I’m sure it isn’t just me that thinks “sleep deprivation” on hearing the word “baby”. Without stating the obvious, it is a well-known phenomenon that we all naively hope wont stretch much beyond babyhood. As a new Mum I expected to experience sleep deprivation and I largely dealt with it by ingesting large amounts of caffeine and sugar. Luckily I was able to get away with this as I had a baby that breastfed for England and took a hefty proportion of the calories I consumed. Unfortunately that benefit came to an end (not that I wanted to make a remake of Little Britain), and whilst the sleep deprivation got less, I am a decade further into the journey of parenthood and it still rears it ugly head from time to time.
Lack of sleep can have numerous consequences, at best it can just make you a bit sarcastic and drunk in your approach to life. Indeed, I remember looking at my seven month old younger boy one 5am and stating “I didn’t want to sleep anyway, who needs sleep?”. I then proceeded to sing my own version of “Who wants to be a Millionnaire”, where the millionnaire was actually sleep. At worst sleep deprivation can be downright dangerous but I think we all know that. Unfortunately the only sound advice I would give anybody would be to prioritize sleep over anything else that you possibly can, however impossible this may seem.
I mentioned earlier that sleep deprivation still rears its ugly head a decade on, older boy is nearing ten and he and his brother still regularly wake up and call for me in the night. This is after the torturous time of the day known as bedtime. Both my boys are owls and can do late nights with ease. I on the other hand am neither an owl or a lark, I need my sleep dammit. Like most Mums what little patience I have has well extinguished by bedtime and the bedtime battle regularly takes a couple of hours. Older boy in particular has a strong aversion to showers and both boys will use any ploy they can to avoid even getting ready for bed. They are suddenly hungry, thirsty, just want to play one last match …. you get the picture. Older boy once even decided he wanted to do his homework at 10.15 on a Friday night, this is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Then follows a barrage of play fighting which inevitably involves someone getting hurt. At this point I would sell my soul for some peace and quiet and would happily go off and live elsewhere. The boys usually want me to lie down with them. Older boy is convinced that he is not safe and will sometimes try to go downstairs as he is convinced it is safer there. Every time one of the boys appears to be asleep, they will start talking and I am sick of saying through clenched teeth “just go to sleep”. If by the time they are asleep, I haven’t fallen asleep myself, the temptation to go straight to my bed is just too great.
Quite often I will be in dream world and I will hear a loud “Mum”. For a few seconds I can pretend that it is part of my dreams but this pretence is impossible to maintain. After arguing with my partner about how I don’t want to get up, how tired and comfortable I am etc, I usually end up going and lying down with whichever boy it is. If I am lucky I will fall back to sleep very quickly, but more often than not I am then awake and time is ticking by. I am fearful of falling asleep cause I will be more tired when I wake up. I’m sure that is far from unique, however crazy it sounds.
In all of this there is however a saving grace. The boys now get up a bit later at the weekends and are able to go downstairs unattended, something that I dreamed of and couldn’t possibly imagine in the early days. As a subsequence, I do get more sleep and you will too.