The one about being tired.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired.
The kind of tired I feel these days sits in the pit of my stomach, and drains me of excitement and energy, and willingness to do so many things. I don’t actually remember the last time I slept for more than 3 hours in one stretch. And, it seems, that there is no end in sight.
I’ve never been a good sleeper. Anxiety has been present - particularly at bedtime - since my teen years. I remember nights with no sleep at all, where I’ve watched entire mini-series, only to collapse at dawn for brief minutes before having to wake up and continue with my life. Other nights, I’ve been kept up, checking and checking for that thing I might have missed at work; practicing my resignation speech over and over in anticipation of 9 am, when everyone would discover what an idiot I was.
But, I always caught up - in one way or another.
I’ve also had some pretty crazy jobs in my time, including 5 years at an arts event that had me working crazy hours for endless days, with no breaks in sight. I know what it means to be busy, and to be tired. Well, I thought I did.
Nothing could have prepared me for how relentless motherhood is.
When you’re ready to pop, the most offered piece of advice is ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. It sounds sensible; you think it’s achievable. And then the baby arrives.
In those first weeks, you exist in an unending cycle of wake, feed, change, settle, sleep - then a frantic dash to go to the toilet, brush your teeth, maybe shower, inhale some food, load the washing machine, unload the dryer, brush your hair, change your clothes, all in about 45 mins, when the tiny dictator wakes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
(Anyone who truly is able to sleep when the baby sleeps must have a cleaner, cook and washer woman, or just lives in the same pair of tights, unwashed t-shirt and matted hair.)
At 18 months, we’ve swapped the whole rinse-and-repeat routine for one nap a day. And, a toddler who needs to be constantly entertained. And I’m exhausted. From 7 am to 8 pm (minus 2 hours at midday), the tiny dictator demands attention and energy. Some days, it’s so difficult to muster. Some days, I just want to turn the television on and be catatonic.
Those days, I can’t help but feel that I’m letting him down. That he deserves a mother who can be on all the time. That I should be pulling out all the stops to engage and stimulate him, particularly because we only have that time together a couple of days a week (when I’m not at work and he’s not at daycare). I feel so guilty when I become impatient and snappy, and forget that he doesn’t know I’m tired.
I wonder, now, if we weren’t co-sleeping, whether this would all be different. Have we shot ourselves in the foot by bending to his whim and collecting him for his cot each night and bringing him into our bed?
But then, some mornings, when he wakes up before me, he’ll climb over me and kiss me awake. And I remember that he’s not always going to sleep with me. He’s not always going to need me like this. He’s not always going to wake me with kisses. And I know that there will be a time, hopefully soon, when I’ll sleep again.