All my life I’ve been a good sleeper. Apart from a bit of the “I’m Scared of Monsters” childhood period and the “Teenage Angst is Eating me up Inside” period, I’ve done fairly well. I loved my eight hours of sleep a night and thrived on the occasions I could get ten! A bad night? Six hours. It was enough to make me a little bit homicidal. A night out on the town? Look, I’d need the usual eight, plus a few more to get me less…drunk and grumpy.
Oh how things change!
At the moment, we’re dealing with the Little Mister’s recovery from his four month old immunisation needles. I’d heard horror stories about sleepless nights, fevers, screaming (and that was just the parents)! I tried to mentally prepare myself for the worst case scenario of zombie-tired-to-ridiculousness. You just don’t know what that is until it actually happens to you.
Last night because I was so tired, my husband kindly offered to look after the Little Mister all night. I decided to sleep out on the couch where it would be quieter. So what happens? I go to sleep only I dream that I’m trying to sleep on the couch, but I can’t! Only I was sleeping all along. It was VERY CONFUSING and NOT VERY RELAXING (kind of like watching the movie Inception)! However, I did appreciate that I was able to have some rest – even if I didn’t know it at the time.
I now know what it is to be so tired you do embarrassing things like forget your handbag when you go to the shops and not realising until you’ve rung up a few items on someone’s till – how convenient. Crying in the car and not even caring if anyone sees you because you’re that tired you don’t know what else to do (and yes – you’re fully aware that it’s weird how people even let you drive a heavy vehicle in the first place but who else will if you won’t?). Doing that zombie shuffle with a shopping trolley in a department store, walking around aimlessly (even though I used to hate those people). That constant tense feeling as you lie in bed willing your baby to go to sleep (using telepathic powers you think might be faulty).
I am sad to say that there is no magical cure for the tiredness that comes with being a new parent. Just management of a challenging situation. Little tips, tricks and coping strategies! I’m far from perfect and perfectly bad at taking perfectly good advice, but here are some things that have helped me:
Focusing on the Positives
Waaaaaay easier said than done, yet rewarding if you can force yourself to do it. Just use your head (go through the motions even if you’re not really feeling it) and your heart will catch up.
Perfect example? Some douche-bag made a sarcastic comment at me in the shopping centre today and even though these types of people and their remarks mean nothing to me on a not-so-tired day, today it cut me to pieces and I wanted to bawl. I kept walking and I gave myself a lecture. Forget what he said, he isn’t worth your time or your precious energy. I didn’t believe it to be honest, but I got outside and tried to compose myself while I unpacked my shopping trolley. I only had one large shopping bag and a big box of nappies to put in my car, but I was over tired and struggling to be coordinated (something I am not good at when I’m energised)! A kind lady walked up to me and said, “You look like you could use an extra pair of hands! Can I help you?”
I said with forced cheerfulness, “No don’t worry – I’ll get it. I’m alright. I’m just a little overtired and having trouble using my brain.”
She looked me straight in the eye with warmth and said, “You’re not alright. Here.”
She lifted the nappy box and placed it in my arms so it was easy for me to carry. I thanked her profusely and got in my car. Where I bawled. The kindness of a stranger made me feel so touched. She thought she was just helping in a tiny way to make someone’s day easier. Just a short moment of her time. What she didn’t know was that I had just felt horrible about someone’s mean comment, I was close to comatose with fatigue and her kindness had actually made my whole day. It came at the exact moment I needed it. She may never know just how much a small random act of kindness made a hell of a difference.
I truly believe in the power of thought and my determination to be positive and not let someone mean get me down brought me such a lovely lady to prove to me that things can be good. People can be good.This kind of stuff happening in my life inspires me so much. You just never know when that tiny thing you did for a stranger might have saved their day or even their life.
Which brings me to the next thing that helps: The Kindness of Others.
It can be the kindness of a stranger as I’ve just described or it can be the love of those in your support networks. Sometimes just a reassuring comment on facebook, a hug from a loved one or an offer to look after your baby so you can rest can make all the difference.
I am blessed because I have caring family (inlaws included), a proactive parent for a husband (even if he does have this amazing ability to sleep through a crazy amount of crying baby sounds and needs a nudge occasionally), great friends (parents and non parents) and a mothers group (all with babies the same age).
