Reuben turned 8 weeks old yesterday and the last week was pretty hellish. Reuben probably wasn’t much worse than he had been previously but the cumulative effect that the sleep lady talks about from sleep deprivation must have kicked in (I mentioned this in my last post about her illuminating article with tips for the knackered) and as a result there were tears, tantrums and general misery around the Parker household. They were mainly my tears and misery (in the middle of the night when I was desperate to sleep and the Reubinator kept waking every hour) but this had a knock-on effect that led to a Mike tantrum on Saturday because I told him he couldn’t go to the football on Sunday.
Hi… I’m here to bring you joy and happiness and wreck your life for 6 months (maybe more, maybe less, we’ll see…)
Last Tuesday was a particular low. Mike was off to London for the night and after a terrible night I just wanted to sleep but I couldn’t get Reuben to go to sleep anywhere but on me. I did drop off on the sofa with him but all the Health Visitor books specifically say DO NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE SOFA WITH YOUR BABY. Turns out that while the overall cot death statistics have decreased significantly, the deaths as a result of cosleeping on sofas has quadrupled. With this thought in my head I just sat sobbing to myself, trapped by my baby and an imminent IKEA delivery. I felt like I couldn’t call anyone to help, particularly not while sobbing my heart out, and I didn’t want to bother Mike as there was nothing he could do since he was on a train in the wrong direction. I did call him in the end though and he called in the cavalry in the form of his dad. The moment I knew Michael Senior was coming all that blackness and despair lifted. I felt almost completely fine. Still tired but anyone can cope if they know it isn’t indefinite.
Mike and I had decided that to ease some of the stress we would get some more help from our cleaner, which also cheered me up no end. When I was talking to her about how things were going and why we wanted more help she said to me, “Can I ask a personal question?” erm, yes, of course… “do you think you have baby blues?”
Well, I didn’t know what to say to this. I certainly didn’t think I did have it but if you look at my behaviour, teary tantrums, no blogging or tweeting for 2 weeks, feeling like I didn’t have any time to myself, etc. I could see why it would look it to an outsider. I assumed that this is just general new mum feelings. My cleaner went on to say, and she has told me this before, “I only ask because I had it and at times I felt like I could happily smother my baby.” Of course, she didn’t and wouldn’t have but she had a really hard time of it because a) her baby cried non-stop for 3 months and b) she was away from her family and had very little help. This is why I don’t think I have proper baby blues. Yes, he’s a little sh*t at times but I haven’t yet wanted to smother him.
But who’s to say what ‘proper baby blues’ are? I have a feeling that all mothers get them to a certain extent. It’s almost a mourning of the loss of their former lives and selves all exacerbated by sleep deprivation and isolation. The loss of time and freedom to go out when they want without having to plan it hours ahead so that everything is in place to achieve the 20 second getaway when their baby is finally ready to leave. It’s stressful, I tell you, but you don’t want your wee man screaming his little lungs out all the way to your nice relaxing lunch date! And, 8 times out of 10 you still get it wrong and he still screams all the way there until he falls asleep from exhaustion. Heartbreaking, so who wouldn’t reminisce about the old days?!
The other thing is the isolation. Most of us are used to being at work, around people all the time, and if not work, they’re free to dot about here and there seeing people. Even a trip to ASDA (or my personal favourite, Sainsbury’s – ooh the glamour!), where you see and interact with other people, is a luxury now. I’ve been told not to let having a baby stop me going out and doing things. Yes, in theory, but there’s 3 if not more problems I have with this. 1) I’m so tired! 2) I find it stressful so it makes me even more tired 3) what if he screams the whole place down and I have to abandon my trolly full of shopping to rush to the car to feed him? 4) breastfeeding in public isn’t much fun 5) etc… So, all in all, staying in watching the movie channel is a happy option to chose.
But ultimately it’s that darn, pesky sleep thing. I would go to the gym but I’m tired. I would blog or tweet more but I’m tired. I would go out more but I’m tired. And so on. So if I’m getting help to look after Reuben it’s a toss up between whether I blog, go to the gym, go out or sleep. Sleep wins for the most part. I also feel guilty if I don’t choose sleep as I think they then think I’m taking the piss. Why would I need help (free help) looking after my child to write a blog of all things?!
I don’t think I’m really getting anywhere with this but I think the lessons to be learnt here are:
1. Get help. Anybody with a child will know how horrific and isolating these first few weeks can be. I think I’m going to round up all the people I know and try and organise a little rota of help.
2. Sleep when you have help but also do the other things that make you happy (to be worked on and agreed with my helpers!).
3. Although you are really tired and miserable, don’t take it out on your fella/lady/partner – they’re at work all day and need a break too, so don’t remove all the joy from their lives by telling them they can’t go out. Lesson learned from this weekend.
4. Grow some balls… so you can get out and do more things. An example being on Friday I finally got out to get a bra fitting. I’ve been squeezing my boobs into my tiny pre-breastfeeding bras for 8 whole weeks. That is ludicrous and will probably mean I have to have corrective surgery on my saggy knockers once all this breastfeeding malarky comes to an end.
5. Sleep makes all things seem better.