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You won’t always see the rainbow

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So come here. Draw closer and sit on your bum. No, don’t cross your legs, that’s actually bad for little kids. I need to tell you that I’m sorry.

Let me hold you so close that you want to wriggle free. Your breath in mine and our hair in each others faces. I need to explain why I shout so much lately. Why I don’t have the energy to jump on the trampoline or play princess princess. How come I’m not all yours anymore. You are so little and you can’t possibly understand now, but I promise you will one day when you hold your own small person.

Let me take your face in my hands and tell you that I salute you. Even though this new brother is taking a lot of the time that used to belong to you, you handle it with such grace far beyond your years. You love him, you coo at him. You are still you. But I’m not me.

I’m like the walking dead. They say a person can die as a result of no sleep. Obviously I do get some. But it honestly feels like just enough to keep me alive. Let me tell you that reflux is a bitch. Reflux babies don’t sleep and when they cry you feel desperate and angry and sad all at the same time.

You have so much energy. At 5am both of you jump up to start your day with so much vigour and noise and I wish I….I wish I did not get so angry sometimes at you needing me so early. I wish I could sleep until 7 like some parents. But this is not us, not our story and not our way. It’s a phase. It will pass. Yes I know all this. But lately I feel like I’m missing out on you two because I’m so tired. This makes me incredibly sad. Right now I had to put these words on paper. I need you to know for one day when you are a parent, that this happens. That it’s normal and it’s part of it. And that you don’t have to feel guilty because if you care then that is enough. And that you won’t see the rainbow all the time.

And to my dear husband and husbands everywhere. Fok what to say. Here is a random example. You get home to a screaming baby, wild toddlers and a near crazy wife. You wonder how the hell you chose this life for yourself. Other guys are in the pub. Other guys are playing golf. You take the baby from her (helpful), you tell the kids to stop jumping naked on the trampoline (helpful), you put that baby, screaming baby, in a bouncy chair in front of the TV (trying to be helpful). Your near crazy wife goes full tilt postal on you. You feel confused, let down, angry because you tried to help! But she wanted the baby to be put in a quiet room away from the noise because if he keeps on screaming she might eat him, or bite into a table or punch a wall (stuff crazy people do). Here is my advice: first, don’t take it personally. Second, as hard as it might be, walk up to her and just hold her tight. Then let her nap. Even if just for 10 minutes. You see sleep deprivation does not just affect the person it’s happening to. It affects the whole family.

I did some research. See below for some random and pretty scary facts about sleep deprivation. (Source: the National Sleep Research project)

– A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours lost sleep for parents in the first year

– One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.

After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough.  (in other words you are not to blame for dancing naked on the table that one night).

– Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep. (Nothing to do with sleep deprivation but interesting, no?)

– British Ministry of Defence researchers have been able to reset soldiers’ body clocks so they can go without sleep for up to 36 hrs. Tiny optical fibres embedded in special spectacles project a ring of bright white light (with a spectrum identical to a sunrise) around the edge of soldiers’ retinas, fooling them into thinking they have just woken up. The system was first used on US pilots during the bombing of Kosovo. (Parents perhaps need these?)

– Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.

– The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear accident have all been attributed to human errors in which sleep-deprivation played a role.

– The “natural alarm clock” which enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up. (I think most moms will agree that this goes into overdrive during those first few weeks with a newborn).

– Ducks at risk of attack by predators are able to balance the need for sleep and survival, keeping one half of the brain awake while the other slips into sleep mode. (Wish I was a duck)

– Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal. (So the grandparents should really be taking the kids at night then).

– Some studies suggest women need up to an hour’s extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men. (I would love to hear your thoughts on this dear reader).

– Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.

– The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.

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