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Posts Tagged ‘Sleep’

I will be in bed in seven minutes.

I need to go to bed in seven minutes because in seven minutes it will tomorrow, and tomorrow I need to start the day bright-eyed and raring to go.  Tomorrow I need to exercise first, maybe even before the children get up, have my shower, eat my breakfast, charge into the day as if it were the first day of the rest of my life.

I need to do this because I never do this.  I stay up late, late, late into the night, and then cling to my morning-sleep like a drowning man to a rope.  And I get up fairly late — well, very late by mummy-standards — when E1 calls me, and I put her on the toilet, and bring her back to bed with a nice cold cup of milk, and then tell/convince/cajole/beg her to let Mummy sleep a bit longer.  Please, please, let me sleep a bit longer…  I am soooo tired… I don’t tell her it’s my own fault.  It just is what is.  And we can all get up when the clock says…

She’s so good — she waits.  She sleeps, or she plays.  And she watches the clock.  And her sister make wake, but she reads a book to Pink Lamb — I hear her through the monitor, and smile sleepily.  And it’s all good — in our world, this is just how it works.

But I know that sounds wrong — deeply wrong — to most people.  Statistically, the world is mostly made of morning people, and they have set the ground-rules.  Early to bed, early to rise…  The early bird gets the worm… (Seriously, is that last one meant to inspire me?).  And that’s great — it works for them.  But nightowls are actually wired differently — our brains have been shown to be active in the evenings in a mirror of the way that morning people’s brains are active in the morning and, likewise, less active in the mornings the way others’ brains are winding down in the evening.  Oh, we swim against the tide, but it’s not by choice — it’s how we’re made.

And I wouldn’t have chosen it, if I could have.  Life is harder as a nightowl — it doesn’t go down well.  M doesn’t get it one bit — to him, it’s a crime against nature itself that I don’t have those girls up at 6am!  And my mother has commented a fair few times.  It looks like laziness to anyone who isn’t in the same boat.  My dad has no idea how late I stay up…  I dread to think what he’d make of it.

I want to change it.  I do want to claw those hours back on the clock, shift our days back by three hours so they end a bit earlier and so can start a bit earlier.  You know, at a decent hour, like decent folk do.  I’ve been trying for a year, and I haven’t managed it.  Foiled at every turn.

I explained to my mum, you can’t spend two-and-a-half years getting up with the baby once… twice… three times a night without it affecting your sleep patterns for a long time afterwards.  You can’t spend the first 14 months of that child’s life never getting to sleep before 4 or 5am without it having its impact.  Particularly when your body is already wired that way and goes ahead and happily sets the new pattern in stone.  “Hmmm,” my mum said, her disapproval softening a bit, “I’d never thought of it that way.”

So, I go to bed early.  I make myself do it even though I don’t want to, and even though there are books to read and websites to look at and bills to pay and yarns to spin.  And I put it all away and go to bed — and then I stare at the ceiling.  I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for an hour… for two hours… for two-and-a-half, until it finally rolls around to the time I would have gone to bed normally… and then I fall asleep.  It’s incredibly frustrating!  But I do it because I need to claw this body-clock back to something decent.  So night after night, I remain determined… and after three nights, it starts to get a bit better, like a clog in a pipe that slowly starts to break up, the sleep begins to come a bit easier…  And then, just like clockwork, on the fourth night, one of the girls has me up for some reason or another once, twice, maybe three times…  and I am shot away.  My body conspires against me and the whole cycle starts up again.  Please let Mummy sleep for another hour or two…  I’m so tired… We can get up when the clock says…

But now it’s time.  This time, I am going to do it.  I am going to get past this and get it to work!  When M went to bed, I promised him I’d be right up.  Just a couple of things to do, and I’ll be in bed before midnight.  I would!  Which is why I have to be in bed in seven minutes, before today becomes tomorrow and the cycle starts again.  Only seven more minutes.

Except that now it’s gone ten minutes to 1am.

Damn!

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We went out on Saturday night and I didn’t have much to drink at all — I didn’t! — but I got myself to bed so late again and so, the next morning, I was hung over from pure self-made exhaustion.

