How would I describe motherhood so far? Relentless.
Buzzing behind my eyes, I walk down the hall as if on a ship in heaving seas, my brain is clogged and I struggle to formulate a coherent thought.
I slept for four hours in total last night so feel better than yesterday. For the past 11 months I have not slept for more than three consecutive hours. And yes, I have read and applied copious material surrounding infant sleep – thanks for asking.
If one more person suggests that I could sleep while the baby is sleeping I will lose it. Oh great idea, why have I not thought of that? That's right, because when your baby sleeps for 42 minutes at a time, there is barely time to have a cup of tea and poo (not necessarily simultaneously). Forty-two minutes is maybe enough time to lie on the couch and close my eyes for a few minutes, it is not enough to catch up on proper 'charge up your batteries' sleep.
I wish my batteries were solar re-chargeables. I could just sit in the sun and DING! there's another layer of the fog lifted and I have some power in my brain and body. I used to think I was tired if I'd been out partying until 3am, or had a long week of working three jobs, but I now look at my past self and shake my head.
What I've come to understand is the spectrum of sleep deprivation impact. There is tired, then fatigued, exhausted, then zombified and finally, torture.
A quote to back me up from a serious psychology-based source: "Sleep deprivation is an especially insidious form of torture because it attacks the deep biological functions at the core of a person's mental and physical health".
This is not a pity party. Millions of parents (and others) have experienced this level of sleep deprivation and millions more will. What would be good is if non-new-parents attempt to understand. Do not try and offer 'helpful' suggestions. Just sympathise with me and understand why I haven't been in touch/made it to any social event for a year/fallen off the face of the planet/acting like I don't care about anyone other than myself/I've 'changed'.
I've changed because yes, I now have children - that makes me a parent and you can't help but be changed by that. But also I am physically, mentally and emotionally so empty that I have reached new lows of utter despair. Part of me realises this is a temporary situation, part of me feels like I have been in this energy-less state forever.
There are also the parents who A) have forgotten the feeling of constant and long-term sleep deprivation or B) had babies who slept.
Group A tends to be the older generation who say grimace-invoking phrases like 'enjoy this special time, treasure every moment, it goes so fast.' If by 'going fast' you mean a daily struggle to keep my gritty eyes open enough to function, and every night a seemingly never-ending cycle of breastfeeding, nappy-changing and shushing then yes, this year has really flown past.
Group B may think they had a terrible sleeper but when you get into the nitty gritty, it might've only been for a few months or they think sleeping for four hours in a row at six months old constitutes a poor sleeper.
Sometimes I resent my baby, my partner, all men, anyone who is able to sleep without being pulled from a dead-deep sleep by screams every few hours, everyone who says 'I'm tired, I didn't have the best sleep'. I've stopped saying 'exhausted' when people ask how I'm going. Exhausted is not an accurate description anyway.
I'd like to finish on a positive, upbeat note but it wouldn't be authentic in my current state. All I can say is yes, there are those magical moments when I hold or look at my children and feel a sense of joy and gratitude, but right now they are few and fleeting due to the extreme weariness dominating my life. To all the seriously sleep deprived; good luck and see you on the other side where sleep and energy exists.
- Stuff Nation