'I’ve lost count of the number of fights we’ve had over sleep'
'Picture the scene: We are in a 5 Star resort in St Tropez clinking Champagne glasses in the heat of the midday sun. We have a jet-set lifestyle, and whilst all the luxury holidays and time together is pretty much perfect, we can’t help but feel that there’s something missing.
My husband and I have been together for 10 years, married for around 4 of those years and finally, we feel like the time is right for us to have children. What else is there for us to explore together, other than maybe parenthood?
Our relationship is solid, happy and loving…we are smug.
Fast forward 2 years and I’m threatening divorce because my husband has brought the wrong ingredient home for dinner…What happened you ask? Well, I’ve recently given birth and admittedly, I’ve turned into a sleep-deprived, non-functioning, angry zombie.
Having a new baby can be such an exciting event, particularly for first-time parents. However, it brings a hell of a lot of additional pressures into a relationship. Whilst babies are everything you’ve ever dreamt of and more, they are also super demanding.
They say WHO, they say WHAT, they say WHEN (well not literally, as they cannot yet speak) but you understand my meaning. They are in charge.
The major issue for us, and the biggie for most parents, is sleep deprivation.
I am so tired after having two babies in quick succession, that I even named my blog after it, The Exhausted Mum. Yup, that’s me. Fuelled by coffee, numbed by wine and kept sane by a nanny. A nanny who was employed after another threat of divorce.
A little background; Our first daughter Gia, was born in December 2015 after a 4 DAY induction. I was exhausted, sore, and an emotional wreck. Not only was I dealing with all the physical difficulties of labour, I had a baby in intensive care, so emotionally, I was on the edge.
However, that’s a blog post for another day. The long and short of it is, Gia is fine and a mere 15 months later in March 2017, we welcomed her baby sister Kaia into the world.
What were we thinking you may wonder? Well we knew that ideally, we wanted at least two children, and after having fertility help (clomid) with Gia, we wrongly assumed it would take us a while to get pregnant. Gia was 6 months old when I fell pregnant on our second cycle of trying with Kaia.
Both babies had silent reflux and lactose intolerances, Kaia worse than Gia.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I think If we’d had Kaia first, then maybe there wouldn’t have been another child. She was what we’d describe as a really unhappy, miserable baby. She screamed day and night and I physically couldn’t put her down.
By day, I carried her everywhere in the Baby Bjorn and at night, she slept in bed next to me propped up on a maternity pillow so that she was practically vertical. I know all the advice contradicts doing this, but every time she was in her cot, the reflux would burn her throat and she’d be hysterical.
FOUR IN A BED AND THE LITTLE ONE SAID…
I would/will do anything to get some extra shut eye. This is the reason why we’re currently four in a bedroom. Yup, we’re that family. The sort of family set-up that I used to frown upon before having children of my own. I was one of those helpful advice givers to friends who’d had children before me: “You really should put them in their own room. It will help you in the long run. Sharon said it’s the best thing she’s ever done”.
I’m sure most of them wanted to punch Sharon in the face. To all my friends, I’m sorry.
When Kaia was born, we were in the process of moving house. I couldn’t deal with anything further than trying to navigate my way through parenthood with two babies, so the girls and I decamped to my mum’s house in Wales.
Even though my husband was dealing with the entire house move, I was still so angry that he was getting sleep, whilst I was awake 24/7 with a newborn and a non-sleeping 15 month old.
Thank goodness for my mum, who kept me sane during Kaia’s first few months, and who did many night shifts, so I could switch into her bed sleeping alongside Gia (who didn’t sleep either, but at least she slept for part of the night!) or I think I wouldn't have made it through! Probably a slight exaggeration, but that’s how I felt. I was exhausted.
There is an abundance of information out there on how to go about setting up and maintaining a daily sleep schedule. However, what works for another family/child may well not work for you, so if you’ve found some way that allows you to maximise your sleep, then stick with it.
