Zzzzzzzzz…. what is sleep?

This image makes me smile, as it’s one of the big tips you get given when pregnant, ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’. Ok, so that might work when you only have 1 baby, and that is still banking on the baby having good naps in the day, and you being at home and vaguely in a head space for sleep. But this doesn’t work when you have a toddler.

Yes my toddler still naps, but invariably not at the same time as the baby. It is also currently the only space where I can eat my lunch in peace, without my food being stolen. It’s also the hour or so in the day where I’m able to watch adult TV! And by that I mean indulging in my trashy tv love of old soap reruns! There really is a limit to how many times I can watch Paw Patrol in a day!

So daytime sleeping with 2 is a rarity! But recently for us, night time sleeping has also been a bit of a rarity. The baby had been waking every 2 hours for feeds, which when a feed can take 20 mins meant I was only getting sleep in 90 minute blocks. But then the toddler decided to embrace the sleep regression that can come at 2! He decided that for about 2 months, the day started between 4 and 5am! He was also waking at least once in the night. And generally it had to involve mummy cuddles no matter how many times daddy would go.

I am very blessed to have a husband that will get up early with the toddler, and take the baby if she’s not feeding, so I can get a couple of extra hours sleep. (We’ve also learnt the hard way that for me this can be quite essential, as I stuffer from migraines, and not getting enough sleep is a huge trigger.)

You’ll notice that I’ve been writing this in the past tense, and that’s because we’re starting to see a change…. the toddler has gone back to sleeping through the night and also not waking till 6am! And in the last week, the baby has done a huge shift and is only waking once! I’m not counting my chickens, and I know it can all change again at the drop of a hat, but for now I’m making the most of a bit more sleep.

Sorry to friends who are about to start this journey with a second, if I’ve shattered any dreams! And I’d love to me the person who first coined the phrase “Sleeping like a baby”! I would love to meet the baby they were referring to!

Finding time for me

I’ve just spent a wonderful week with my husband and toddler in Dorset, but I’ve come home exhausted! I have felt like I need a other break to recover from this holiday, which seems so ungrateful. I realised 15 minutes after walking back through our front door what had gone wrong…. in 7 days away I hadn’t had 15 minutes totally to myself.

I have spent the week making sure my husband and son were happy. I planned in spending time with dear friends, who we don’t get to see very often, and I wouldn’t take back a second of that time. The week was a good break, and I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. But it has made me reflect on where I find time for me and how I find time to recharge my batteries. It has also made me realise I need to find a way to tell those closest to me that I need time and space to myself without them feeling rejected or unloved. If I don’t then I become grumpy, short tempered, agitated, and then I want to retreat further and further in to myself.

At home, I work for a fabulous organisation, I spend 16+ hours a week working at home in my own space. Yes I have video calls etc with colleagues, but I also get head space while I am working. (I know that might sound like a contradiction, having my own head space while working, but I get time where I am not having to engage directly with others and although I am generating outputs (often lots of outputs!!) I am also no having to energise others. I can only liken this to a rechargable battery. When in a torch, for example, when it is turned on it is being drained of power. When it is off, it is static-not draining but not recharging. When the battery is placed back on the charger it is gaining power again so that it can make the torch shine brighter and for longer.

A few years ago realising I was an outgoing introvert was a big turning point, and since then I have kept trying to carve out space for me. Be it half an hour in bed on my own each evening with a book, or making the most of the nap times in the day since having a baby. Taking that time for me has become crucial. I had forgotten how when on holiday routine changes, and there are others with expectations. I also had expectations, and we’d never discussed them.

I know before we go away for much longer in the summer we need to have the conversations about how each of our needs are met. I know I am more complicated at times to read, but since having a baby and now a toddler, I know I need to carve out that space for me even more than ever. Parenting is still very much a journey, possibly even more so the second time round! But this time I think I am learning more and more about myself!