M came in the room, banging the door and waking me up with a start.  Sunlight streamed mercilessly through the blinds, and  I could hear the girls downstairs, playing with their breakfasts instead of eating.  “Good morning!” he called cheerily and very loudly.  “It’s a beautiful day, so warm again for November.  Come on, get up!  Time to get ready for church.”  I peeled one eye open, caught his huge grin and felt the throbbing in my head, and collapsed back into the pillow.  “Come on!” he bellowed encouragingly, shaking my shoulder.

I pulled the covers over my head.  “I aaaaaam!”  It came out as a groan and a whinge and was patently untrue.

Ten minutes later, he returned.  He is a the ultimate early riser, a consummate schedule-keeper, and me still face-down in the pillow did not fit in with his plans.  “Come on!  Get up.  It’s TIME!”

I am all about the sleeping, especially in the morning.  Bed is my best friend.  I shifted a bit… couldn’t open my eyes…

“If you don’t get up, I’m going to…”  He paused, trying to come up with a big enough threat to pry me from my warm cocoon.  “I’m going to… ”  He paused again, and then he got it.  “I’m going to ring your mum and I’m going to tell her that she’s right and you’re wrong a-a-and… you really should be best friends with her and… um… you don’t share enough with her and you don’t really appreciate her they way you should and… um… if you were a good daughter you’d…”

Aw, hell!  I couldn’t take this!  He’d beat me.  I got up.

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I was rushing things as I tried to get E2 to cooperate with being put down for her nap.  My mother had come round for a couple of hours to keep the girls busy so I could make a start on the taxes, and I’d lost track of time and now they were late going down for their naps.  My mother was the other room, wrestling E1 into her bed, and I was sitting on the big bed next to E2’s cot trying to contort her wriggling legs — still clad in her sister’s far-too-big trousers that she had insisted on wearing for the last half an hour — into her sleeping bag.

When she was all zipped in, she lept up and began jumping on the bed, her hyperactivity clearly indicating overtiredness — or so I hoped.  I laid back on the bed and adjusted my top, waiting for her to realise that milk was on offer and so to flop herself down beside me (and probably, as she so often does, crack me in the jaw with her skull).  But she took no notice and carried on jumping manically, her little eyes wild with the excitement of it.

“Come on!  Milk!”

Bounce, bounce, bounce. No!

“Come on… Come and have your milk.”  I was trying to sound as enticing as I could.  It used to be that lying on a bed and sounding enticing meant something else altogether, but those days are long gone — now it’s always about milk and naps.  But today there was  no interest.  “Come on… Don’t you want some of Mummy’s milk?”

“No!  Roger!” she yelled, and carried on bouncing.

Roger?  Who the heck was Roger?  I was torn between laughter and exasperation.  “Come and lie down and have you milk!” I commanded.

Bounce bounce bounce.  “No!  No milk!  Roger!”

I looked up at her, both laughing and dumbfounded.  I’ve heard a lot of nonsense in the past few years, but this was new to me.  She saw that I wasn’t getting it, stopped bouncing at last, and put her face down close to mine.

“No milk.  Water!”  Ah…!  Water, not Roger.  Ok.  I thought for a moment about walking all the way downstairs and drawing her a glass of water…  That’d be another 10 minutes…  I decided against it.

“Well,” I said, undoing the bra-clasp, “maybe Mummy’s got water.”  She looked at me, dubious but intrigued.  “Do you think Mummy has made water for you?”  It did the trick — she was lying down now, wiggling herself into position.  I waited for her to discover my deception, delatch, and complain…  but she didn’t.  Milk is sweet and warm, and good enough.  She snuggled in and began feeding in earnest — and I relaxed, curled round her and breathed in her wonderful scent.  My daughter smells wonderful, especially when she is content and tucked in close.

She was asleep in seven minutes.

