My biggest fear was not so much the lack of sleep I'd be enduring - rather that I wouldn't hear my newborn crying in the night. This crazy notion always sparked a chuckle among my 'seasoned mommy' friends: 'But you're naturally tuned in to your baby's cries – there is no way you wouldn't hear him!' As it turned out, they were completely right... up to a point that is.
It's amazing what a lack of sleep can do to a person whose hormones have lost the plot. In my case, our little bundle of joy spent each night for the first two weeks of his life waking every hour. Still feeling exhausted from the birth, I found myself pacing the passage with tears streaming down my cheeks. Wasn't sleep deprivation a form of torture employed by the special forces to 'break' their new recruits? Well, in that case, I was beyond broken.
Every parent has lived through it - but NO, that didn't make it feel any better. And as for those hallucinations! In my sleepless state, I'd find myself startling at the shape of my cat in the doorway- or opening my eyes and mistaking hubby's head for some kind of creature come to gobble me up in the night. Of course, the worst was getting a two-hour snatch of silence, only to spend it checking up on baby's breathing!
A few weeks down the line, my body had almost got used to the crazy new routine. In fact, I'd taken to feeding baby in my sleep. I'd often nod off to see him staring up at me with a disapproving look on his face, as if to say I wasn't quite making the grade as a parent. Not true, I convinced myself. Well, until it all became too much.
‘Can’t you hear him?’
I'm sure sleep experts will back me up on this - but I'm convinced that after an extended period without rest, your body rebels. The first night it happened, I was ripped out of a deep slumber, with a panicked husband shaking me by the shoulders: 'Wake up, wake up!- didn't you HEAR him?'
What a condemnation! How could this have happened? I rushed over to my wailing child, guilt-ridden. This must never happen again, I told myself.
These days, I have to confess it happens quite regularly. And to be honest, I've come to terms with the guilt too. Most of all, I've conceded that being over-tired means something's going to give at times. I'm not for one minute suggesting it's all right to neglect one's child- but I've realised it's okay if I'm not by his bedside instantaneously. (After all, Hubby's a light sleeper for a reason right?)
As for 'Junior', let's just say he's taken it all in his stride. The other night, we woke to shrill screams coming from his room. We both raced in, expecting to see him face down on the floor. As it turns out, they were shrieks of pure joy. Our little monster had finally discovered the glow in the dark stars Mommy had stuck on his ceiling.
As we approach the 5-month mark, I'm pleased to say we're all getting a bit more sleep. And on the whole, there's a lot more peace and quiet to be had...when Baby isn't squealing at the stars that is.
How does lack of sleep affect you? Do you turn into a fire-breathing, husband-stomping monster?