New Baby? Exhausted?
Psst. Hey you…. I have the secret to help you navigate the madness that is parenting.
Oh ya, you heard me. OK, actually I have TWO secrets to help you get through it.
Before we get to the fixes, let’s set the stage.
You’re exhausted. Not just any kind of exhausted, thebleary-stinging-eyes Exhausted. The “I-need-an-intravenous-coffee-drip” Exhausted. The “I-fantasize-about-sleep-instead-of-sex” Exhausted. I totally get it. Some women say you forget the pain of childbirth (nope, not a chance of forgetting it, but it was worth it). Even the L-O-N-G-E-S-T labour doesn’t compare to the night after night exhaustion that sleep deprivation can bring. I clearly remember my daughter’s first birthday—She was beautiful and cherubic, smooshing her cupcake and exuding that kind of delightful starry-eyed wonder that one-year olds are so good at. I was wildly in love. And I remember thinking “This marks exactly one year of exhaustion.”
You ready for Secret #1 to fix that sleep problem? Recognizing that we are lucky to a have reason to be tired. Yup … lucky. Stick with me here. Once you meet someone whose baby didn’t make it to that first birthday, you realize that it is worth every single sleepless night and you wouldn’t trade it for the world. Or the woman who experienced miscarriage after miscarriage. Or a stillborn baby. Or the couple who couldn’t conceive. These women have sat sobbing in my office, expressing jealousy and irritation over the people complaining about being woken up again. Is it tough being sleep deprived? You bet. But take a minute to think about how painfully silent your nights would be without hearing that cry.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT shift into guilt here. There is no room for ‘I’m such a bad mom.’ You’re not a bad mom at all. You’re an exhausted human being. Guilt will suck even MORE energy and sister, you have none to spare so don’t toss it away on something as useless as guilt. The goal is to shift into gratitude and a solid conviction in resilience. People suffer all kinds of losses and carry on. Moms have been tired since the dawn of time, maybe now more than ever with double workdays and unrealistic expectations. But still, they carry on. Eventually sleep will become a regular visitor in your life.
Now for secret #2 …
Well, the truth is … I interrupted my writing to attend to my seven-year old who was having nightmare …. and I forgot secret #2. I bet it was a good one. The Fix. The BIG answer.But I can’t remember it, so I’ll just share some words of hope and caution instead.
Here’s the hope:
This too shall pass. By the time your child is a teenager you’ll forget all about the trouble of getting them to sleep, because you’ll be having difficulty getting them to wake up.
Here’s the caution:
If you choose to have a second (or third) child, you’ll revisit these sleepless nights. What I discovered with baby #2 is that every baby book is written for when you have ONE baby. I have no idea how moms of twins (or triplets!) manage, but I bow down to them. Advice like, “sleep when the baby sleeps” is no longer applicable if you have a two-year-old running roughshod, demanding attention, as toddlers are wont to do. When we can’t change a situation, we need to figure out a way to change how we view the situation. Sleepless nights became a regular window of time for me to read a favorite passage over and over (and over and over). It became meditative. Even with a crying baby. Walk chant shush chant walk. Walk chant shush chant walk. Walk chant shush chant walk.
Talk with other parents about how they handled the exhaustion. Stop repeating “I’m so tired” as your mantra. Choose a new one, “I can manage this!”Be honest with friends you trust about your own struggles to stay sane in the midst of sleep deprivation. If you have a partner, broker sleep deals – you’ll do the night waking in exchange for a nap on the weekend. He or she can do the early morning waking; you do the last one at night. Real bonds are created in the commiseration over fatigue. You are welcomed into the sisterhood of leagues of women who’ve forged ahead on the sleepless path, before you even knew there was such a path. Walk chant shush chant walk …
My chant of choice
Desiderata (latin: desired things)
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others,you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble;it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God,whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
©1927 Max Ehrmann