Saturday, 23 July 2011
Raising the Alarm(s)
I spent many a minute of my adolescence sitting on the loo at my friend Zoe’s parents’ house. Not because I had some kind of embarrassing problem – this is pre-children - but because they have inspiring wallpaper in the downstairs toilet. It’s covered in priceless sayings, my favourite being, ‘Don’t tell people about your indigestion, “how are you?” is a greeting, not a question.’ Arthur Guiterman.There are several relatives that I would like to direct to that toilet, now I come to think of it. But generally, when I ask someone “how are you?” they say, “fine thanks, you?” and I say “yeah fine.”But I’m lying. What I really want to say is “I’m absolutely shattered, thanks for asking. I haven’t slept in three years and two months and the way things are going, I’m probably not due a decent night’s sleep for another decade. I can barely construct a sentence, I have the air conditioning on minus 20 to stay awake when I drive and because I don’t drink coffee, I eat my body weight in chocolate daily, just to give myself a sugar rush, which is making me fat. Oh and excuse the bizarre imprints on my face, but I fell asleep, face down on the sofa for ten minutes before I came out and only woke up because my child started screaming down the monitor. Apart from that I’m fine thanks, you?”I have to admit that when I was pregnant with my first, I was totally naive about the effect a baby would have on my night’s sleep. In fact, after an embarrassing incident at work - when I fell asleep at my desk and woke up to half the team standing in a circle around me, while I indiscreetly wiped the dribble from my face - I was kind of looking forward to ridding myself of the pregnancy tiredness.I’d heard about these ‘sleepless nights,’ but I just thought it meant the baby might wake up sniffling in the night and I’d swing it about a bit, sing some sort of lullaby and it would drift off back to dreamland.Then in 2008, my son burst into the world and I haven’t had a full night’s rest since.Turns out, I gave birth to an insomniac. We offered him a moses basket, a crib, a cot, our bed, a sling, a buggy, the car, even a changing mat! But after an hour of slumber, day or night, he’d wake up screaming.This carried on for ten months, until in a fit of desperation, I contacted sleep expert Andrea Grace, who I instinctively knew I could trust because she’d been on This Morning(www.andreagrace.co.uk before you ask!) For a small fee, she taught me how to get our son to sleep and stay asleep. The woman’s a miracle worker. For the first time ever, our son slept longer than an hour, which meant I slept for several and it didn’t even bother me that he now woke every day at 5am. She said we could work on the early morning problem, but I couldn’t be bothered. He was sleeping – woohoo! And then I got pregnant again.I thought this time, surely, I was due one of those miracle babies that sleeps from 7.00 till 7.00, from birth and then has five, three hour naps in the day. I was going to be one of those really irritating mothers who complain because their baby woke at 6.59am, which means they’re soooo tired.Needless to say, out popped another screamer. However, I decided that with Number Two, I wasn’t going to get into the same sleep deprived mess as I did with Number One. I stuck to Andrea’s rules and eventually they worked. Only this time, I can’t cope with my little early morning alarm.My daughter might be ready to tackle the day at 5am, seven days a week, public holidays included, but I’m not. It’s probably got something to do with the fact that I’m incapable of getting an early night, because I rely on my precious child-free evenings to do housework/blog-writing/Corrie-watching.Unfortunately, my late night activities have consequences. Like the time I dosed off on the sofa at 6am, while my daughter was playing with the house phone. I woke up, she was still alive, no harm done. Then around 8am, while I was pottering around in my manky pink dressing gown making the kids toast, the police arrived on my front doorstep. Turned out, when I’d passed out, my neglected one year old daughter had decided to randomly dial 999 and grass me up. I was slightly embarrassed, yet secretly impressed with the situation. However, sods law says that when I fall down the stairs and crack my head open, my daughter will pick up the phone and dial the talking clock.So it doesn’t surprise me that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Apparently, symptoms include hallucinations, paranoia and disorientation. Yep, that explains why I thought I saw a packet of Oreo cookies in the fridge this morning, accused my husband of stealing them and then discovered them down the side of the sofa…But seriously, this lack of sleep does make you go crazy. Take the time, a close friend had a baby, I went out and bought a beautiful pair of pink booties, only to remember on the way home that her baby’s name was James. Or the time I was driving myself mad, trying to remember which station Paddington Bear was found, or when I took my son’s own books back to the library instead of the ones he’d actually borrowed. Us mothers call it ‘baby brain’, but I’m sure it’s something a lie-in till midday could fix.So next time a parent of small kids tells you they’re “fine, thanks – you?” don’t believe a word of it. And if they’re telling the truth, I want to know their secret!