So as you may have read, my early weeks…nay, months, with Parker-Grace (our second child) was quite a rough ride. (read that post here.)It left me beyond exhausted, rattled and ready to run for the hills.
I knew I had to do something to take care of me. The insane lack of sleep (Im talking days her folks, not hours) was rapidly chipping away at me. I needed to break out of the downward spiral of both my physical and mental sanity. Fortunately I found such simple salvation in the rooms of Crystal Lagoon Hotel.And boy, it could not have come any sooner.
I was clocking one, maybe two, hours of sleep in a THREE day stretch. Which, to be honest, was actually way better than the ZERO hours of sleep in a SIX day period I used to get with a 0 to 3 month old Morgan-Lee (our first). Im not even kidding, yo! With Morgan-Lee, I would mostly go for six days without sleep, before my body would just crash. And by crash, I meant I’d get in an hour nap or so, for the day again until the next six days- so just enough to keep my system from keeling over. But it is safe to say that my brain was already fried– even hallucinating at times.
So yes, it may have been slightly more sleep the second time around, but if I think about it, I was already operating in a deficit – then again with my entire sleep history, Ive always been in a deficit. My la-la-loopy levels were pretty much heading off the charts. I remember even calling my mom one day (that is after I managed to get my brain to pull at least two thoughts together, and to get myself to talk loud enough over Parker’s screams), just to confirm whether maybe it was just me being in at such low with my sleep deprivation that I couldn’t actually deal anymore, with something that was possibly very normal. And maybe I just was not of sound enough mind to recognize it. You know, maybe there was simply something I wasn’t doing right. But her reply was with a very heavy voice, and admitted that even she couldn’t help me. And that’s saying something, folks – my mom’s like a freakin baby whisperer!
She had no idea how to help me, as she had never come across a situation as intense as this. A baby who was this attached to mom, where absolutely nothing was possible, lest it was on mom. Whilst that notion is seems pretty standard, the actual reality was not. Mine was not a unique situation, mind you. But neither was it a common one. Not to mention a baby who cried so bitterly..and loudly. She seemed to be a very angry baby. Remember, how I said no one could even look at her? I wasn’t kidding. Not even daddy. (There were maybe the random two friends that managed to each hold her once, but the stars were probably just aligned that day, because it never happended again. As much as I prayed for it.)
She was a serious cling-on baba. No one else would do, for anything and there was simply no negotaitions around it – lest you wanted the windows shattered by her screams. Or your ego deflated in 0.3 seconds flat.
Eventually, with sleep training at about 4 months came a huge relief – both for my spine, my health, her sleep and mine. However, it was only two weeks of this kind of sweet sleep before I had to head back into rat race world of work again.
This meant there wasn’t much time to recoup actually- granted it was worlds better than where I was two weeks before- but I knew I was going to just get swept into the strong currents of life again. In fact, Life had not slowed down one bit, and had only gained in momentum. To be honest, Mike and I pretty much felt like 2014 was just a relentless series of tidal waves wiping us out, barely giving us a chance to breathe in between all that we had to deal with. Basically giving us the finger at the best of times. And then we still had to tend to our children as if our minds were all at peace, Namaste and ohmmm with the world???
Add to all this, that I was already an insomniac of note, with a mind that often couldn’t help but continue to tick over regardless of how exhausted I was. Coupled with my annoyingly light-sleepedness, it was all just a real bad combination for someone who desperately needed some shut eye.
I was cracking. But I think everyone else just saw me dealing- I’d do a rant a bit, and then Im back to coo-coo-cachooing again with baby, where nothing is too much for me…but I could feel my how thin I was starting to wear. And nobody, as much as they loved me and as much as they were doing, was going to come swing in and rescue me. I realised no one was going to say, “hey, I know exactly how close you are to losing it, these are exactly the things you need, let me help you.” I knew I was going to have to speak up. I was going to have to ask for help, and more than that, I had to specify exactly what kind of help I needed.
When I approached them, Mike and my mom both looked me dead in the eye, and asked HOW they could help. And the thing is, I knew what I needed: I needed a good night’s sleep. Maybe even 2 just to be sure. I needed proper rest and recuperation.
