Friday 6 April 2012

Sleep, or lack thereof

I am tired today, so tired in fact that it is 5pm and I have only just got downstairs. In fairness, I have been awake for a while, it’s just that I have spent the time wisely. Under a duvet, cuddling Ebony. Now I am bathed, dressed (in pyjamas admittedly) and have just finished breakfast. Laurie is sat next to me, also in pyjamas. Yes, we are one of those families where the Dad wears pyjamas, I’m sorry, but it’s the lesser of two evils (the other evil is not nudity as the foul-minded amongst you will have assumed, it is his night gown. There I’ve said it, my husband owns - no not owns, loves - a night gown. Like Wee Willy Winky). Clear that thought from your mind because it’s not relevant to this post. We’re all sat here in pyjamas at 5:30pm and this has been planned for days, because we’re all exhausted.

Laurie is burnt out, you can tell from the olympic sized bags under his eyes, and the fact that he can’t hold his eyelids open. He has been working ridiculous hours for the past two weeks. He leaves the house before eight, and doesn’t return home until after seven. He then allows himself an hour of recreational time (eating dinner is the stuff of folly, right?) and then it’s back to his laptop to keep working. He needs this bank holiday weekend. Thanks for that Jesus.

I need it too. If Laurie’s working long hours, so am I. Laurie getting home from work usually signifies that I can relax slightly. He will want to spend time with Ebony, and this means I can enjoy some time without a 13lb baby weighing me down. He takes on the nappy changes until bedtime, then I’m on shift again. But for those few hours where Laurie enjoys his daughter, I can relax. But these past couple of weeks, with Laurie working evenings and weekends, I haven’t had much time to myself. I’ve been looking after our, now attention hungry, daughter pretty much nonstop for days and days.
I love the time I get to spend with Ebony. I’m glad I live in a country that protects my right to stay at home with my little baby, but I still need at least a little time to myself. Ebony is 12 weeks old now, and she’s curious. She wants to look at everything, she wants to tell me things, and she wants to be talked to, and sung to, and played with, and entertained. And I love it. I love thinking of new things for her to touch, look at, play with and experience. I like seeing her grow and change. I love seeing her smile at me. But when I’m tired, it’s hard to talk nonsense in an excited voice, or sing made up songs about what I’m cooking for dinner, or regale her with a chorus of animal noises, because all I really want to do is sleep. And that makes me feel really guilty. So I’m burnt out too.
For the past week, we’ve just both been waiting for today. Good Friday. So we can do nothing. Like marathon runners staring at the finishing line only metres in front, we’ve spent the week aiming towards today.
We’re fulfilling that stereotype of the pale, unwashed, stressed out new parents, but it’s not Ebony’s sleep pattern causing us problems. It reminds me of those first two weeks of Ebony, when we were suffering fatigue. Up until her third week of life, Ebony would only sleep if she was being held. This meant one of us had to be awake at all times, so we slept in shifts. Neither of us had more than four hours sleep in a row, and for me it was less because of breastfeeding. It’s hard to explain the tiredness you feel as a new parent, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. It just actually hurts to be that tired. Your teeth hurt from tiredness, your eyes sting, your entire body aches and, most importantly, your brain cannot function.
Your first few days being in charge of a tiny, vulnerable, beautiful new life is not a good time to for mental collapse. You’re so sleepy you function on auto-pilot, but how can you auto-pilot when you have no idea what you’re doing? When Ebony was five days old, the midwife came round for a visit. She undressed Ebony to weigh her, and politely mentioned that the nappy had been on back to front. Laurie was mortified and thought we might end up on some kind of social services risk register for neglect. I suspect this is not the first backwards nappy the midwife had seen.
I think we both became delirious with lack of sleep. Ebony would want feeding many times during the night, and each time I would be louder about getting myself organised for the event, so Laurie would be awake as well. It’s amazing the amount of noise that man can sleep through. We started watching TV shows during night feeds, just to help us stay awake. One night, we were watching New Girl on a laptop set up at the end of the bed. The screen was at the wrong angle so the picture looked dark and strange, so Laurie asked Schmidt to tip the screen. Schmidt is a character in New Girl, and he was on the screen at the time. Laurie was so tired that he thought Schmidt was our friend who was walking past the laptop.
Sleeping in shifts for the first couple of weeks meant we missed each other. I would wake Laurie to tell him it was his turn now, and then I would immediately pass out on the bed. It feels as though I didn’t see much of Laurie during those first couple of days as we were in completely different time zones. The only proof that he was still living in the house was that the TV was playing Pointless on catch up when I went down for my early morning shift. The photo illustrating this blog was taken when Ebony was two weeks old, during a rare moment of quiet as Ebony slept in her moses basket. Laurie and me cuddled up on the sofa, and almost as soon as we did Ebony stirred, we hid behind the duvet and shushed, both terrified that she would wake up and we would have to start another long night shift.
Thankfully Ebony has not only learned to sleep in her moses basket, she has also learned to sleep through the night. So now it is just Laurie’s work keeping us up at night. And for me, the dread of how tired I will feel when I wake up in the morning.
This weekend is a much needed break, and I plan to get as much sleep as possible. And try to ensure that Laurie has a rest too, although he has answered two work calls while I’ve been typing so I find that unlikely.
While writing this blog, I looked down at Ebony, who was loving dressed by Laurie today, and noticed that her sleepsuit was on backwards. With the feet facing the wrong way. How Laurie managed this I am not sure, but when questioned he explained that he did wonder “why the pattern was on the back”.
Please forgive us, Ebony, for our terrible neglectful parenting mistakes. We are just so, so tired.

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