I’m standing at the breakfast bench typing this and my eyes are flicking to my one o’clock every few seconds. The baby monitor is in the corner there and I see a sleeping face in black and white amidst the tschhhhhhh sound of white noise. The little face is no longer sobbing; it’s been a while and he’s in a deep sleep now. Seeing that calm, peaceful face is what reminds me that having children is not entirely what I expected, but at the moment I need more reminders of the good side among the rest of the chaos, to make everything seem okay.
The last six months has been madness. When you have a dependant infant that regularly wakes at one and two and three hour intervals, the repercussions of sleep deprivation make themselves known to your everyday existence. At a time that could be seen as “prime-of-my-life,” I have found myself sinking further and further into the well of a deep existential crisis, where time moves very slowly and there is no horizon. The clouds and the ocean meet and blend; an ominous storm seeking to stifle me – challenging me to break the shackles that bind the limbs of my mind. I feel that each day, I am simply surviving.
I struggle to think like my well slept self. It takes my mind precious seconds to locate files, to categorise and to create. I start sentences with intention and with minor distraction find myself lost, unable to remember the target of my diatribe. There are times when it doesn’t return until much later on, once the lights are off and the friends have gone home to their full night’s rest, uncountable in number.
Each night before bed, I manifest a reality that tonight will be the one that everybody sleeps uninterrupted and we all reunite at seven AM. And then at eleven thirty I groan inwardly, disappointed yet not surprised that nothing has changed. In the minutes that tick by between two and five am and wake up after wake up, I wonder if this will ever truly end. The sour pessimism that coats my mind is difficult to control with un-slept, unregulated emotions.
The cries of my baby used to tear me quickly from the sheets, but now my heart does little more than drag my body upward and forward; the call of duty of a mother unyielding. The skills acquired from five months of sleep destruction are refined, even amongst the fatigue that plagues my brain. Changing a baby entirely in the dark from nappy up to sleep suit is easy. Throw a swaddle across a bed with one hand whilst safely holding a sleeping baby in the other arm? No help required. Wrap him swiftly and gently, and replace in cot…done. My body remembers exactly where to step, even in the pitch black of a room desperately encouraging consistent sleep. The stairs are not obstacles, only the wind trapped in my baby’s tummy is the true enemy.
For some this might seem dramatic, but I’m sure there are others that know the place I frequent in the corners of my mind. Seemingly relentless, no end in sight, can’t give up, can’t have a break. Must simply go on. I am waiting for someone to rescue me, to tell me the secrets and answers, to whisper the advice that will be my salvation. As each day dawns, however, a second little boy climbing into my bed and kissing my hands and face reminds me to stand boldly up. The sun has risen, we are alive and I have two incredible children to care for. Despite how gruelling this is now, one day it will all be a distant memory, when my boys will no longer be babies. They won’t sleep in my bedroom, they won’t rely on my body to comfort, to feed and to nourish them. And then my longing will be for another realm I’m sure, though I’ll feel relief that I made it out the other side of this one. It seems that after all, like always and for ever, it is this love between mother and child that is the true lifeline.