But you know how, as mothers, like Ive said before here, we have this demented sense of responsibility, where you probably know whats good for you, but your babies’ needs trump your own. Like, by far, and so you just carry on pushing. Sometimes I find it so crazy the way we are wired. (Mother nature can really be a bishh, at times,eh?) I also knew I was rapidly approaching the point of implosion.
However, I just couldn’t see myself leaving Parker’s side. And for a whole night?! Morgy, I knew would be fine. But Parker? How was she going to cope without her mom? Her mom that she so clearly was still desperately attached to. I mean, Im pretty sure I saw mike cut that umbilical cord, but damn, I don’t think she realised this yet! So I buried the idea of ever having that kind of R&R for now. I knew that it got easier. Eventually. So I tried to suck it up.
But one day, after being inspired by a wonderful couple at lunch one day, who shared their views on how they invest in each other and their family by taking time out, I realised how much I was doing my children, my family, my husband and myself such a huge disservice by operating on such a low tank – thus, only being able to give my very bare minimum. Because that was now my new maximum.
With their words in my mind, I spoke to myself, as if I was talking to a dear friend…soft, gentle, non- judgemental. With care. I realised that I had set myself on a path that was only just a ticking time bomb. Whilst I felt I was doing what was right as a mother, there was part that I was neglecting. A very important part.
So eventually, in the name of recharge and being a better mother, I finally grew the balls to do it. I decided to agree to Mike arranging a night away from the kids. A night of nothing fancy stuff, but just good solid sleep that was undisturbed. To sleep until my body woke itself up. Gosh, when last?!
A night away from my beautiful babies. But oh, gosh!…”A night away from my beautiful babies ?!?!?” Once more I could feel myself reasoning it out that “hey, Im not THAT tired, maybe I was just having a bad day”. But really, I was doing it again, I was allowing the guilt to once more lead me to make choices that would inevitably compromise my health.
It was so difficult to make these choices. I suppose it was because sometimes I felt like I was just not living up to this standard of a mother that is emblazend in my mind. I mean my mother is more often than not, what I would model myself on. She is an incredible person, by whom I set many a benchmark, especially on all the good aspects of her mothering. So watching her sacrifice beyond her own threshold, pushing herself extensively, and continuously, yet always maintaining her grace…How she did it, still amazes me.
Perhaps in witnessing her, it made this way of motherhood pressed into my blood and bones. And now the fact that I did not seem to have the same grace as her, left me feeling conflicted. Conflicted by this subconscious choice I made to uphold this self-inflicted standard of motherhood, but whilst so fully aware that I am an entirely different person to my mother. Of her flesh and blood, yes- but entirely different.
I honestly had to coach myself throughout my decision; Reminding myself of this, reassuring myself that this choice was not selfish. These were not self-centered choices. This was necessary. Very necessary – for all involved, and it was positive.
I had always preached about the necessity of sleep for children’s health and brain development. I could then easily be labelled a hypocrite, considering how the state of my own health and brain was starting to suffer because of my disastrous lack sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suffering from depression or anything, I enjoyed my children, and immersed myself in them evryday with love and joy. Any free moment was spent constantly thinking up new ways of doing crafts and projects that would be suitable for both baby and toddler. Thinking of fun games to play the moment I got home. And I couldnt wait to get home to them. Maybe pushing bedtime a bit back on an odd night so we could lay in the couch in the backyard for some star gazing. But the relentless days and nights of continuous pushing at work, and in all other facets of life, combined with the rigours of being a mother to a toddler and baby, still on demand breastfeeding, with a pumping schedule I could almost no longer keep up. All of this, that l had done on very, very little sleep was truly starting to impact the quality of my life. Our lives.
I’m sure a story of many mothers out there.
I weighed it up over and over: One or two nights of some well needed sleep, over 13+ months of over-tiredness, low thresholds, with half-baked abilities? The choice, although extremely tough for me to accept, was glaringly obvious.