The look of peace

Today I had one of those treasured special moments, that after 14 months is already becoming less of an occurrence. In fact this was the first time it had happened in a few weeks. My little boy curled up in my lap and fell asleep. I loved just watching the look of peace wash over his face as he dropped into a deeper sleep. It seemed a long way from the little boy who 30 minutes earlier had been emptying the bookcase at a rate of knots to find his favourite lift-the-flap book!

It was so calming to watch too. For a few moments i just treasured the peace. The calm. The quiet. Not times that regularly occur with our delightful, lively little boy. It surprised me at how much I had missed those snuggly moments of a newborn sleeping on me.

The flip side to this is actually I cherish the moments that he is asleep in his cot. It took several weeks of perseverance and feeling like it was never going to happen before we got him sleeping in the cot, and then longer till he would fall asleep in the cot. I knew we needed that to happen, for my sanity and for our life as a couple and our time with our older son. Looking back, now, I know some of it we bred ourselves. It came from a place of love, of exhaustion, and of wanting to protect our fragile tiny baby, who had had so many challenges put in his way, that we didn’t want to add another. A sleeping baby means I can have an hour (or 2 if i’m lucky) where I can have some me time, catch up on work, do some housework. It means I can recharge my batteries for the next stage of the day.

I find the constant need to be entertained draining. I adore my sons, but I am so very aware about how much space and time I need for me. These days it often means going to be before 9.30pm, just so I can curl up with my book for more than a page before I fall asleep. I know my time for knitting will return in time, and that I also wouldn’t change where I am in life for a moment. My writing is my space to express, and to be me. So here you go. Peace!

When sleep suddenly means so much!!!

So like all parents of new babies I have spent the last 2 and a bit weeks discovering just how little sleep I can function on, and how much sleep I need to feel “human” or “normal”!

Thank goodness it’s no longer the 8 hours I needed at least 3 nights a week before having my first child! And I am in a small way grateful that my eldest son was a sleepwalker, and did not give me more than 2 consecutive nights of more than 6 hours until 2 years ago! It means my body has not fully gone back to expecting lots of sleep. Plus add in to that the joys of pregnancy and the aches and pains, and constant toilet trips needed in the night, that do prepare you for having a baby and losing sleep.

However, less than 2 hours is a limit I’ve never even hit when my insomnia was bad. And when those precious two hours are not even consecutive I’m really starting to struggle. Plus in my waking moments I not only have to function for myself, but I also have to function enough to provide for a small person who is totally dependent on my. I also have to still function as a parent to my elder son, and at times be able to help with GCSE homework.

Last night was the first night of me doing the majority of the work in terms of changes, winding, settling the baby back to sleep, on my own. Hubby has been a great support, but he is back to work today. For the last couple of weeks he has taken the baby early in the morning allowing me a longer block of sleep – as much as is possible between feeds! Yes I have been very blessed by this, and I know not all new parents are able to share the load in this way. But boy do I know about the difference this morning.

All the health professionals, and mums out there are probably now screaming at my post that I need to sleep when the baby sleeps. Yes I know this theory. I’ve even shared this wisdom with other new mums, but it’s hard to do when your body has decided it is now up and awake for at least the next few hours and sleeping at this time of day is an alien concept that the brain has not yet processed. I also know I still need to eat and drink and do all those other things you need to do just to function as a mum each day.

Am I unique in these feelings of tiredness…..nope! I know other new mummies that are part of my amazing support network are feeling it too. I know mummies all over the world feel the same on a daily basis. So why am I writing about it?

I am writing it down because it helps me process what is going on. It ¬†helps me rationalise and realise I am just normal. I don’t have to be super mum and achieve everything in the first day of being on my own. I just need to do enough that my children have what they need to survive the day. I don’t even need to worry that they and I have what we need to get through tomorrow (tough when I am a control freak at times, and like to be planned and in control!) I just need to worry about today. About the now. This for me is the biggest challenge in many ways. Yes a new baby comes with many new challenges, but the biggest ones are the personal challenges, where you have to learn to let go.