Friday 8 February 2019. Day 28: I never needed much sleep; not as a baby, child or teenager. It would always take me an age to drift off, but once I was soundly in the land of nod, I usually stayed there until early morning, where I would wake feeling refreshed – definitely a lark.
This all changed the moment my first baby was born (obviously) but aged 19, I really didn’t take on board the impact this little being would have on my relationship with sleep (I’d barely finished playing with dolls and clearly thought that babies were just meant to be dressed up, cuddled and played with. Duh!).
In the wee small hours of the first night after giving birth, I was rudely awoken by an elderly midwife, who informed me that my baby needed feeding. Earlier the previous evening, I had been asked if I would like my baby to stay in the nursery so that I could get some sleep, to which I blindly agreed (I’d been through two days of labour, of course I was going to choose sleep). I was therefore incredibly confused and disgruntled at being dragged from my bed in the middle of the night. I stumbled into the nursery to see my baby laying in a soaking wet nightdress (oh the 80’s were so old-fashioned!) and puddles of milky vomit all over the floor. ‘She won’t take a bottle’ stated the not-so-friendly midwife. I sat down on a wooden chair in this cold sterile environment and embarrassingly opened up my Disney nightie and attempted to feed my little one. Fortunately, little Red knew exactly what to do as I awkwardly held her, wincing whilst she fed. Half an hour later, baby fed and nappy changed, I went to put her back in her crib. Before I had even stood up, a quite spectacular arc of non-digested breast milk projected quite forcibly from her little body, right through the air and splattered on the already puddled floor. I cried.
I guess I eventually got used to the night-time feeds although 30 years on, my memory is somewhat blurred. The stiff neck which I still suffer from after falling asleep propped up feeding my babies, reminds me however, just how long those nights were. It seems cruel therefore, that once your children are grown and you’ve survived broken nights due to hungry babies, poorly children and bothersome teenagers coming in at all hours, good old mother nature throws you another curve ball.
Like my similarly aged friends, I am working harder now than I ever did before. After spending my early career years juggling part-time work with full-time motherhood, I now have a great job and I am finally climbing the illusive ladder. Why then, when I am possibly at my career peak, does my body have to have the last laugh in denying me sleep, causing me to struggle to keep a clear head when trying to make the simplest work decisions?
The menopause is a curious beast. No two women appear to have the same set of symptoms, but then again, I do not know many women who openly talk about it. What is this silent conspiracy all about? Maybe it’s like when you’re pregnant for the first time and no other mothers tell you just how painful and exhausting labour is? At least labour only lasts for a relatively short period of time; an acquaintance recently told me that her menopause lasted for 8 years. 8 years!? That’s a potential 2,920 nights of sleep deprivation, not to mention the hot sweats, brain fog and general exhaustion!
So I write this post at the end of another busy week, where I worked at full pelt in the office, I looked after my poorly grand-daughter on a granny day-care day and I hauled myself out of bed each morning at 6.30am, feeling cheated that I had barely slept. I am thankful it’s Friday and even though I will most likely have a fitful sleep tonight and wake early tomorrow, I can at least bring my cup of tea back to bed and just enjoy being lazy for an hour or two.
Until next time, I wish you a restful night’s sleep, and if you have any slumber tricks up your sleeve, please tell me!!