Yeah after the night I’ve had I think my second blog topic needs to be sleep deprivation. You will either have a baby who spends their days and nights catching z’s, taking naps, falling asleep as soon as they start to get a bit tired and sleeping through the night (I hate you) or you will have a baby for whom the idea of being unconscious for more than the absolute minimum required to stay alive is laughable, (who wants to be asleep at 3am when they could be enjoying darkness, cold, and a mummy who is having a silent breakdown?) and will treat you to such titles as “So You Think I’m Going to Nap – 10 Reasons Why That Ain’t Happening” and “The Art of Waking Hourly (Bonus chapter – Refusing to go Back to Sleep)”. There are apparently babies who have a mixture of both of these behaviors but it is impossible to tell as you will only recognise your baby as belonging to either of the first two categories based on the previous night’s sleep. Sleep through the night and everything is rainbows and unicorns the next day. A night with no sleep, ear-piercing screaming and bargaining with various gods and the next day is destined to be fuzzy, caffeine-filled and sponsored by CBeebies.
So right now I am trying to survive raising a sleep-avoider. Part of the process is focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that one day I may have a teenager who could sleep through the apocalypse, and when that time comes I’m quite certain that I’ll be tearing my hair out trying to get her to school on time which will make revenge seem like a reasonable solution (I’m thinking air horns or stampeding wildebeest) but if I’m going to continue to be a functioning member of society (or at least dressed and capable of speech) then I need a full arsenal of tricks up my sleeve.
Make this person do as much as possible to help, especially if you’re breastfeeding as night feeds can be long and tiring. If they conveniently remain asleep after the baby screams for your attention, an ‘accidental’ shove (or elbow to the ribs for heavy sleepers) works well to alert them to baby’s needs. We have settled on the system of hubby changing her nappy while I get prepared for the upcoming feed, although lately I’ve been falling straight back to sleep for two glorious extra minutes then frantically arranging feeding pillows when he brings her back into the bedroom. Once I’ve got her latched on, my phone in my hand and a drink within reach I’m set, and direct him back to bed. He needs his rest for the next time I jab him in the ribs- I mean, gently touch his arm and softly whisper (swear words) into his ear.
Remember, don’t get into an “I’m more tired than you” argument as nobody wins. You’re both exhausted and being bossed around by a tiny shouty human so adding up each other’s hours of sleep for the last week is just going to make the situation even shoutier.
One way to survive multiple and extended night feeds is by eating enough biscuits that you become blood type ‘Hobnob positive’ (Hobnobs are especially good if you’re breastfeeding, flapjacks too, as oats can help boost milk production!), I mean there are healthier ways of getting a little burst of energy but a biccy and a cuppa are hard to beat when you’re bleary-eyed and trying to check Facebook on your TV remote.
Got a Netflix subscription? No? Get one. Failing that, familiarise yourself with catch-up services that keep whole series of televisual loveliness. The amount of time you’ll spend doing night feeds, rocking baby to sleep or even just accepting that your baby only naps on a chest, YOUR chest, during the day means that you’ll have a lot of hours to kill, a lot of hours which could be filled with a box set of that series you meant to watch but never got round to. A few titles which have eased me through the last 6 months are: Taskmaster (available on the UKTV app, if you’re anything like me don’t watch when you’re trying to get baby to sleep as it may result in booming laughter), Parks and Recreation (helloooo Chris Pratt), Jane the Virgin (accidental artificial insemination, love triangles, evil twins; what’s not to love in this satirical telenovela for those of us who don’t speak Spanish?) and if none of the above float your boat you know who’ll be there for you…clap clap clap clap.
Support comes in many forms, and I urge you to try them all if you can/need to. Depending on the time of day, type of problem and who can pop round and put the kettle on fastest you’ll ideally have a few people who can take the edge off the day after a sleepless night. It could be your mum, your best mate, a Facebook group or a mum friend you’ve met at a baby session.
Since turning into an adult (still sometimes pretty sure I’m not though) I’ve become awful at being sociable and making small talk (give me Sylvanian Families or a bucket of Lego with a 5 year old any day) but going to a weekly group and knowing I’m not the only one there who spent the night pacing a dark room is reassuring, plus you might end up with that ‘mum friend’ who isn’t as bored with your “poo stories” as your non baby-laden friends are. (They are, they might not tell you because they love you but they are) If you really can’t bring yourself to join a bunch of strangers and their offspring for an hour a week (or even if you can, do this too!) there’s always the Internet. I’ve joined a few groups on Facebook which are relevant to my parenting style and experiences, and I’ve found them to be an invaluable source of hints and tips, great advice and humour. Best thing is, if you’re in need of a bit of support and a sense of camaraderie and everyone else is asleep, these lovely people won’t be! I posted in one group last night, venting my frustration that it felt like I was losing it etc etc, within half an hour I had a handful of comments cheering me on, telling me I was doing a great job and simply making me realise I wasn’t alone, I’m not the first to experience extreme tiredness, and most importantly I won’t die, no matter how much it feels like I am about to run down the curtain and join the choir invisible.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I called my sister-in-law (or sister-in-love as she calls it, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy, just what you need when you’re pulling your hair out trying to calm a screaming wiggly potato) in floods of tears because I ‘can’t do it’ or don’t feel I’m doing a good job, only for her to know exactly what to say to solve my problems and build me back up so that at the end of the call I feel like a legend, tears all dried up. I hope all of you have someone like this in your lives, someone who’s been there, done that and wiped sick off the t-shirt and ideally not too long ago so your experiences aren’t too different (My Mum is amazing but as she says herself, she went through all this a long time ago, things change, things get forgotten) but most importantly that they care and want to help.
My Mum and my best friend are wonderful as they are the best distraction from how tired I get! Whether it’s my Mum taking me shopping or showing me pictures of her jellyfish sting in Vietnam and about 50 pictures and videos of butterflies she saw (no really, Mum, they were awesome but I’ll always be disappointed you didn’t wee on the sting!) or my bestie catching me up on what’s what over a cuppa or tagging me in funny things on Facebook, they have a fantastic element of escapism that, although I’m sat there cuddling Sophie the whole time, makes me remember that there’s plenty of awesome things going on around me to keep me going when I’m running on empty!
I consider myself very lucky to have such an array of help, considering that the new mums of years gone by managed with a lot less! That being said, if you have any other ways of getting through this absolute nightmare of being awake for too damn long, please share!