My youngest was nearly one. The mythical “sleeping-through” remained mythical. And from the accounts of my new mum girlfriends, we had all been fed the same fantasy. None of us were getting a full eight hours. My very bones were weary with tiredness. It was impossible to fathom how we could continue and yet we all did. I yearned, yearned for rest.
I remember talking to mum about it. How weary I was. My dear mother has a way of seeing herself in every story. So she told me about how tired she was. As an aside, if you’d like to frustrate a person to tears, be a person without a baby telling a person with a baby how tired you are. Of course, new parents don’t have the monopoly on exhaustion, but for the love of all that’s holy – just give it to them. They are honestly only just hanging on.
And while my mothers “empathy” rankled she then said something that gave me pause “sometimes I wish for just a short stay in hospital, nothing serious of course, just a little rest.”
My first reaction was knowing exactly what she meant. A small break, completely out of my control, with the burden of responsibility lifted. And if it had the added bonus of causing those around to worry a little, to take less for granted, all the better. Then I realised how horrible this wish was, how unkind. How arrogant and purposefully naive towards those with actual, terrible illness.
Not to mention, it really wasn’t what either of us wanted. Let’s face it, a hospital stay is never fun. Even when having my babies I was keen to leave as quickly as possible.
We could pretend we craved helplessness but we were romanticising the whole notion. Both us like to be in control, we like to be busy. In fact it’s probably my mothers tendency to say yes (I inherited it) that caused her lack of sleep. Both of us saying yes, yes, yes to all those around and no, later, sometime to ourselves.
And isn’t it awful that we both felt that true resting would only be possible if it were taken out of our hands? That it would only be accepted by those we love if via doctors orders. Perhaps only by ourselves under those conditions. How was it that neither of us felt empowered to make that decision ourselves? To recognise that our health was in jeopardy and that something needed to be done?
The boys are older now. I get a full eight hours sleep. And I don’t feel guilty about taking time out for myself. I am no longer the sole source of food and comfort. Those things can be easily shared and I take advantage of that. I definitely don’t want a hospital stay.
I wish we spent a bit more time preparing new parents for the inevitability of sleep deprivation. Gave them strategies instead of fairy stories. It would have been helpful to know that sleep would be elusive for a number of years and that fact was normal. That my child’s propensity for sleep would have a little to do with my parenting, a little to do with the books I read and a whole lot to do with my child’s personality.
It would have been nice to know that a child who didn’t sleep for ten hours a night was actually quite normal and not an indication of parenting failure.
Perhaps if we did this, we’d have less desperate parents thinking about bed-ridden illness as an escape.
Have you ever felt like this?
That a period of helplessness would just give you a rest?