Monday, 1 August 2011

Sleep. It's a big deal, but it's not the only deal.

Will has taken to waking up at 5.38. Every day. I always thought I was a person that needed a lot of sleep and since becoming a Mum I have learned, and surprised myself, at how little I actually do need. But still, 5.38 is the night time. Before 6am is the night time.

When I was pregnant, people (friends, family, strangers - both with and without children themselves) would say things like "Get as much sleep now as you can", "Looking forward to not getting any sleep?", "Oooo congratulations, you'll never sleep again". I always wondered why no-one ever said "You will love them more than you know possible" or "When they take their first steps your heart will actually explode".

Being a parent changes you and your life, relationship, eating patterns and yes, sleeping patterns in ways you will never, ever understand until you have children yourself. I wish people had said something other to me than "It's all sleep deprivation" because it's much, much, much more. I wouldn't have listened but still, these are some of the things I wish people had told me about being a Mum...

  1. When they are born, the feeling of love and protection is OVERWHELMING. You literally have no idea unless you have done it. It is the most powerful emotion possible to the extent it is actually quite frightening.
  2. What is also frightening is the realisation that your parents felt, and probably still feel, that same way towards you. Cue massive guilt for teenage drama inflicted upon them. And massive understanding of why they still love you whatever you mess you get into. The circle is complete
  3. That everyone has an opinion on how you should raise your child. From your Mum, your partner's Mum, the lady in the grocery store or on the bus. They all think they are right and that their way is the only way.
  4. They are wrong, you know best. Mother's intuition is a powerful thing and confidence in it is even more powerful. I learnt this the hard way with William's tongue tie - a story for another time.
  5. That faeces becomes a massive part of your life. That you will regale stories about it (a particularly large one, wet one, hard one, messy one, one with grapes in it, peas in it, something you couldn't quite pinpoint but it was a bright, bright red colour) as if this is apporipriate conversation.
  6. That sometimes you won't want to do it anymore. You'll want to give up, walk away, never look back.
  7. That those feelings are ok and that they pass quickly (normally - if not, help is out there)
  8. That a day of tantrums and screaming and shit (again) can be swiftly and so perfectly rectified with one snuggle in to your shoulder and a small hand patting you on the back as if to say "well done Mum, you survived another day".
  9. That one of your shoulders (whichever side you carry your baby on) will be permanently grubby with bits of food, drink and dribble.
  10. That your clothes will need washing more than you knew possible as they get smeared with food, snot, saliva, our old friend faeces as well as anything you might try and hold - your darling is bound to spill it.
  11. That out of NOWHERE, with no reason or explanation your baby may end up with a disability. And that your heart will never, ever recover.
  12. That you will never (especially if you decide to be a stay at home Mum) get a minute to yourself again. Or a meal. Or a trip to the toilet.
  13. That coffee and wine will be your new best friends and will become, frankly, essential for survival on some days
  14. Your house will never be tidy, or clean, again.
  15. That you will be tired, shattered, exhausted. For years. But that you will cope, even thrive, on less sleep than you have ever had. Because it's worth it. It's completely, utterly, profoundly worth it.
I would have liked it if someone had told me that being a Mum is the best job in the world. And that sleep deprivation is just a tiny part of it. Although granted some days it doesn't feel like that. But there is always coffee.

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