Personally, I feel like I’ve tried it all: sleep training manuals, Gina Ford, dark rooms, setting a strict routine, giving them something slightly heavier to eat/drink before bed and the list goes on. Bottom line is, my daughters are currently 3 years old and (almost) 2 years old and neither sleep very well.
My husband slept in the nursery with Gia for the first year after Kaia was born, however, the minute he tried to return to our bedroom, Gia was hysterical and neither of us were willing to pace back and forth across the landing all night, so we brought her into bed with us. Our nights are now spent having competitions to see who can ignore the screams for the longest. I always lose. I’m the first one up.
I’m a firm believer in doing whatever works for you. I guess we have to try and remember that it won’t last forever. At some point (hopefully in the not too distant future) they will sleep.
I’ve lost count of the number of fights we’ve had over sleep, you know, those tit for tat arguments: who deserved more, who was actually getting more, who was more exhausted, who should get to sleep in on weekends, who should get up in the night and the list goes on.
All you seem to talk about in those early years is sleep. It’s unsurprising really since sleep deprivation is actually used as a form of torture, but as new parents, you’re expected to just carry on with daily life with extreme sleep deprivation. IT’S EXHAUSTING.
I’m very guilty of getting up in the morning in an extremely bad mood and wanting to bite my husband’s head off, simply because he’s said good morning.
What am I angry about? Well, it’s not a good morning for me, I’ve been awake all night, meanwhile he’s snored through every cry/pee request.
I’m convinced that men have some supernatural power that allows them to sleep like dead-weights. On the contrary, my brain is like an internet browser at night, and I swear I’d hear a pin drop.
Meanwhile, my husband could (and actually has) slept through our house alarm. I really have no chance with crying babies rousing him.
My daughters currently wake anything from twice to fifteen times a night. They want; a drink, a wee, they’re too hot, they feel poorly, they want cuddles, they want another drink, they want to tell me a secret etc etc.
My husband tends to get up with them on the weekends as he has work during the week, so arguably he should be the one to ignore the cries during weekdays.
However, this is still a source of frustration for me as I am resentful that he can: drink a hot tea, take a pee, socialise with adults, and basically do what the hell he wants INDEPENDENTLY.
Meanwhile, I am running around after two toddlers surviving on coffee and unable to even go to the toilet without one of them clinging onto my leg.
So who deserves the sleep? ME, ME, ME (the entire argument starts again!)
I am often left counting down the seconds until my husband gets in from work. That is my moment to clock-out of parenting for an hour. I don’t even give him chance to remove his shoes. I’m lucky that he totally accepts that this is how it is. He knows that I need a break, but I am often forgetful that he may need a break too.
I can see how this can cause further arguments in households over: who needs down time, who needs it most, who should get the children to sleep, who should cook dinner and again the list goes on.
I guess both parents feel that they’ve had an exhausting day and both feel more valid in their argument for some relaxation time than the other, but as you both can’t relax simultaneously, there’s bound to be arguments. That’s a fact.
The underlying factor is, if being sleep deprived from having a new baby is clearly such a strain on marriages, how can the issue be resolved?
TALKING.Communication is key. Explaining to your partner how exhausted you actually are and setting clear boundaries as to who is expected to do what can help.
DATE NIGHT.Try setting aside some time just for the two of you. It’s important you remember the reasons you’re together in the first place and what better way than over a romantic dinner?
GET INTIMATE.I know this can be a difficult one, especially if, like us, you are a co-sleeping parent. However, when there’s little or no intimacy in a relationship, you’re much more likely to fight.
Reminding yourselves that you’re not just parents, you are also a couple, is important.
Why not try and take some time over the weekend to remember why it is you fell in love in the first place?
Maybe get a bottle of Champagne, your favourite take-away and imagine you’re back in your own sunny paradise.
Good Luck. Sending you lots of sleep-dust. Is that even a thing?
This post was contributed by Laura Jagdev. Laura is a mummy & lifestyle blogger based in Surrey, UK. She is mum to two young daughters (2 years and 3 years of age). Laura is passionate about parenting, beauty, travel, health and fitness. You can also find her on Instagram.