I think it is fair to say I never truly knew what sleep deprivation was until I had my second child – my daughter. My daughter arrived into this this world shouting and if the last 15 months have taught us anything, it is that she has a pretty amazing set of lungs and a force of will the likes of which I have never seen before.
It pretty much started as soon as I realised I was pregnant. For both of my pregnancies I have suffered with pregnancy insomnia. But it didn’t manifest until later in my pregnancy with my son. With my daughter I think it started when I was about 7 weeks. It seemed to be my body’s way of trying to prepare me for what was to come.
You see, Aria doesn’t seem to like sleep that much. Her first few weeks and even months in this world were rather fraught, not her fault. What we initially believed to be colic turned out to be silent reflux and milk allergy. Between my husband and I we would spend hours pacing and rocking trying to desperately get her to sleep. When paternity leave came to an end and my husband’s return to work the night duties mostly moved over to me and sleep deprivation began to possess me truly.
At the worst of it, I was averaging 3 hours per night, by this point Aria would settle for no one else other than me and would often want to nurse all the time to ease the pain of her reflux. If you have ever survived on 3 hours per night for any length of time I can tell you that it starts to turn you loopy.
First off is the physical symptoms – headaches and I regularly get nausea when I am tired. Then it starts to affect your memory. I would be talking and forget words, couldn’t remember people’s names. I would lose time. I would sit down to nurse my daughter and during this time I would often put some tv on for my son to watch or set up some toys for him to play with. I would never remember actually falling asleep but it would seem like I would blink and my son had moved or the TV show had moved on to a different scene, it would seem sometimes like I was watching things from a distance. There were days when I cancelled plans and refused to drive, not believing myself safe to get behind the wheel. There were days when I would cry because I was just so physically exhausted. Then my least favourite symptom the irritability and short tempered-ness. I hate it when I am crabby. Sleep deprivation can unfortunately turn me into a bit of a harpy it would seem.
Sleep when they say sleep people would say. Not possible when you have an older child who no longer naps in the day. There were several days when I would finally get my daughter down at around 3/4am and then my son would bound in at around 6/7am ready to start the day. With no family close-by and my husband at work I pretty much had to get on with it, even when all I wanted to do was curl-up in a ball and hide away from the world.
There were times when I wondered if I had postnatal depression. But as my daughter began to sleep more – she still doesn’t go through the night, but I can cope with on average of one wake-up a night – I realised it was the lack of sleep that was robbing me of my sanity.
Things has been a lot calmer of late, but the last week my daughter has been both poorly and teething I am 4 nights of 3/4 hours per night and I can feel the delirium kicking back in. I think I had forgotten just how awful it makes you feel.
I am writing this I guess to get it off my chest as you just how hard it is. But also to say to any parents about to become second time parents that it will be ok too. I haven’t got the option of napping in the day or going to bed that early some nights, because I often work evenings, but I will say that as a parent you often find an inner strength you never knew that you had. This week I have been shattered and yes I have had to keep a lid on my inner harpy, but I’m getting through it. My children and I are surviving it and it’s also part of the crazy parenthood train. And when I feel like my brain might just implode, I might start hitting my head repeatedly against the wall or fall asleep mid sentence I thank the lord for our Disney DVD collection, sofa cuddles and caffeine.