It’s a very bold statement to make, but I feel sleep deprivation is hands down the worst thing about being a Mum. Dare I even say it, I think it’s worse than the childbirth itself!?
I have a very wise friend that once told me when you have children, you will never sleep again. I wish I had listened to her.
The same wise friend urged me whilst in my final stages of pregnancy, to “get as much sleep in as you can now, because once the baby is born, you will never sleep again”. Once again, I wished I had listened to her.
But oh no, I was far too busy trying to squeeze in as many different activities and socializing before the baby arrived as I was worried that THESE would be the things I would miss. I felt like it was a race against time to juggle everything in before my life was changed forever. To be honest I was pretty burnt out by the end. Never mind, I could rest once the baby arrived right???!!!!
Silly silly me!!!
Looking back on my pregnancy now, I wish I had dedicated some solid days to just lying in bed, not a care in the world, vegging out on chocolate, watching trashy TV and SLEEPING, whenever I felt the need (imagine the luxury). Little did I know that doing NOTHING would be the activity I would miss the most.
Now let me tell you about my childbirth and how in hindsight this now seems like a small hiccup in comparison to the slow torture that is sleep deprivation……..
Birthing a real human through a small hole is really horrendous. Pre Eclampsia, early induction, unable to break waters (how many different tools/ hands do you want to put up there??!), 14 hours of contractions every 3 mins, 3 hours of pushing, ventouse, forceps, stuck baby with fat head, literally trying to yank him out with hands as I pushed, back to forceps, episiotomy, distressed baby, emergency spinal, hemorrhaging, forceps again, baby not breathing…….jaundice, tongue tie, low blood sugar, heel pricks every 3 hours, problems feeding, pretty much morphing into a cow at a dairy farm, blood transfusion, episiotomy gone wrong………….ALL IN A DAYS WORK!!
But do you know what? I would do it all again if it meant I could sleep (although please don’t get any ideas husband).
Luckily females have a hormone (apparently) that helps you to forget child-birth. That’s why ladies go back for round 2….3…and sometimes even 4!! It has taken a while for mine to kick in, but the traumatic memories are slowly fading. Yes it was pretty horrendous, but it’s done within couple of days. Yes you are left with some “problems” but they too get better over time (I really hope so anyway). But the lack of sleep stays with you…….for how many years I’m not sure.
And sleep deprivation is a cruel mistress. It takes over your life in every way. Sleep becomes the main focus of your life…….how much sleep have you had? When can you next sleep? I’m so tired. Must compare how many hours sleep I’ve had with other mums. No body else can possibly be as tired as me. Actually want to kill anyone without kids who says they are tired….. YOU DONT KNOW THE TRUE MEANING OF TIREDNESS (although pretty sure I was one of these). Do I have caffeine to stay awake? But then if I do and the baby sleeps then I’ve screwed it up because now I’m wired. Torn between sleeping when the baby sleeps or actually being productive and getting sh*t done. Must creep round the house like a Ninja. But messed it all up anyway as now baby is fast asleep in the car and I have to stay parked with the engine running for the next hour. OMG I’m so tired. It’s literally the end of the world. I’m such a bad mum because I’m too tired to try and be a good mum.
NB: It’s worth to note here that after having a baby you are showered with gifts, for the baby and yourself. People are just all into the new baby/ new mum thing. Months down the line, the presents have stopped, but the sleep deprivation is still there. No ones giving you presents now though.
I don’t think I slept for longer than a 2 hour stretch for the first 8/9 months of my baby’s life. Actually, 2 hours uninterrupted sleep was pretty good going at some stages. Sometimes the wake up call came as often as every 30/40 mins. At the start it was almost a novelty. I had heard of the sleepless nights and It was almost exciting getting up at the start “wooohooo I have a baby, I’m up in the night, I’m a real mum, he’s so beautiful, look at me doing the mum thing and tending to him through the night”……….a few weeks later you begin to realise this isn’t going to stop. It’s not getting better, if anything it’s getting worse. The novelty has totally worn off, and you can’t actually see an end to it. There is NO light at the end of the tunnel.
I feel the lack of sleep totally changed me as a person. It took me to some dark places. Please don’t hate me, but once I threw Lenny the Lion “angrily” into his cot whilst he was in there (not sleeping). It didn’t hit him, but that was a real low point for me. I was now a child abuser:(
Following on from this anger thing. You become very angry with people who say they are tired. I remember my husband came downstairs one morning after I’d already been up every hour in the night with our baby, and he said to us (whilst yawning) “ahhhh Dadda’s tired this morning”……… actually wanted to divorce him right there and then!!!! If he had been helping in the nights I would have been sympathetic, but men have this amazing ability to sleep through babies crying??!
Although everything is blown way out of proportion in those sleep deprived days, problems/ arguments are magnified. Im pleased to report we did not divorce after this incident.
Sleep dreprivation changes your perspective on life, taints everything. The world becomes very grey. I become negative and introverted. I was a shadow of my former self, my personality had been replaced by an aliens. A bland/ boring alien at that. I just felt like I couldn’t carry on some days and didn’t know what to do with myself. This led to massive chocolate binges and repeats of Jeremy Kyle…………….and the downward spiral of internet shopping. Impulsivity is a SERIOUS medical condition (google it) caused by sleep deprivation. After bad nights, the next day the amazon packages would start rolling in (did I sign up to Amazon Prime? God knows). Literally would have no idea what I had ordered. My husband would get angry and make me return them all, even though I tried to explain to him that I had a serious medical condition!! Most packages followed a “sleep aid” theme.
