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Monday, December 07, 2009

Sleeping With One Eye Open

Once you have kids, sleep is never what it used to be. Even some of the best sleeps you will have after the birth of your children, will never be as good as some of the average sleeps you had pre-kids. That's just the way it is.

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...


Ami said...

This is definitely the one part of parenthood I'm NOT looking forward to! What a shame I can't get extra sleep in now that I could call on for extra energy down the track!!

Your early morning activities sound like something out of a sitcom! Had a good giggle, although I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have been laughing at the time! :)

Brenda@MummyTime said...

Story of my life sister.

Sleep deprivation is BRUTAL. But we still function...like a person on a really bad acid trip. Hehehe...

Nomie said...

Just reading about sleep deprivation makes me feel tired and sick. Master10 had 2 hour cycles of feeding, settling, finally sleeping... us back in bed for 20 mins sleep...then begin again. It was BAD. He finally slept through at 17 months, and unless he's sick or scared he sleeps well. Like last night when we STUPIDLY let him watch Dr Who (I hate that show) & he got scared, so called out to me every hour over night. Alarm goes off at 6 for me - need to be out of the house by 7.15 am ick, ick, ick
Miss8 slept for longer, only being fed usually twice over night as a bub... but until the age of 4 she still came into our bedroom/bed each night, we'd put her back in her bed... she'd come back to ours... blahhhh.
Sleep deprivation is horrid.

Thea said...

Oh yes, oh yes, OH YES!!!! I'm hearing you loud and clear on this one.
I am constantly saying the worst thing about being a mum is sleep deprivation. I have had (possibly) somewhere between 5 & 10 full nights sleep since I was pregnant with my 5 year old, because of course my pregnancies we so uncomfortable I couldn't sleep then either, even before my first child was born. And it's always and only me on night shift and early morning duty, my husband never gets up. So I'm looking down that long road of 30 something years and fantasizing with you!

Anonymous said...

I know you're gonna hate me, but I have 3 sleepers. My first was my worst, he didn't sleep through until he was 14 weeks and only because he was hungry. I put him on solids and the next night he slept through. Next one was 5 weeks and the third was 9 weeks from memory. Now they sleep 10-11 hours per night. They all wake up sometimes during the night but not often. The funny thing is, I still wait for it. Hubby's alarm goes off every morning at 4.30. LOUDLY! Hugely, noisy, blaring radio and beeping right beside my bed. I don't hear a thing. Not a thing. If one of my kids coughs or cries during the night, I am up out of bed and beside them checking that they are ok, before I even know that I'm there. Maybe that's why I'm still tired?

Pam said...

Beautifully said Jodie. It makes me laugh and want to cry at the same time.
My 1st was a sleeper(ish - the 3 hour between feeds kind), but then along came Miss 4. I was lucky to get stretches of 7 1/2 MINUTES at a time with her. Day and night!!!!
Yes it was hell. We did the clinic nurse, GP, Paediatrician, the Mother and Baby Unit at the hospital, the aromatherapy, massage, 'controlled comforting', chiropractors, the dummy shoving (just suck it for &**@^%! sake) etc etc but all to no avail.
Yes she WAS delightful when awake but not so much at 12.07pm and again at 12.14 and then 12.21, 12.22, 12.29 and so on!!!! Somehow we managed to stay somewhat sane (though I aged at least 20 years in 2) and by the age of 3 my gorgeous girl started to sleep for up to 5-6 hours at a time. Last night she slept for 10 hours and then came back to snuggle with me and we didn't rise until nearly 10am. Bliss.
But then again I still feel exhausted. Yep - one eye open at all times.
Hang in there all you wonderful mums. It DOES get better.
And BTW fabulous Blog Jodie. I'll be here often :)