huge strain on relationships (women were cited saying IVF was more stressful then their divorces), and can result in unnatural frequency of twins, triplets, or octomoms. 

IVF has allowed countless families to have children but the author’s point is that it shouldn’t be used as a realistic family-planning option. Women need to ask themselves if they want children, and if they do, then they need to seriously think about their biological clocks. I believe that family and relationships should come before a career. Women and men in their 20’s should not preoccupy themselves with the pursuit of money and status but rather the pursuit of finding someone to share their lives with. My beef with feminism is that it created (not on purpose) a negative image of the house wife and of women who chose to have a kid instead of pursuing a career. Taking care of a child or fostering the love of a family is the greatest undertaking a human being can pursue. I believe that both men and women should make their top priority the harboring of relationships-having a child is the great example of this. There are compromises to be had, and I think that you can have a career and a family. A man can stay home and raise the kids, a woman can work remotely from home, a couple can downsize expenses and both work part time, etc. If you are in your 20’s, and you know you want a baby one day, get your finances in place; the latest I would wait is 30 to start trying to conceive. If you are older or do not have a spouse, look into freezing your eggs as early as possible. Go on eHarmony or match.com and stop waiting for someone to fall out of the sky. Put the pursuit of relationships first and foremost in your life because you will never find satisfaction in the pursuit of power, money, or status.

What are your thoughts on feminism? How should people plan for their future family? What values should we put as our top priorities?