So, I held my breath, and I did it. I asked very explicitly for help, and then let Mike handle all the arrangements- you know, jussst in case I chickened out again. And he unsurprisingly did awesomely on such short notice. He booked me in at the chilled out spot in Langebaan. It wasn’t too far from home, so should anything happen we’d be there in a snap, but also set in one of the best holiday spots ever.
Packing bags was a quick job, trying my best to not give myself anytime to think about it or change my mind. My mom, the incredible angel that she is, stayed with the kids and gave both Mike and myself the space to get our bodies back in the game. So I said my goodbyes lovingly and almost took my time, until Mike tapped me on the shoulder (recognising my movements as my doubts started to re-circulate in my blood) Morgan as usual was understanding – that kid, man, I often feel she is wiser than years. She reconfirmed the timeframes with me,” just 2 sleepies, ok mom?” And that was that for her. Parker was surprisingly fine too ( I had been talking to them about it for that week), and whilst I was maybe surprised by her ease at which she let me go, I took it as a sign, and started walking for the door.
On the road, Mike patiently let me talk it out, as I tried to work out my emotions. ( forgive me, but that was genuinely the very first time I had ever, like freakin’ ever slept away from either of my children. Let alone both. So I was trying to deal here.)
Mommy guilt was still thick ‘n heavy even as we arrived, but with the ocean literally a stone’s throw away from our room, and with the light and love of my life right next to me, I was totally feeling the good vibes of good decisions start to wash over me.
Self care, marriage care, investing in a solid foundation – that’s the gift that would mean more to your children than one more tired night (that they WONT remember. Or won’t want to remember) Banish the guilt! Our society has it all wrong; this is really good for all of you.
The words and sentiments of that lovely couple, that I will forever be thankful for.
I gotta be honest though, two days before we left, I totally chickened a bit, and asked if I could instead for the second night, rather sleep closer to home. So he booked me in at the hotel out in Melkbos. Which was great, but in retrospect, wasn’t the cleverest idea of mine, as now I had to get up for checkout time on both nights. So let that be a lesson to anyone of you who may be plotting a similar venture. (or maybe its just me who didn’t think that through too well)
But here’s what I hope you take away from this post:
• Sleep is pivotal in your survival as mother. As a person yes, that goes without saying, but even more so as a mother. They didnt use sleep deprivation as a successful torture tactic for nothing, yo!You’re on 24/7 with no breaks.(lets face it, even if your partner is on, you’re still kinda on too..whether that’s mentally or physically.)You’re ability to reason, to manage, to deal, to let tings wash over you, to cope… are all directly linked to your sleep. Make no mistake about that. You’re going to have to work out strategies that ensure that your sleep tank is tended to well before you reach breaking point. You don’t have to wait until breaking point to fix it.
• Ask for help- its not a sign of weakness. For some this may actually be a very new and tricky skill to develop. But recognizing when you are reaching your breaking point is actually a sign of strength, and of being in control of your situation. And there are few things in this life that undermine you as a person, as when you feel like you’re not in control. Asking for help does not render you as less of a mother, but as someone who’s very much in touch with herself, and actually in control of the situation. I know that the fear of coming across as being weak when doing so is very real, and that the fear of being refused is even greater. At least that was for me. But, as with many things in motherhood, you may have to change your perspective on this, in that the choices you make, may no longer be centred around cushioning your ego anymore.
• Taking time for yourself is not selfish, especially if it’s at such a basic- needs level. I’ll say that again, it is not selfish. Along with that, you’re going to have find ways of banishing the mommy guilt – yes, I know, a tall order. But at the very least, bring the guilt down a notch – just enough for you to actually go and take the plunge to do that which will rejuvenate you mind, body and soul. Then come back ready to take it all on again.
The tough times don’t last, mommas. I promise. Even though when you’re in the thick of, it often feels like its never going to end, and anyone who says “this too shall pass”, you want to kick in the teeth. But until it does, and you’re feeling like your grip on sanity is slipping, practice asking for help. Practice not feeling bad for asking for it, and practice quelling the guilt that may bubble up for when you do receive it. All skills I know that are a constant work in progress for me. But also skills that I know are part of investing in myself, my children and my marriage.
You got this momma. You can do it. x