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With every passing day, as E2 gets older, the changes in her are coming rapidly.  Though I still think she is my baby, she is really nothing of the sort.  And the more I realise that, the more I find myself longing for another baby.  My third…  my last…  just one more…  The feeling is so strong, so urgent!  But M is adamant — there will be no more babies.  So instead of clinging ever more desperately to her baby-ness, even as it slips away day by day, I try instead to rejoice in the competent little person she is becoming.

When she woke me at 4am last night — for the third time, mind — and I stumbled groggily into her room, she stood up in her cot and, pointing to her bum, said, “Oh noooo!  Poooooo!”  And then, for emphasis, trumpeted loudly.

And though it meant I had to carry her into the other room and turn on the rude lights, and stand there in the middle of the night wearing only the top half of my PJs and change a very stinky nappy, I had to smile.  Because newborn babies, for all their rosebud-lipped lovliness, don’t point to their bums and tell you they’ve done a poo.  And at 4am, when I can barely open my eyes enough to walk in a straight line, I do appreciate that she can now give me really big clues like that.

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In all the emotion and confusion of moving and trying to get settled, it is easy to forget that — even though we have spent seven months living in a house furnished with only two chairs, a dining set, the girls’ cots, and our mattress on the floor, and even though our lives are still so unsettled that I have not felt able to commit to even so much as a mobile phone plan — there are some things about our lives that this move improved instantly and incredibly.

Tonight my daughters are sleeping soundly in their own rooms, safely tucked high up above the world on the second floor and just across the hall from us.  Unlike this time last year, neither of them has to sleep in a hastily converted dining room, alone all night on the ground floor, right at the front of the house and literally 4 feet away from the street, where lorries and tractors rumble past at breakneck speeds, and drunks stumble past on their way home from the pub, separated from them by a window whose fragile glass panes are over a century old and whose old wooden frame no longer fits securely and rattles loudly whenever the wind blows.  Tonight, E1 is not sleeping in a room with a gas fire only a few feet away from her cot (and where it is thus actually illegal for her to sleep, even though M shut off the gas supply to it).  She is not in a room which always had a lingering smell of mildewy dampness that I could never get rid of no matter how much I cleaned, and which always also had a faint smell of what I swore was leaking gas, even though M ran test after test and assured me there was no leak, but which always worried me afresh every night when I laid her down to sleep.  Tonight I do not have to spend the night separated from her by a whole flight of stairs, and lie half-awake, listening listening listening all night for any noise — inside the house or out — that might be a threat to her safety while she sleeps so far away from me.

There are many things about our lives that we are struggling with at the moment, but for this simple fact that we can now afford to rent a house that has enough room for us, and so I can put my daughters down to sleep near to me, in safety and comfort, I am deeply deeply grateful.

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Shhhhh… Don’t tell anyone — and you didn’t hear this from me, but… On Tuesday night, E2 woke up and started to cry as normal twice, but never really got into a full cry, and then settled herself back down before I got up to go in to her. To my utter astonishment, we went the whole night without my going in to feed her even once — for the first time ever in the more than 18 months since she was born. I wanted to be ecstatic, but wouldn’t allow myself to get too hopeful about it.

And then last night… last night she never woke once. Not once. She slept the whole night through!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got more sleep than I have had in the whole duration of her life — over six hours in a row. I was like a woman reborn today, and I remembered, after all this time, how normal life was supposed to feel.

This may not last — I know that — and I’m afraid to talk about it much in case I break the spell. But I am hoping a little despite myself, and reveling a lot.

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Today I am grateful for:

  1. The fact that when I began to cry today because it hit me that I really just don’t like it here and how much I want to go home, my beautiful daughter came up and put her arms around me, said, “Awwwww… it’s ok, Mummy,” and gave me a kiss.
  2. That when E2 spotted her sister hugging me, she came running up too and, misunderstanding what was going on, climbed on my knee and started bouncing up and down and saying, “Wheeeeee!…” which brought me out of my funk for a few minutes and sent me into fits of laughter instead.
  3. That when my head was throbbing this afternoon from that kind of exhaustion that crying brings on, my husband told me to go lay down for a while, even though we had a ton of things to do.  I left him to it and he carried on without me.

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