I suffered terribly with sleep deprivation with all my children.
There were many, many days where I couldn’t believe my brain and body was still functioning on pathetic, broken amounts of sleep. Back in those days, every minute was consumed with how tired I was and how I could get more sleep. It was a front-of-mind problem at all times.
These days, my kids are all at school, and while the sleepless nights are more or less behind us, there are new parenting challenges to contend with: classroom anxiety, troubled friendships, homework pressures, behavioural issues and the big emotions that come with children.
And you know what? Although I’m incredibly grateful to be getting more sleep these days, I can’t help missing those sleepless nights where lack of sleep was the hardest thing about parenting. Sure, being tired all the time was rough, but other than that, my days were fairly straightforward. Feed baby, play, go for long walks in search of caffeine. Rinse. Repeat.
Not such a bad life.
Here’s what I’m missing about those sleepy days:
1. The long moonlight cuddles
I know I cursed them back then, but sitting up at night in my rocking chair with a cuddly baby drifting off to sleep in my arms wasn’t so bad. The streets were quiet, and moonlight would shine across the bedroom floor. It was like a sacred time, just for the two of us. OK, so doing this more than once a night wasn’t so fun … but you get my drift. When kids grow up, these midnight snuggles are pretty much over.
2. The straightforward relationship
Back in those night-waking days, even though I hated getting out of bed at night, I loved that my baby needed me. Those little tears dissolved the moment I picked my baby up. I guess it made me feel powerful, which is a very different feeling to the one I have these days with my kids. Like most other parents, I’m often overwhelmed and out of my depth when it comes to challenging behaviours. It’s like one long learning curve. Of course, my children still need me, but man there’s a lot of drama about it.
3. Problems were oh so easy to solve
Babies have simple issues, that are pretty much always easy to fix. A feed. A cuddle. Attention. All of these needs are easy to figure out, and while the solution can be tedious and sleep-disruptive, it tends to be the same thing on a day-to-day basis, no brain-strain required. When they grow older, their needs are harder to figure out and way more complicated. You have to wade through all the emotions and angry tears while asking the right questions to find out what the problem is. BIG brain-strain territory.
4. The Wiggles
I wouldn’t have made it through those sleepless nights without The Wiggles. Whether it was watching them at 2am with a feverish baby that couldn’t sleep, or through bleary eyes at 5am because someone decided it was time to start the day, these guys kept my babies sweet and quiet while I battled to stay awake. I may or may not have developed a weird crush on a certain blue Wiggle along the way. Must have been the sleep deprivation. My kids don’t watch The Wiggles anymore, but I’ll always have a soft spot for him them.
5. Life was pretty easy
I know taking care of a baby is hard work, and it probably felt like it back then, when I was in the trenches. But at least I could choose to take it easy during the day if I’d had a bad night. Stay in my pyjamas all day long. Leave ABC Kids on in the background. Avoid talking to anyone if I couldn’t muster up the energy for conversation. These days, there’s no let up if I’ve had a rough night. With regular life waiting for me, I have no choice but to push forward with school drop-offs and work demands, despite the dark circles under my eyes and cotton-wool-for-brain feeling. I miss being able to zone out and cuddle a baby, or pace around the streets with the pram – and the only thing I had to worry about was arsenic hour.
Hang on, arsenic hour? All the crying and cluster feeding on top of no sleep? Yikes, I forgot all about that.