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( 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!


  1. Brilliant. And so true about not really 'getting' what night waking means before you have kids. I am on my third non-sleeping-through-the-night-at-6-mths baby so clearly, it's either me Doing It All Wrong or this is just what babies are supposed to do.

    We just do whatever it takes to get the most sleep - see above re 'Doing It All Wrong' (in my case - sleeping next to me, and feed whenever he murmurs). If I don't have to get out of bed, it's a winner! I couldn't be arsed to do any kind of sleep training with my second -he is a much better sleeper. Hmmm...

    Sometimes, I think about the fact I am actually functioning on this little sleep and am in awe of what I might actually be able to do when sleep is resumed. We'll be freakin' superwomen!

  2. haha! wow eskacy, 3 non-sleepers. You must be tired! Yes I'm looking forward to the super-women era - although I'm tempted to spend the extra time sleeping and catching up on five years worth of tv :) xx

  3. Haha. My daughter - a typical teenage sleeper, who went through the night from 12 weeks (sorry!) - has just asked me what I'm laughing at. Told her to log on. So funny - but now I feel guilty for laughing at your expense! By the way, apologies for gawping when you fell asleep at work (and where can I buy that wallpaper)?! Xxx

  4. Apology accepted! I'll ask Zoe's mum.. :)

  5. Daniel (who is now 9) slept through for the first time at 2 months - he was staying at my sisters for the night as I was sooooo exhausted from the sleepless nights and he decided to be the model baby! It only lasted the one night.

  6. Deborah Weinstein23 July 2011 at 20:29

    Hilarious! Laugh out loud! Thanks Debs! You know I feel your pain.....I have yet to sleep a full night. Even when baby does, I wake up sweating and freaked out thinking 'is she ok? Why isn't she awake???'. Sigh. Brilliant blog. xxxx

  7. Loved it! I definitely find it a struggle to stay awake these days. I am also doing crazy things thanks to mumnesia! I sometimes can't get my own children's names right and go through a whole list before I get there lol! My husband is beginning to despair of me but he just doesn't get it!

  8. Eventually, you get used to living in an exhausted fog.

    I spent years with my eyes on the day when they will all sleep through and I will have boundless energy.

  9. Sooo funny Debbie - luckily the no sleeping thing is a distant memory to me but I am sure I am heading for a world record on how long it took to potty train :) x

  10. Thanks for all your comments!
    Kathryn - why do they always sleep well when you're not there to benefit from it?!
    Debs - I know what u mean - I worry if I check on them they'll wake up, then feel guilty for not checking!
    Helene - loving 'mumnesia'! I often say 'good boy!' to my daughter and vice versa! - r u at the boundless energy stage yet?!
    Anon - hmmm... Sleepless nights or soggy pants? - it's a tough one! X

  11. Dear Debbie,

    I am still laughing at that lovely, hilarious blog. You are SO funny!! Thanks for the mention and the kind words about me and I wish you much success.

    Warmest regards

    Andrea Grace

  12. I feel exhausted just reading that.

    I know you pain - sort of. I have a cat. A toddler who demands feeding for the rest of eternity. First call today: 4am.

    At least children grow up. I've not had a decent night's sleep in seven years. Think yourself lucky!

  13. Jon, that is why i refuse to get a pet! I guess sleep training techniques don't work with cats...

  14. I completely know what you mean about not knowing what to expect on the lack of sleep front. My little girl is 9 months old and also a baby insomniac, hence the name! I also spoke to a sleep expert who came with a plan to sleep train her which worked but only by taking her to the level that most newborn babies are capable of (waking every 3-4 hrs), this is still better than not sleep at all but now I am wishing for that magical day where she sleeps a full night. Great blog by the way, found you on bmb, read through all your posts, they made me laugh! x

  15. Hi mum2babyinsomniac! Thanks so much for reading my blog. You must be shattered! I hope that your baby starts sleeping thru soon. It's no fun being a zombie... Keep focussing on the day your baby becomes a teenager who you can't wait to kick out of bed! Meanwhile, I'll be checking out your blog xx

  16. Loving your blog!

    Sleep deprivation is awful, I can't imagine ever getting a full night of sleep again. Our first was a rubbish sleeper and with a newborn it's all starting over again...

    We had early mornings (5am and earlier) for a long long time with the eldest but we recently had a lot of success with a sleep training clock, I would fully recommend it. We didn't expect our stubborn toddler to pay any attention to it but it does actually work...for the time being at least!