During your first pregnancy every ‘well meaning’ family member and friend will constantly tell you about the need to catch up on as much sleep as you can, because when they arrive your opportunity for some decent shut eye and a leisurely lie in will vanish in the blink of an eye.
And when they do arrive midwives, health visitors and the same well meaning family members and friends will tell you to sleep, while they sleep. Easier said than done.
The pudding will turn 11 months in the next few weeks and I’m definitely still trying to pay back weeks and months of sleep debt. I left hospital with Otto the day he was born. Geoff went back to work, like many of my friend’s partners, when he was three days old and I was pretty much on my own for the first couple of weeks, as our family live over 400 miles away.
* Not sure who needs the coffee more in this picture?!
For the first seven months we knuckled down, although evidently loving every minute, also acknowledging the moments of frustration, the monotony, and living off very little sleep. Although very chilled the pudding was until recently a sleep thief and a milk monster. My body felt as if it was being controlled by someone else. And this is partially true.
Friends and family regularly acknowledged we were doing a great job given we didn’t have much help on our doorstep and I kept my head down and tried to do more than was perhaps necessary.
The result however was by November I was completely running on empty. My batteries had died. I needed recharged. No amount of coffee could kickstart my engine.Thankfully for me this period only lasted a couple of weeks and I quickly got back on track after some much needed TLC, sleep and some support from some very good friends and family.
But for many new mums it isn’t that straightforward. It made me more aware that for many sleep deprivation and a newborn could potentially have devastating consequencs. A lack of sleep can have a detrimental impact on your mental and physical well being, cause anxiety and post natal depression. It’s no wonder sleep deprivation is a form of torture as my husband reminded me.
When I was born my mum stayed in hospital for a week and the evening before she was due to leave the midwives looked after me and she and my dad went out for dinner. Geoff and I had our first proper evening out on Tuesday night. I didn’t want it to end!
Times have changed. For many we live further away from family and for a lot of us we don’t have that support on our doorstep that our own mothers had. This brings me on to the need for “me time”, timely given that today is Mother’s Day.
There is no point of being a hero. The need to have a timeout is paramount. However women generally seem to put at huge amount of emphasis on the need to be seen to be being busy. We seem to think it makes us better people if we’re seen as being productive constantly. When asked how you are, the response will often be, “we’re really good,very very busy”. If we’re not seen to be busy, it’s as if we have failed. I’ve been guilty of this.
Time to take a rain check, time to be a little kinder to ourselves and time to take care of ourselves more. Whether it’s getting your hair cut, having a warm cup of coffee and reading a magazine or staying in your pjs until Holly and Phil come on the TV at 10.30am. In the long run your battery will last a lot longer. I’m championing me time and I won’t be feeling guilty that the washing has piled up, I haven’t batched cooked for a fortnight and I haven’t written that article I’ve been procrastating over.
In fact as I write this, Otto has just fallen asleep, my husband has gone off to NYC but I know there is a glass of fizz waiting downstairs for me to enjoy with my sister in law in front of the TV.
Happy Mother’s Day!