The clocks have gone back. This used to mean an extra hour in bed. It was a small but gratefully received consolation for the start of the long winter darkness. Now it just means small body clocks being screwed up and hideous o’clock becoming even more hideous o’clock.
Baby T appears to be aware of some sort of clock related shenanigans but has got it somewhat arse-about-face. For the last fortnight he has been waking up earlier each day. This is far from good news, given the hour we just gained. He had a few weeks of waking at 6:30am, or even a heavenly 7am once or twice. But that is a distant memory now, sadly. It has been creeping earlier and earlier and this morning was just after 5am. Although that is actually 4am now, of course. Horrible beyond measure.
Sleep and lack thereof is something I just don’t think you ever get used to. I’m 7.5 years into my parenting journey and yes, it is obviously a lot better now than it was with tiny babies, but it still sucks to be woken painfully early day after day. It is also cumulative exhaustion that hurts now. The relentlessness of being yanked from sleep every day for years on end wears away at you.
I think my husband and I have sort of sheen of perma-tiredness written all over our faces. The skin around our eyes screams exhaustion. I am certain we have aged disproportionately in the last seven years. Sleep deprivation will do that to you, it seems.
I saw a friend last night with just two months to go to the birth of her first baby. I found myself being jealous of her, so fresh and at the beginning of that amazing journey. When you are pregnant, especially for the first time, your body becomes something incredibly special, something beyond what it has ever been before. You are a goddess, creator of life, cherished and treated with great care. Once the baby arrives and your body goes through the trauma of birth, it falls rapidly from being so revered and becomes a general punchbag, physically abused by your baby, mentally abused by you for all it’s sudden failings and sags. Never again will it reach such a pinnacle. It’s finest moment is passed and with that comes a sort of loss.
I am 38. Not old by many standards, but my body has been through the mill a bit and I am dog tired. That tiredness eats away at me. Even after a good sleep I can’t seem to shake it. It is more than tiredness. It is like a cloak with lead weights sewn into the hem. I’m not sure I’m even talking about sleep any more. I think there may be more to it than that. I feel life weary and much older than my years.
Each morning we are wrenched out of dream state by the ear-piercing screams of our youngest. Why he cannot simply wake and play in his room or even get up to come and find us is beyond me. No, it has to be deafening screams and crying big fat tears of abandonment. Every morning begins this way.
Then, some time later, he falls asleep pretty much anywhere he can: on my bed, on the rug, even on cold tiles once. Because he is utterly shattered. Because, much as he denies it at the crack of dawn, he needs more sleep. I know how he feels. But by the time he is kipping down somewhere cosy, the day has begun and there are two others to get breakfast for and prepare for the day ahead. Tired mornings lead to challenging days as he does nothing but moan, dictating the tone of the day and singlehandedly ruining our family time.
As with all these things, this too shall pass. I know that, of course, although it is hard to remember it at 4am. And it is my own stupid fault for having three kids, prolonging the sleep deprivation phase to fill the best part of a decade.
When you are a parent with kids that don’t sleep beautifully from 6 weeks old, as some angel kids seem to do, it is hard to imagine having a sleeper. The law of averages would suggest I’d get at least one good’un but no, they have all been pretty rubbish when it comes to sleep. I am so jealous of people whose kids love bed. So different is it from our experience that I almost think they must be making it up. Your two year old sleeps from 6pm until 8am with a two hour nap every day you say? Oh do shut up. You are obviously making it up to make me feel worse.
Tonight we will be enduring a later bedtime, through moans and tears of exhaustion – probably from me and T. I’m not sure how late we will be able to push it though. He is utterly shattered, obviously, and his bedtime body clock is very finely tuned to kick in bang on 7pm.
I need to get better at going to bed early again. But I resent losing out on my precious kid-free time by going to bed at 9pm. It is the only time of the day that I am not in demand, not being got at and climbed over. So I drag it out, going to bed far later than I know I should. It is my small act of rebellion which hurts me in the morning but feels empowering at the time.
The sun was shining this morning. Winter sun has a beauty about it that summer in all it’s glory cannot rival. And my lovely husband let me go back to bed when the scream alarm clock went off. So despite the clock change, this morning was good. So why don’t I feel rested? I wonder if I’m capable of feeling rested any more. I have adopted the habit of exhaustion.
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that loss of sleep may be the peg I am hanging a deeper feeling of loss on. I have lost something of myself, something more precious than sleep but something illusive, without name. It was lost a long time ago but I’ve only just noticed it is missing because my goals have changed with the time. For the first time in many years, my goal is not another baby. So what is it? I have become little more than my relentless day job: a Mum of three, manically running from place to place, worn out and worn down. There is nothing new coming, just more of the same.
I may not be able to shake the perpetual tiredness until I find something else to be too, something to fire me again, to make me something more than I have become. It may be time to try to find a way to break the exhaustion habit.
I think it is time for a change.