While you are pregnant everyone likes to tell you to get as much sleep as you can because you will need it once the baby comes. The thing is by then you are probably so uncomfortable or needing to pee so much during the night that a good night’s sleep is already a thing of the past. Sleep deprivation is something nearly every mother goes through after having a baby but sometimes it can go on much longer than that.
The First Few Weeks – Sleep Deprivation
Labour in itself is an exhausting experience and nowadays the hospital is ready to send you home after only 4 hours if you had no complications during your birth. So you are heading home with a new baby completely exhausted and so quickly that it may not have even sunk in yet what is happening.
With my first, we had issues with feeding and so we stayed in the hospital for 4 days. This was honestly a great amount of time. It gave me time to recover and to get a handle of the situation. After all, even though I had known for 9 months a baby was coming it was a very different thing to actually have that little person here and being completely reliant on me. It also meant that at night I had the help and support of the midwives for those first few nights.
Once We Got Home
My husband had taken 3 weeks off work for when I had the baby and we were lucky that he had that much time available as I know a lot of families get less. However, I had gone 12 days overdue and so we had just a little over a week before he was back at work. After spending 4 days in the hospital it really wasn’t long after I had gone home that he was setting off back into his normal routine of work.
This meant I was solely responsible for nights as he had to be rested and ready for work. He worked in mining so we really couldn’t send him to work sleep-deprived as it was a serious safety issue. I think this was around the time the sleep deprivation started to hit me. For the first week or so you are still just in such a high of the whole experience. I did get the baby blues after 3 days but again luckily I was still in the hospital and the midwives were able to help me through that and explain what was going on with my hormones.
I Never Really Understood What Sleep Deprivation Was
Sleep deprivation explained in one word is torture. I honestly can’t explain it any better. I honestly never truly understood what sleep deprivation actually was. Like don’t get me wrong I have been tired before but nothing on this level. My son only slept for a maximum of 40 minutes for the first 6 weeks. Pairing that with trying to exclusively express as we never really got over our feeding issues.
I was a mess. I felt like I was failing miserably. He just wouldn’t sleep. He would cry and cry and then the resentment would come. What did he want from me? Why wouldn’t he just sleep! All I wanted was to be able to lay down and be able to get into a deep sleep. I literally felt like I could sleep for a week and then some. It got to the point like he was doing it to me, he was torturing me. I started to hate him and hate my life. I hated my husband as he just couldn’t understand what I was going through. He would take him after a feed until the next feed and give me time to sleep but he wouldn’t realise I was waking up just as exhausted from that 1-2 hour nap than I was when I went to sleep.
I was so unhappy at a time that I had waited years for. I had always wanted to be a mum so why was I failing so miserably at it now? I started to believe I wasn’t supposed to be a mum, that he deserved a better mum, someone who could cope. I believed they would be better off without me.
Post Natal Depression – Sleep Deprivation
I finally got to the point where friends and family could see I wasn’t coping. My son was 9 months old at this stage and I still wasn’t any happier. We still weren’t sleeping. By this stage, the longest he had slept straight for was 4 hours. I felt like I had gotten a broken child. I remember saying things like something isn’t right. They need to take him back and give me a normal baby.
A dear friend told me it was time to see a doctor and get some help. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. Once I got the help I needed I was able to handle things better. I started to see that asking for help wasn’t a sign that I was a bad mum and needed help. Instead, I could see it for the fact that it takes a village to raise a child and all mums need help at some point. I learned that babies and toddlers not sleeping is a normal part of motherhood, there was nothing “wrong” with either of us.
I had convinced myself that everyone else’s children were sleeping and it was just me who was suffering. That I had to be doing something wrong but that wasn’t actually the case. It was just the way I had been preconditioned to look at it. The first question people would ask was “is he sleeping well?”.
Once I accepted that things were the way they were and changed my perspective things got better. I soon learned that motherhood was all about survival, theirs, and mine. I changed my perspective and instead of worrying about how other people expected me to parent I did it my way. The way that worked for us.
To date, the most important thing I have learned in my parenting journey is there is no right or wrong way to parent. There is just the way that works and feels right for you. Every family is different and don’t ever let anyone make you feel like a failure for choosing a different path to theirs. Do what you need to all survive and be happy. At the end of the day, children don’t need a perfect mother, they just need a happy one who loves them.
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