We share messages and advice all the time. I love that if I need someone to listen – they’re there. If I need advice, there’s always someone with wisdom to share. It’s incredibly comforting.
Just be aware that in such a delicate, fatigued state people’s amazing kindness WILL make you cry like a baby (and cry they will). Avoid too much eye make-up…
And oh, God. I LOVE the INTERNET. It can be hard to find the time to get on here, but a sneaky moment with a smart phone to keep in touch with those who care can be a blessing
I know some new parents feel that they are too busy to fit some Facebook into their lives, but I’m telling you – set up an account. If you can get on there even for five minutes on your phone in the evenings, the support to be found there can be priceless. Also, it keeps you connected to the “outside” “adult” world – great when you’ve spent days housebound with an out of sorts baby!
Forcing Myself to Rest
Yep, another Easier Said than Done. The old (non parental) me would have found this incredibly easy. Had a long week? Just put your feet up, sit in front of the telly (oh DVR I lurrrrve you) and do jacksh*t all weekend while washing, dishes, and other household tasks just stacked up around me (hey I never said I was a domestic goddess). I would nap at a moment’s notice and I would let myself not feel bad for the stuff I didn’t get done.
Now as soon as the Little Mister has a sleep, I see washing that needs to be done, dishes piled up around the kitchen sink, dinners that need to be prepared, bottles that need to be washed, sterilised and made up. I see all the things that I “should” have done earlier and I can drive myself crazy trying to do it all because I only get limited time.
Lately I’ve been completely exhausted. I’ve had to force myself to lie on the couch and even if I can’t nap while the little guy is napping (as every damn trendy baby book keeps telling me to do), I have to promise myself that I will turn my brain off. Watch some trashy show I’ve recorded or fluff about on Facebook. I have to stop looking at the housework and start chilling out. It will all get done eventually.
I’ve tried this twice now (haha – yes two whole times) and it can actually be good. At first you just stress more, but if you make an effort to let it go everything just feels nice
Not Lying there Awake while the Baby Sleeps
We’ve all done it. Laid there awake, stiff as a board, afraid to move in case the baby isn’t really sleeping but is about to wake up any second and you’ll have to get up again. It’s taken me a while (try four whole months and then some), but I’ve realised that it’s actually not the most constructive way to deal with things.
It’s probably better to get five minutes of sleep by letting your guard down, than none at all! I think I’ve always had the attitude of, “What if I let my guard down, juuuust start falling asleep nicely and then I am rudely awakened? Won’t I be more frustrated and feel worse?”
Perhaps, so. But in the end, when sleep is really scarce, we need to take what we can get! It might not feel so nice in the moment, but when the morning comes and we’ve taken a deep breath before starting another long day, a few more minutes of sleep throughout the night can make all the difference! For me it makes the difference between juuuust getting through the day, with a massive energy slump in the afternoon and being able to plod along steadily with enough energy to get me to dinner time (when I collapse on the couch and declare I’m having an early night).
It really does help. Either that or I’ve just become a zombie on autopilot and have somehow become acclimatised to this new sleeplessness.
Living in the Moment
This piece of advice came from my mum via sms today. In essence she was saying not to get overwhelmed by seeing stretches of days and nights of sleeplessness and fatigue ahead. Just be in each minute or hour. Just get through each one and eventually what overwhelmed you will be over and dealt with. That’s not to say a new set of challenges won’t arise again shortly after, but again I guess if you just take it hour by hour, day by day, task by task then you’ll get through that too!
Gotta love a seasoned mother’s wisdom!
There’s lots of great advice out there on coping with not having much energy. I could look into my iron levels, improve my diet (eating things that are low GI and won’t make me feel horrid afterwards) and get to the exercise level where I actually feel more energised afterwards and not absolutely shattered! I try to do some good things like drink a lot of water, avoid falling on crutches like giant cans of red bull or become coffee addicted and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Sometimes all the advice we keep hearing just doesn’t seem too easy to put into practice or it involves more energy than I actually have in the first place. I am trying to keep it simple and achievable – baby steps! I try to think of any progress as a good thing. The other night, the Little Mister had a period where he slept for 3 and a half hours straight (after spending two nights waking up every 45 minutes – damn needles!) and I choose to see that as a small victory!
How do you manage your fatigue?