Dear new mum, you will sleep through the night again

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

"Will I ever sleep through the night again?" wrote a friend, a first time mumma of a gorgeous six-month-old, in an Instagram post this morning. Clutching a takeaway coffee and wearing dark glasses, she is smiling, weary but happy.

And for a moment, a brief, bleary-eyed moment, I am right there with her. My six-month-old son strapped to my chest, a coffee in hand, I am walking through the park suspended somewhere in the strange, dizzy, state between asleep and awake. My baby has yet to "sleep through" and the weeks and weeks of broken nights have left me empty and aching from every limb. I feel like an outline of myself, a body moving through space in a cycle of feeding and changing, of patting and shushing and rocking and pacing.

"I lay down in Motherhood's bed, the bed I had made and could not sleep in, for I was called at once to work in the factory of Motherhood," writes Liz Berry in her book, The Republic of Motherhood. 

The bed I had made and could not sleep in.

Like Berry and my exhausted friend, I, too, wondered when - if - I'd ever sleep through the night again. I craved it, fantasised about climbing under the covers and sleeping not just through the night but for days, weeks, months until I was back in my skin, in my self.

"This too shall pass," they told me. "This too shall pass."

And sometimes, the oft-quoted platitude was soothing. I chanted it, this lullaby, until the words no longer made sense in my head, but somewhere in my bones. Other days, though, days when my eyes threatened tears and I tripped over my own feet, I just wanted to scream "WHEN!" Because when you're in the thick of it, the fog of it, it's hard to believe there's sleep at the end of the tunnel.

But, if you're there right now, like my sleepy mate, I want you to know that there is. Time seems both to slow down and speed up with babies ("the days are long but the years are short"), and what can feel interminable, isn't.

One day, you'll be counting on your fingertips, four, five, six hours sleep in a row - and feeling just the tiniest bit more human. You'll wonder how you ever functioned on so little slumber, and marvel at the way our bodies and minds and hearts stretch to keep our little ones alive.

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One day, soon, you won't be wearing a milk-soaked maternity bra, or changing endless nappies. You won't be mixing and sterilising bottles and finding streaks of vomit in your already-unwashed hair. You won't be singing Twinkle Twinkle or making purees, or trying to manoeuvre your pram down the bus aisle. 

But you will sleep again.

I promise.

Until then, I won't tell you to "enjoy every moment" because some moments simply need to be endured. Drink all the coffee, accept as many offers of help as you can - and go gently, mama.

Go gently.