Last night I wore ear plugs to bed.
This might seem unremarkable and a totally bizarre thing to warrant a blog post, however for me it’s a big deal.
I have two children, and neither sleep through the night yet. While Audrey had been a pretty good sleeper since she was born six-and-a-half months ago (until about a month ago), I can count on one hand the number of times Hannah (2.5) has slept through the night.
And I have never not got up to at least one of them. Not because I don’t have anyone to help, and not because my husband doesn’t want to, or try, or offer, it’s because I can’t accept help. And really, technically it’s not ‘help’ – it’s parenting – and it’s only half my job. But, you see, I’ve self imposed the job entirely on myself and thus I cannot give up control. It’s a big issue for me and one I’ve struggled with forever.
Since Hannah started daycare in January we’ve been sick on and off with colds and other viruses and poor little Audrey has copped the brunt of them too. She’s been a trooper though and has recovered really well from each illness, apart from the current cold, which has now lasted two weeks.
It’s been a killer couple of weeks. I had a cold too and of course there is no sick days in this job! Audrey has been waking three to four times before 1am and then a 3am wake up which lasts for 45 minutes. Then there is a 1.5 hour sleep, and then she is awake at 6am. That’s of course when Hannah comes in to ask to ‘watch TV’ or ‘have something to eat’.
It’s here where I’ll admit there’s been a few times during the past few weeks of which I have questioned everything – our choice to have another child within two years of Hannah, our choice to have children at all. Yep, I have. Most of the time it’s approximately 3am when these thoughts come into my head.
Mornings are absolute killers, and so are the 4-7pm witching hours. I need sleep. I need a break. I need time to myself. Children are so emotionally draining – I’ve realised that’s the hard thing about raising them. They make you so happy, yet angry, yet disappointed, yet sad, yet frustrated, yet confused, yet so happy again all within twenty minutes. After just one day it can feel like you’ve been put through the washing machine. Well that’s if you could fit, as it’s never empty after you have children.
But honestly, this is not a complaint. At all. Having children is marvellous for so many reasons and I’m so blessed to have these little girls in my life. They truly do make me feel whole. They make me laugh more than anyone ever has. Some days I do not stop smiling. But I’m not lying when I say some days are just absolutely draining.
When I take my everydaystyle photos, it is indeed what I am wearing that day, however sometimes there might be sunglasses to hide red, tired eyes. (Actually, all the time!) Sometimes I’ve just finished negotiating for an hour with a toddler over bath time/nap time/no chocolate before dinner/ yes we must leave the park. Sometimes I’ve spent an hour feeding a fussing 6 month old. Most of the time I’ve had two-three hours sleep.
And up until now, I’ve been absolutely trying to do (mostly, what feels like) everything myself. The cleaning, the parenting, the cooking, the shopping, the organising, the feeding. And burning out. I can’t accept help.
I’ve always thought these things, especially getting up to baby, is my job. As I’m breastfeeding I’ve self-imposed feeding and bed time for Audrey as solely my job. The fact is, I’m not her only parent and my husband, and others who may care for her, are more than capable of looking after her, feeding her and putting her to sleep. Whilst that’s easy to write, it’s not easy for me to put into practice.
Two nights ago it came to a head, when, after nights and nights of no sleep, I hit my limit and at 3.30am, when my husband stepped in to take Audrey and put her to sleep, I refused. Crankily. With a few *choice* words. Then, after an emotional day and a trip to the doctor to ensure Audrey just had a cold and nothing more sinister, I accepted help.
I agreed to a half/half night shift and I would take the 12-6am shift. Audrey was bathed, fed and put to sleep. I then wore earplugs. I gave up control. It was hard, but after a few hours sleep and realising I did not have to get up to the first cry, I relaxed. And you know what, she didn’t even cry like I imagined she would. Hubby said after a bit of grizzling, a little cry when she realised it was her daddy and not me, she went to sleep. It was wonderful. When my ‘shift’ kicked in and at 3.30 when Audrey woke I was more than happy to see her and put her back to sleep. And she slept well.
It was so worth it. And we’ll do it again tonight. I know it has only been one night and change takes a while to become routine. Hopefully though, it can continue to work for all of us and we can all get at least a little more sleep. I’ll tell you in a week!
If you’ve ever felt like me, like everything is your job, if it’s all a bit overwhelming, but you are the one standing in the way of accepting help, give it a try. Know that it can be done. And more than likely, nothing bad will happen.
Ear plugs are magic too, aren’t they!