One of the most common jokes parents make to pregnant women is something along the lines of "better sleep now while you can!" I started to really worry. By 8 months pregnant, the heartburn, discomfort and hindrance of my belly was already cramping my style. Add to that the horror stories I heard from mothers of colicky babies... I assumed I would be more drooling zombie than woman in short order. Long gone are nights that I can sleep straight through - even if hubby is on duty. At times my son sleeps 5 hours at a stretch. Others it is almost as if he has an internal wake up call every 45 minutes! Is he hungry again? Wet? Teething? There's no rhyme or reason.
The thing is - YOU NEED SLEEP. You are not Super Woman, you are a human being. There's no coffee IV to come home with you from the hospital. There are only so many nights you can pace and rock junior ceaselessly before you end up crumpled in a ball crying for your own mommy. So what can you do? I recommend the 3 S method; share, snooze, and shut down.
The first rule to learn about the grind is that mom should not be the only one working the night shift. Those early days are especially hard and you need rest to be your best. You are creating breast milk, healing wounds, and learning a whole new lifestyle. These days, since my husband works through the week, he takes over on weekends. Can your spouse take the last feed, so you can get to bed early? Can he do that early bum change so you can grab an extra hour? You might do everything together, alternate shifts, or take every other day, but however you work it; share.
Many moms swear by the nap. Sleep when the baby sleeps, the laundry can wait. It's great advice, if you can do it. Unfortunately for me, I can't seem to do it. I have enough trouble getting back to sleep at night once my mind has been awakened. I make to do lists, think of old song lyrics, and conjure a whole host of useless trivia for no reason. The addition of sunlight and an infant doesn't help. If you need that mid-day top up, find a way to make the snooze work.
- Nap in bed rather than on the couch: mimic your sleep environment as closely as possible.
- Start with 10 minutes: if you give yourself time to lay down you might be surprised when you wake.
- Call in a ringer: a friend would be happy to give you a couple of hours to nap and shower. Take it!
If all else fails, just chill. Ignore the temptation to empty the dishwasher or wash the floors. No one is taking notice or judging your effort nearly as harshly as you judge yourself. A few restful moments with a chick flick or a good book can be very restorative, improving far more than just your lack of sleep. Throw your legs up on the sofa. Curl up in your favourite chair. Stretch out for some yoga on the floor. Whatever works for you. The very use of your brain for something other than retaining your little one's schedule can mean less stress, improved mood and, heck, some talking points more interesting than the number of dirty diapers that day!
Motherhood is extremely rewarding and full of the highest highs. That doesn't mean you have to or are expected to be "on" at all times. Recharge your batteries so you can be a better you for your family. There is a balance that will work for you.