After months surviving on 3 to 4 hours of broken sleep a night, I looked at myself and thought “how am I actually still going??!”. I decided that perhaps I just didn’t need sleep anymore. It it truly amazing what women can do. You survive because you have to and have no choice, your body just gets used to it. You can’t remember what its like to not be tired, so tiredness feels normal. You kinda exist in the weird zombie/ dream/ drunk/ stoned like state that becomes the new you. But It’s never ending, relentless. You can’t think straight, simple decisions become so complicated. Simple tasks become rocket science. Theres no break, there’s no night off. No matter how tired you are you just have to keep going. You’re baby needs you! You’re on your own out there. The nights are especially lonely. Wow sorry that’s all become pretty deep.
Even though you feel like giving up, you can’t. So you push yourself to carry on with things as normal. Although its such an effort and you really have to force yourself. Just mentally feeling very detached from all activities. socializing is hard work, especially with friends that don’t have children. You try to pretend you are normal, but I found it so hard to concentrate on conversations, make jokes, ask questions (non baby related), just generally not act like a total weirdo. Then I would get paranoid that they would think I was a total weirdo and not want to be friends with me anymore. It’s good to hang out with other mothers in a similar state because then at least you can talk about sleep (lack of it), and that makes you feel better somehow. Plus they don’t think your totally unhinged when you stare at them blankly when they ask you if you have sugar in your tea. Such a difficult question.
Then a miracle happens, you get one nights good sleep (by this I mean sleeping for longer than a 2 hour stretch…maybe 3 hours?!), and the world is a brighter place. There are beautiful flowers everywhere, the sky is so blue, you are so lucky and there is a spring in your step. Everything is going to be ok. Just that one night is enough to sort you out…..for a bit. Then it starts again and you’ve totally jinxed yourself by telling people that you think you’ve turned a corner. You can never quite reach that corner.
Then you start doing odd things. It starts with putting things in weird places, remote in fridge, milk in washing machine, dog in cot, that kind of thing. Then it leads to more exotic things like only realising by the end of the day that you’ve only drawn one eye brow on. Or genuinely forgetting your name/ babies name/ address/ birthday when someone asks you. Eventually it leads onto quite dangerous things like misjudging corners in car parks, forgetting to put the baby into the car, genuinely forgetting how to get home. Then the hallucinations start. I swear I saw the “Ghost of Christmas Past” coming out of our wardrobe door one night….
At that point I knew something had to be done……the poor lad must be exhausted, I was exhausted! I was looking at other mothers and seeing how productive they had been with their maternity leave. Started a business, making things, baking, DIY on the home, writing books……I just couldn’t get my head round how I could possibly do anything apart from try and survive. I felt I could be a better mother if I just had a little bit more sleep.
So at 9 months , I decided to do some sleep training. Some people don’t agree with this at all, but I just HAD to do something, or at least try (don’t worry, this did not involve vodka in his milk).
But now he’s sleeping (ish, 4am wake-ups are a breeze in comparison) I’M NOT BLOODY SLEEPING!!! Whats wrong with me?! I think I need sleep training. I never realised this side of things. Mothers are so in tune with their babies that they can never switch off. I find that I’m always on “the edge” of sleep, never quite relaxing enough to pass into a deep sleep……”just in case”. I wake up at ANY noise, even though I have ear plugs shoved so far down my ears they are practically in my brain (mother of the year). I’m finding I can even sense when he’s about to wake up when I’m in a different bloody country……am I actually physic??!
Back to my very wise friend again….she has an app on her phone that monitors how much you sleep in a night and when you go into proper sleep. During the whole night, she only slept PROPERLY for 20 mins! No wonder mothers are always tired.
Now I’m thinking long term. There will ALWAYS be things that keeps your baby (and you) up in the night, no matter how much sleep training you do. So just when you think you’ve cracked it, something else happens. Teething, sickness bugs, nightmares, sleep crying, coughing, baby raves in cot with glow sticks at 3am??!! Fear of the dark, monsters under bed, wet the bed, sleep overs with midnight feasts! Drinking too much White Lightening (we’ve all been there), jumping out of bedroom windows (just me??), picking up from night clubs and break ups with girlfriends/ boyfriends. Travelling around the world, running out of money, lost passport, accidental tattoos?! So I have come to the conclusion that YOU may never sleep again once you have a child, because your sleep is not your own anymore. Your child’s welfare will always be your priority over your own sleep. And we will always worry about them no matter how old or where in the world they are. We are programmed to wake up when they need us.
So I wonder if my wise friend was right, once you’re a mother you will never sleep again? She is, after all, very wise (and has 2 children, how on earth do mums cope on no sleep when they have a toddler to look after too?????)
At least childbirth was over in a couple of days. The lack of sleep I fear could last a lifetime.
PS. It’s taken me so long to write this because I’ve been tired!!!
PPS. Don’t be fooled by all the lovely sleeping baby photos in this blog!
PPS. It is all worth it though, one smile and you forgive anything;)