The sleep deprivation starts when they're born. At first, the adrenalin you experience after the birth keeps you going for the first, let's see, 3 weeks? After that, unless you have a dream baby (and some do. Some mothers are very fortunate to have their babies sleep through at 6 weeks. This never happened to me. Bummer) you will feel, well, bloody exhausted.
The first baby's the hardest, because your body isn't used to sleeping for 2 hours at a time (if you're lucky). But before you know it, you've moved in to a routine, and suddenly even just a little extra sleep makes you feel like a million bucks.
For example, when my first son was 4 months old, a friend asked if I was getting much sleep? I replied, "Well, last night, I got 6 hours. It was broken sleep. But 6 hours nonetheless, and today I feel A-MA-ZING!" And I really did. She was horrified.
Then, when I started to get 4 hours straight, I thought I was really living it up. It's incredible how your body adapts. By the 2nd and 3rd child, you're so used to so little sleep, it's almost a walk in the park. (Well, almost.)
Before too long, your child starts to sleep through (for some it's sooner rather than later, and for some it takes a looooonngg time, but it DOES happen. Eventually).
And then you start to get a lot more sleep at night. And this is the funny thing. Because then you feel worse than what you did when you were getting the broken sleep! The body takes time to adjust again, and before you know it, you're experiencing 6, 7, then 8 or more hours of uninterrupted sleep. Most of the time.
And here's the catch. You never really sleep as soundly as what you did before your kids were born, because you know that at some point, one of them is going to wake you. Whether it be a cry out during the night for the dummy, or waking you in the morning by throwing themselves on top of you, or by the sudden yell of "MUM! Can you come and wipe my bottom?"
It's like what you imagine sleeping with one eye open would be like. You're asleep, but you're also at some level partly awake. Waiting. Waiting to be awoken. Your sleep is borrowed time in the world of dreamland. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Take the other morning in our house for example. I have three boys 7, 5 & 2. At 5.50am, the 7yr old awoke me by climbing in to bed, where for 5-10 minutes, he thrashed about until he eventually whispered, "Mum! Can I play my [Nintendo] DS?" Usually, I'm not too keen for him to play it so early, because there's a good chance he'll play it for over an hour straight (or more) if none of us get up in time to stop him. But as I had only collapsed in to bed at midnight the night before, I agreed. Just to get him out of the room. And my bed. I got up, sorted him out, went to the toilet, then back to bed again.
Now, I know at this point, that from this moment on, I will not really "sleep". At best, I'll doze. If I'm lucky. Because I know what's coming.
I was just dozing off, when I heard my 2 year old standing in front of me. Book in hand. It's 6.05am. He smiles and says, "I want book now Mummy." I try and convince him it's "just too early for a book. Look! It's practically dark outside..." but he's not buying it. He starts to throw a mini-tantrum. I eventually convince him to have some milk, and we get up and go to the kitchen together. Milk is fetched, and, after a quick nappy change, I settle him back in to his bed with a Maisy DVD.
I head back to bed. Moments later, the 7yr old is back. He's telling me some long-winded story about a character in Pokemon on his DS. Can you believe it? This is not the information I'm looking for at 6.15am in the morning. (In fact, I'm never seeking out this particular information, but gosh darn it, I'll hear it. And I'll nod my head and act as though I'm half interested and absorbing this enlightening info.) I convince him to go back and play his DS, and gently explain that I would really like a little extra sleep. I attempt to doze off again.
I'm just getting back in to another light doze, when I hear a toy playing from the 2yr old's room. The high pitched voices of the Leap Frog characters are singing, "We'll be riding on the choo-choo and we'll learn to count to teeeeen. Toot toot. Toot toooot." I get up and run in to the 2yr old's bedroom. "What are you doing?" I hiss. "Get back in to bed!" The 2yr old starts to climb up and then turns to me and says, "I have poo-poo." Deep breath. I change his nappy, and settle him back in to his bed. (I start the Maisy DVD again, in hopes he'll watch the whole thing this time.) I throw the nappy out front door, wash my hands and get back in to bed. Again.
This time, I get at least a whole 20-25 minutes before the 7yr old is back. He wants to finish of something or another that he's been making. He starts to ask me where the scissors are, and then he suddenly remembers and leaves the room. I close my eyes again, hoping he's now off for a while, and then I hear him at the hall table, just outside my bedroom, scrunching paper, cutting. I try to ignore it, and pull the doona over my head, but it doesn't work. I can still hear you! I say in my head.
At last he finishes. 'Thank God', I think. 'Peace again.' But it's short-lived. He decides to get in to bed with Hubby and I. Again.
Oh, yes. Hubby was there too. But for some reason it was ME they all want to talk to, climb in to bed with, whilst Hubby manages a few more z's.
Then the dog gets up, and I figure I should let him out for a wee. So I do that, and by that time, the 7yr old is out of the bed. But so is the 5 yr old now, and he's asking to play DS too. The 2yr old gets up and starts jumping on our bed, as though he's auditioning for the local trampolining squad and that's it. Sleep time is over. Oh, it's SO OVER. It's now 7.25am.
Nup. Sleep is just not what it used to be. And unfortunately, my mother assures me it never ends. According to her, when they're heading out to nightclubs, you don't sleep soundly until you hear the sound of their key turning in the front door lock. Great. Maybe by the time the last one moves out, I'll finally get some real sleep. With the average age of those leaving home ever increasing - some say in their 30s *shudder* - that's about 30 or so years from now until real sleep becomes an option. Perfect.
Until next time...