When pregnant with my first son I remember being terrified of the sleep deprivation that was to come. I knew it would be hard and I also knew that I did not know just how hard it would be.
I have had two babies now – gone through the crazy sleep deprived newborn days twice. I am not going to say I have mastered that time. Far from it. And I still struggle with sleep deprivation. What I do have is hindsight – beautiful, wonderful hindsight – that this time, which seems to have no end, won’t last forever and you are stronger than you believe you are right now.
So here are a few things that I wish I could say to a fellow mum deep in trenches of sleep deprivation.
Mummy – the first few days are the worst.
You have just given birth, are learning to breastfeed/feed and are trying to recover yourself while getting to know this little person you created. Your hormones are all out of sorts, it can be overwhelming and sleep is basically non-existent; maybe an hour or two at most in a row. You may even cry with relief at seeing the sunrise simply because that signals the end of the night (I did). Mummy these first few days are by far the worst and little by little it will get better.
Mummy – you are never alone.
I will say that again.
You Are Never. Ever. Alone.
Not even in the darkest hours of the night. Please reach out. We are here for you. We are here on Facebook and Instagram. We are here via text. We are here to answer your 3am call. We are awake with you at the same time. Mummy you are never alone.
Mummy it is hard.
Waking up multiple times a night is not easy so please, please, please, take some pressure off yourself. It’s ok to wear pjs for days on end. It’s ok to not have a shower or do your hair. It’s ok that the dishes do not get done. It’s ok to not have many visitors so you can rest or sleep. Mummy remember time to yourself will give you the energy you need to keep pushing, even if you do not sleep. Mummy it is hard.
Mummy it’s ok if you want to quit.
There may be times that you want to quit – quit motherhood (I did – you can read this here). Mummy you may yearn for you child-free life. Your life that now you look back on (was it just a week ago?) that was so carefree, and filled with sleep, glorious deep sleep. You may wonder how you wanted this new life which is now filled with cracked nipples, breast pumps, a jiggly tummy, endless nappies and a million loads of washing. It’s ok to feel this way. It’s ok to grieve the life you had while also simultaneously loving/hating your new life. It’s ok to crave sleep. Like seriously crave sleep in a way you never thought you could ever want something so much.
Mummy if you feel like you want to quit it does not mean you are a crazy person. You left the hospital with a suitcase of guilt you don’t need to add to it. This is change. Change is hard and this new life is like really, really hard. Mummy it does not mean you don’t love your baby more than life itself, I know you do.
Mummy it’s ok to cry.
Water leaking from the eyes is very normal. It’s your body’s way of releasing your emotions. Mummy let it out. Let it out in front of others. Let it out at 3am. Remember your hormones are adjusting again, you are adjusting again.
Mummy if you do feel like you may never stop crying please reach out. Please talk to your GP or LMC or The Cherish Trust. Mummy many of us have experienced postnatal distress, postnatal anxiety and postnatal depression. In fact at least 13% of us have here in New Zealand. Please, please reach out. We are here for you.
Mummy tomorrow is always another day.
There is a saying it’s always darkest before the dawn. Mummy hang in there. Tomorrow is a new day. If today was terrible – good – because it means tomorrow has to be better. Even though your days don’t technically end. The earth will rotate. The sun will come up. Tomorrow will arrive. With every new tomorrow, your baby grows that little bit more, which means more sleep is coming a little bit closer.
Mummy sleep helps.
Please nourish yourself with sleep. You deserve it. You absolutely need it. Mummy this may mean going back to bed at 8am. It may mean having a friend take your baby for a pram walk so you can sleep. Mummy it may even mean having a night where hubby or a friend gets up to your baby (even if they bring them to you to feed). Just one night will make huge difference. Plan for it. Ask for help with it. Mummy we do not have to wear our fatigue like a badge of honor.
Mummy hold the good times close.
When it’s stormy and things seem impossible, hold onto the good moments – they maybe few and far between but cherish them in your heart. This doesn’t mean enjoy every moment (I really dislike this saying). It means seek the small victories as this will help make the mountain seem that little bit less to climb. You might have a night where sleep was 4 hours not 3. You might have a moment where your baby settles all by themselves. Celebrate these moments. They will get closer together.
Mummy this too shall pass.
The fog will pass. I PROMISE. Maybe write this on the fridge if you have to. It may take longer than you expect but it will. One day you will wake up (like actually wake up) and you will feel the fog of sleep deprivation will have passed. You will be out of the trenches. And then you will dance a happy, sleep filled dance.
Mummy you are incredible.
Mummy please know you are doing an amazing job. Being a mummy is the hardest job on the planet. Maybe even on Mars too. Mummy you are incredible. You may not feel like that right now. I know. I forget this too.
But you are.
xxx A mummy in the trenches with you
Dr Julie Bhosale