There are so many reasons once you become a mother, that your sleep will be interrupted… Most of them have to do with your children. I’m not going to lie, you’re going to simultaneously love and loathe those little ones when they’ve kept you up the entire night.
When I had my first baby my husband worked nights, and in my delirium I fantasized about what I could do to muffle the sound of my crying son, a pillow came to mind, not to be placed on him but a few inches above him, just to have the sound hit something soft and not bounce around the room. I never acted on that fantasy, but I did once call my husband at work (a big no no for a military man) and tell him that if a dog walked by our house and barked I was going to kill it, because I needed sleep, and someone needed to pay for the lack of it that I was getting.
Fast forward to my fourth, and she is perfect and all smiles and happy and cooing, and I think “wow, she’s so easy” and then we go through the normal sleep issues and come out feeling great, and then the congestion hits, and she’s coughing and gagging on snot all night, and even when it doesn’t wake her it sure wakes me! And when it does wake her it’s OK, I have not slept yet anyway, for fear she’d stop breathing and die (did I mention my oldest DID stop breathing once? No he didn’t die, and it only happened once but seriously once is enough!). So I’m up and down, and up and down all night, and it’s tough, and it’s annoying, and I just want to scream, or run away and make her dad deal with it, because it’s been months since I had really good sleep….
But then the sun comes up, and she wakes up happy, with a smile on her face, and cooing and drooling and everything is OK. And that smile is just enough to know that all I went through the night before was worth it.
I am a mom, I get paid in smiles and hugs, and I love it!
You, expecting your first, or fourth, or eighth baby, you, if you don’t already, will know very soon the joy that a smile can bring you, the refreshment you need after a long night of caring for an infant that can’t or wont sleep when you want them to. And you will know it is worth it.
BUT you also really do have to take care of yourself, so below is a list of the things you can do to help yourself out when sleep and sanity are frolicking together somewhere far away from you.
Lots of people love to hold babies, and don’t mind washing dishes or making a light meal for a sleep deprived mamma, you just have to ask, and that’s the hardest. I’ve not lived close to family for most of my babies infant days, and asking for help meant asking women with children my own children’s age, which was both ridiculous because their plates were full, and impossible because their plates were full… OR I could ask that sweet old lady that lives a few streets down, or the woman at church who loved to play with the kids before service.. and often that meant I didn’t really know the woman, but if you invite her to your home when you feel somewhat sane, then you’ll feel more comfortable calling on her in the middle of a rough day when you really need the help. Get to know people now while baby is still inside, let them into your inner circle, or at least test the waters, you’ll be glad you did once baby is here and you’ve not slept more than three hours in a stretch in months.
OK, so most nights you can’t plan whether your baby will sleep or not, but what you can do is plan your days as if you DID NOT SLEEP…. So what this means to me is that from the time I wake up and get dressed until lunch I don’t do anything outside of my home. Sometimes this means that I don’t get dressed until lunch time and I wander around feeling drained of energy and getting nothing done, but then there are days when baby did sleep longer and I can actually get things done in my house that have been neglected for way too long. Thinking of your daily schedule and planning it as if you are going to be tired will help you not over schedule your day on days when you really can’t handle it… and give you an advantage for the days when you could have handled it, with nothing on your schedule you might be able to meet a friend for coffee, or take your older kids to the park.
Nap when Baby naps
Everyone says this, I find it stupid, but I’m going to say it anyway because there are people who magically accomplish it… I am not one of them, so if you are not either, don’t feel bad. But if you can nap when your baby does, please try.
Lower your expectations
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t strive for your best every day, and want a clean home and nice food and ironed clothes (who does that? anyone? Am I the only one who completely ignores this task?) What I do mean is that if you were a neat freak before you had a child then you are going to have to get used to a different method of doing things. A method that might mean you are too tired to get the dishes done every night before bed, or that occasionally means you don’t get the laundry folded as soon as it comes out of the dryer (meaning that since you don’t iron anything you might have to throw it back in the dryer or deal with wrinkled clothes). Yes, get the dishes done, Yes, fold the laundry, but understand your timeline includes a new person and things are going to change, you can’t keep everything going all at once, and you certainly can’t do it on zero energy.
There are a few things in this life that are vital, eating, drinking and sleeping are those things. We can choose when we do those things, and we should make them a priority. If a child is keeping you awake at night therefore keeping you from sleeping, then you should focus more on the other two things… you NEED water, especially if breastfeeding your baby. Most breastfeeding moms who experience a low supply of milk will admit that they have not been drinking enough water… how is your body supposed to make liquid when it has no liquid to make it from? And if you want to regain a little of that sanity you need to feed yourself, and I don’t mean running to the pantry and eating a Little Debbie as you nurse your baby and try to sweep the floor… I mean something with true natural color, color it grew with.. food that grows! If it doesn’t look like something that at one point grew and was alive (the food, not anything that might grow on it) then you shouldn’t be eating it on a day when you are sleep deprived.
This sounds crazy, on the day you have no energy that you would be preparing food, actual food, but sister, I’m telling you, it is necessary! Eat a salad, they are surprisingly easy to put together, especially now that you can get ham already cut into tiny pieces, carrots cut in whatever shape you like them in your salad, and lettuce in a bag that is already salad ready. And those things are going to help you build up your energy and stamina for a day with a bad start.
Whether you shower at night or in the morning, or like me, whenever you can fit it in, you need to care for yourself, shower, make yourself clean and you will feel better about yourself, which will help you feel happier.
Some days are pajama days, and that is OK, but don’t make some days all days… you really need to be comfortable going out to get the mail without worrying if the neighbors will see you. Not because it is any of their business, but because if you worry about what people will think when they see you, then you are worrying, and worrying is not good for your mental health, so choose, is today a pj day, or is today a day that I get dressed, but pick one that will make you feel good, not just let you be lazy.
I hope some of these tips will help you feel better on those days when sleep has left you, and your children need you…
Have a Cherished Birth