Never ask a mom of a newborn if her baby’s sleeping through the night as hearing this question will only remind her how tired she is. And for God’s sake please don’t tell a new mom she looks tired, even if your intention is to acknowledge her plight. The truth is I knew I would be tired the first few months of Levi’s life, I just didn’t realize all the emotions and challenges that would arise from being in a constant state of sleeplessness.
The first month of Levi’s life he essentially ate every two hours and slept whenever he wasn’t nursing. The constant breastfeeding was tiring and took some getting used to, however, because he was sleeping so much and fell asleep so easily — it was easy for me to nap while he napped. This was crucial for me at this point and I was diligent about it. Of course, it must be said I had hired help cleaning the house a couple times a week and family members bringing us dinner and fetching our groceries. If not I definitely would’ve been more tired. Still, the combination of hormones and a lack of sleep during this first month definitely made me more prone to bouts of crying for seemingly no reason. I would snap at David only to burst into tears and apologize moments later. It wasn’t exactly fun.
Once Levi turned six weeks, a new challenge arose: it became harder to get him down for naps and for nighttime sleep. Suddenly I was way more tired than I had ever been in my life because not only was I sleeping less overall, but I was exerting more energy trying to get him to sleep. This included endless walks around the neighborhood. Want to know how I lost the baby weight? I literally walked for hours everyday. What’s more, when he wouldn’t go down for hours at a time I would get stressed and anxious which only made it harder for me to fall asleep for naps and at night.
David was constantly encouraging me to go lay down and get to bed earlier, and while I needed the sleep, the suggestion was starting to make me angry. I was tired of just trying to sleep all the time. The mere thought of it was making me depressed. I was tired of walking around in yoga pants all day and I was itching to get out of the house and get back to socializing. By this point I could count the number of times I had left the neighborhood on one hand. Sure friends and family came to visit but what I wanted was to go out. That being said, the times I wanted to go out sans baby required some careful planning and either required that I go in between nursing sessions, or pump and leave a bottle. I’ve written all about the early challenges of breastfeeding here.
I was faced with a choice: stay home and get more rest by trying to sleep while Levi sleeps, or leave the house (either with or without Levi). I decided a balance of the two was ideal for me, and that sometimes a trip to the gym, or a lunch date was just as — if not more energizing than napping. Now Levi is almost 12 weeks and I still try to strike a balance between resting and going on outings. I still sometimes go a day or even two without leaving the neighborhood but I make an effort to go on one brief outing per day.
One thing I didn’t expect to deal with during my sleepless nights and late night feedings is a feeling of loneliness. David had taken to sleeping in the guest bedroom about half the week so he could function at work and help out with Levi whilst home, and getting used to sleeping without him was hard for me. It also didn’t help that whenever I lay down I was unsure of when Levi would wake up. Was it going to be just minutes after I had finally fallen asleep? Was he going to have a good night or a bad night? His sleep improved significantly around eight weeks but there are still some nights he wakes up to feed three times. This not knowing made it all the harder for me to fall asleep. So here I was trying to get some much needed rest but feeling tired, a little lonely, and anxious. It’s also at night that I’d be reminded of how much I miss my family back in Montreal.
Needless to say, sleeplessness has been challenging. Things that have helped me cope are getting out of the house with and without Levi, working out, daily walks, power naps, talking with other moms, David’s support, seeing friends, reading fiction, watching comedies, and blogging. You know what else helps? Not thinking about being tired. It’s easier said than done, but mind over matter my friends. I’ve also taken to calling myself a “night warrior” which makes me feel like a tough superhero rather than a haggard mom.
The last thing I want to do is sound ungrateful or whiny. I thank God everyday for my delightful and healthy baby boy; my family, and everything I’m privileged to have. My goal in openly talking about the struggle that is sleep deprivation is so other new moms will feel less alone having read this. I can’t always speak so candidly about my emotions which is why I write about them and share them on this blog. I don’t want to answer every “how are you doing?” with something along the lines of ” well, I adore my baby but today I feel exhausted and a bit lonely” (people may stop calling me!) but I feel comfortable doing so on this platform. I’ve had many tough moments as a new mom and I want others to know they shouldn’t be ashamed if they feel this way too. Talking about it isn’t a sign of weakness nor does it make you a bad mom. I believe honesty is a sign of strength and we mammas gotta stay strong.