This is not a my regular type of post with tips and recommendations. No, this is the confessions of a sleepy mama.
At approximately 10:46pm on the eve of my baby’s birth four months ago, I went into night labour. I did not sleep that night. He was born at 8:50pm the next day. I did not sleep that night either. And that was the beginning of my life without sleep.
The gentle warnings
“Just enjoy your sleep now…” I can’t tell you how many times people said that to me when I was pregnant.
“I don’t want to scare you but, I haven’t slept through the night since my baby was born,” another mom-friend of mine commented while I was preparing for my due date.
“How bad could it be!?” I thought. I remembered a time in my life when I had little sleep. University. Those all-nighters that I pulled when I had multiple assignments due. Sure, I felt terrible for a day or two after, but nothing that a little coffee and an extra day time nap couldn’t fix?
I was in denial. I didn’t want to get bogged down by this negative talk. I was just so excited to meet my baby!
The hardest part
I have not had a full night’s rest since my baby boy was born. Almost every night, I wake up between 3-5 times to soothe my baby back to sleep. There were a few glorious days when he slept 5 straight hours…and I felt like a brand new me. But they are few and far between.
Maybe I had something to do with this. I nurse my baby to sleep, so I am literally his walking soother. I rock him, sing to him, baby-wear him, shoooosh him. Whatever it takes to get him to sleep. And when he wakes up, he needs me to soothe him back to sleep (by nursing). So, I wake up with him, 5-10 times a night.
I do everything the sleep books say not to do, because I’m too tired to implement anything different.
It has been the hardest part about being a new parent.
What it’s like
I want to enjoy every second of my new life with my beautiful baby. But some days, I am utterly exhausted. So exhausted that I can’t form sentences. I slur my words, as if I were drunk. I can’t remember the words for things I want to say. It’s difficult to remember to eat, to drink water, or even go to the bathroom.
Lack of sleep is detrimental to your mental health. Many new mothers face post-partum mood disorders precisely because lack of sleep triggers things like anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc.
Some days, I feel irritable for no good reason. Other days, I am extremely sensitive. I got upset because my husband didn’t plate his dinner properly. Making that stuffed squash was the highlight of my day.
Some say to go to sleep when baby sleeps. But honestly, when my baby finally falls asleep for the night (i.e. 2 hours straight) – it’s the only time of day I have to do ‘me time’. I want to hang out with my husband, watch Netflix, read a book, take a bath. You know, the little things in life that make you feel…well, sane.
If there is anything I’ve learned from this time in my life, it’s that humans are resilient and adaptable. We are fuelled by love. Parenting is a labour of love. David and I are adjusting to the sleepless life, albiet rather slowly and sometimes painfully.
The key is teamwork. When one of us sees that the other is about to crack, we sub in and take a shift. When I’ve had a particularly bad night, David will take baby for a couple of hours in the morning so I can sleep a bit. It may not be a long, restorative sleep, but it feels good to know you have that ongoing support.
It also helps to surround yourself with a support group/cheering squad of other parents who get you right now. On one particularly rough morning, I went to a girlfriend’s house and cried as I drowned in self-pity. I wished I was stronger. I wished I wasn’t affected by the lack of sleep. She understood. I felt really good after that cry and even made it to a girls night that evening (small win).
But most of all, I try to remember this truth. When the nights are long and the mornings are dreary, I tell myself that this a short period of my life in the grand scheme of things. Soon enough, my baby won’t need me any more and I’ll be missing his night-long cuddles. Even though this is the most challenging part of being a new parent, it too shall pass.
The days are long but the years are short…
Until then…you can find me curled up in a corner, nursing my baby while reading the No Cry Sleep Solution and weighing the pros and cons of sleep training….
New parents out there…can you relate? How did you get through with little sleep? When did you start sleeping through the night again?