Every first time mum-to-be is repeatedly told how tired they will be when their bundle of joy arrives. So much so, it can almost feel like a lecture at times. “Sleep now before the baby comes” anyone? Or the cheery “you have no idea what’s about to hit you”. Hit me? I’m having a baby aren’t I? A small human adorably packaged as a 7 pound bundle of love. You sit there, smile and nod, blissfully unaware of the carnage about to be caused by said 7 pound bundle of love. It can’t be that bad surely? Or no-one would ever have more than one child.
My advice to any mum-to-be? Never (and I mean N.E.V.E.R.) enter into sleep maths. You’ve bounced, rocked and fed your 7 pound bundle of love to sleep, finally, after what feels like about 5 hours. You stealthily slide into bed cursing every squeaky floor board en route, you rest your weary head and drift off into a peaceful slumber. Then suddenly … there’s alarm like screaming, your heart is pounding from the sudden jolt, you panic as you forget where you put the baby down and fear you may be laying on them. You breathe … it’s ok, the baby is ok, it’s just hungry, they’re a newborn they need lots of feeding. You nonchalantly glance at the time … no, it can’t be. You rub your eyes and check again. Yes, you really have only been asleep for 26 minutes. That, added to the earlier lengthy 47 minute stretch totals …. 1 hour and 13 minutes and it’s 2am. Sleep maths achieves nothing other great pain, heart ache and frustration to the mathematician. Mum’s-to-be, trust me, don’t do it to yourself.
Sleep deprivation feels like having a permanent, mid-level hangover but without the party (no, we’re not counting the 3am rock / bounce baby groove). You wander around dazed and confused, not quite sure what happened the night before, feeling in desperate need of a shower and just a little bit teary for no obvious reason. Last week I got myself so muddled I called the toddler Murphy (the dog), my daughter Sebastian (the toddler) and the dog Matt (the hubster).
Some of the best advice you’ll ever be given to tackle sleep deprivation is to make sure you get out of the house even if just to go to the shops. It’s absolutely on the money, a little bit of fresh air and a little bit of adult interaction definitely does help. However, the, at times, momentous task of exiting the premises with dependents in tow brings with it it’s own challenges. Without time to shower the greasy hair gets yet another blast of dry shampoo and the birds nest that was once referred to as a hair style is now structurally reliant on the powdery goodness. Eyebrows? Er eyebrow? Definitely more singular than plural. When tweezers are no longer up to the task you just pop on a pair of shades and a red lip – distraction is now your best friend. Your personal appearance (and at times hygiene) standards will dramatically lower. Pre-7 pound bundle of love, you would never have been seen outside the house without a slick of mascara? Post-7 pound bundle of love, baby will deposit a milky, sicky gift on your shoulder at departure time, you will simply wipe of the worst, throw on a scarf and head out into the great outdoors. I distinctly remember when my first was a month or so old and the hubster returning from work and taking over baby duties. The plan was for me to finally shower after two days of wet wipe washes. As I climbed the stairs I questioned how badly I could really smell and decided sod it – sleep wins!
There is no doubt, sleep deprivation is a truly mind altering experience. A friend once told me about the time she sat across the table from her husband and she was so exhausted his face morphed into the baby’s (who was asleep upstairs). Pre-motherhood I would have thought she needed committing. Now? I simply nodded in solidarity.
Sleep deprivation is truly exhausting and one of the toughest things you will ever have to deal with. Much like most of parenting.
Motherhood, is it hard? Too bloody right! Is it worth it? Yes, a hundred times yes.