No-one told me it would be like this. Or perhaps they did, but they just didn’t stress it enough. But now I understand: When someone tells me they’re pregnant the last thing I want to do is go all crazy eyed on them and say that they will not know what a good night’s sleep feels like for an incomprehensibly long time. That they should savor the long lazy morning sleep-in, because what they’re really giving birth to is an alarm clock without a snooze button that is permanently set to 5am, or 6am or maybe if you’re very lucky, 7am. I do not want to be the party-pooper who tells them this, and so instead I smile and congratulate them and assure them that it’s all worth it. I’m not lying, it is worth it, but dammit that doesn’t make it any easier.
Mika was a very easy newborn. She would fall asleep without fuss and would often do 5-6 hour stretches through the night. I can only remember a handful of very unsettled nights.
But now things are different. We put her down around 7 or 8. She’s usually asleep already because I give her the boob after her bath and she passes out. If she doesn’t fall asleep on my boob, we still try to put her down but instead we will endure deafening screams and breath-stealing sobs, and our little girl will throw herself around her little cot as though in a fighting cage.
If we sit with her long enough she’ll eventually fall asleep. We take turns with this, and neither of us can ever believe the other when we emerge from the bedroom only to be told ‘oh, it was only 20 minutes!’ Twenty minutes in that dark room can feel like hours.
At 11pm she wakes, I feed her the boob and she sleeps, in her own bed, until the wee hours of the morning.
At 2am she’s awake and Ivan brings her to our bed. What would happen if we didn’t bring her to our bed? We are yet to discover this as by this stage Ivan and I are actually still half asleep and have no desire to stand in her bedroom hovering over her until she calms down. So she’s plopped between us, she rolls towards me and frantically searches for my boob. I feed her lying down so I don’t need to wake up, and this repeats throughout the night. I have no idea how often she wakes up, I just lie there like an all-night boob buffet for her to snack on as she pleases. Usually it’s about 4 times a night. Yeah, four times.
At 6am she’s ready to face the day. Ivan and I are not. So we take turns, two mornings in a row each. That little sleep in every couple of days is bliss and is probably what is keeping us alive right now.
If someone had told me I would soon consider a 5 hour sleep to be luxurious, I would never have believed them. I really didn’t want to write a cliche post about being sleep deprived parents (because now that I AM a parent, I hear about this all the time. Why couldn’t I hear it before?) but if this blog is a document of our lives, then it would be wrong to not talk about this.
I often wonder why I’ve been struggling to find the right words. Why I think in cliches and why speaking Spanish has been a lot harder to pick up than I remembered. I’ve been wondering why it’s so easy to keep exercising but so hard to say no to unnecessary carbs. I’ve been wondering why every week I get an uncontrollable twitch in my right eye that lasts for a couple days. Why why why? The answer, my friends, is sleep deprivation.
Like a chronic disease, we are living with this deprivation daily and trying to manage it the best we can. We often think of our friends who have been here before us and suddenly their cranky moods, erratic behaviour, unhealthy diets and lack of humour and imagination all makes sense. Thankfully they’re all still alive, so suggestions that sleep deprivation leads to death aren’t entirely terrifying.
When we talk of ‘the day we’ll get some sleep’ we can’t imagine it. We have truly forgotten what it feels like. Similar to the person sitting on the couch, 20 kilos overweight and eating donuts who has forgotten what it feels like to be healthy, we, with twitching eyes and foggy heads have forgotten what it feels like to be awake.
We go about our day and we love and we enjoy and we remember little moments, but sometimes it feels like everything is just out of reach. Are we awake? Are we dreaming? We just don’t know. Maybe that’s why I write. The words won’t be imaginative, the plot might be lost, but at least it’s proof that we’ve been here, that we lived and that we weren’t just waiting for the storm to pass. We have learned how to laugh, how to cherish, how to smile and how to dance through it all. If this is how much we can achieve and how much we can enjoy life now, I can’t help but feel a teeny bit giddy at the thought of what we’ll achieve when we might finally get some sleep.