Monday, 17 November 2014

The Six Month Brick Wall

It doesn't matter how many kids you have, you forget so much. The first baby year goes by so slowly on the one hand, and so fast on the other, that it really is just a blur. 

So I had completely forgotten about the brick wall that I hit when my daughter was six months old. When it hit, when my son hit six months, I was completely floored. 

As a caveat, my daughter was a great sleeper (as babies go). She slept through the night from nine weeks old... Until she hit four months and then spent two months on all fours rocking in an attempt to crawl. Cue multiple wake ups a night, to turn her over and put her back to sleep. 

She went through all the usual sleeping upsets, teething and sickness and learning new things. So even though she was a great sleeper, we still spent a lot of her first year up and out of bed. 

When I look at it now, I don't actually think it was the lack of sleep that brought on the wall, it was me trying to do too much. 

Nothing resembles the sleep disturbance that comes with the first six - twelve weeks of having a newborn. The constant broken sleep, the inability to catch up, at any point, because the next feed rolls round and round and round. 

I thought I had it covered in the first two weeks, this wasn't so bad, I could cope... but like with all things, it is the build up that makes it so hard. By week six I was literally crying I was so exhausted, and my husband could barely see straight. 

So I think once you get past the first wave of horrendous sleep, and your baby stops waking every two to three hours (or every hour for the really unlucky), you start getting longer blocks of sleep. And it feels magical! 

There is nothing like looking at the clock, and then realising it's light outside! That you got a precious few more hours in bed than normal. You get a little giddy and high on that extra sleep, and your body welcomes the ability to function more like a normal human being. 

So you start contemplating things that you would not have considered before, like exercise, like leaving the house after dar, like blow drying your hair. 

 Which is exactly what I did, both times. I went to exercise classes, or walked the marina, doing about 8km walking a day, with my sleeping baby tucked up in the pram. I went out and saw friends, we went on dates. We stayed up and watch Pointless on TV (which starts about 9pm here in Dubai) and even occasionally watched a film to the end. 

The problem is, we really need more than broken sleep to get us through, and I was eating into my precious sleep time with other activities. It just can't last, and it didn't. 

When the wall hit, I though I was sick. With my son, I'd just had the flu jab, so I blamed that at first. It lasted for weeks. As I already have an autoimmune disease which makes me tired, I had all my usual bloods tested. I am slightly low in my vitamin D, but nothing to make me this tired. 

So one day I went to bed at 8:30pm. My night wasn't completely uninterrupted, but I woke up feeling fresher than I have in ages. Not wide awake, but not quite so exhausted, and I didn't have a layer of cement from the sandman to remove from my eyes. 

It's really frustrating, to have to reassess your priorities, just when you thought you had them nailed. To have to programme in more sleep, when I am already going to bed about two hours earlier than people of my age who don't have children. 

But that's the point, they don't have children. They can laze about in bed on a Saturday morning, spend the entire day in bed if they like. They won't be woken at 5:30am, when it's still pitch dark outside and have to start the day singing nursery rhymes, which are far too cheery for 5:30am. 

I have to accept that having babies and toddlers means that sleep will continue to be precious and must be conserved. 

So I'm slowly re-jigging my priorities and moving sleep back up the list. I've decided to set my alarm for 9pm at night, and at that point I need to pack up and go to bed, immediately. No matter how appealing my new colour coded Pinterest board is, or how funny that picture of dancing cats might be. 

It's so easy to get distracted, but unless I am more disciplined with myself, I'm not going to be able to juggle all that I do. I won't be able to make the most of my priorities. I can still go to the gym, but I can't go to the gym and work on this blog, all in one night. I also can't work on the blog and then spend real quality time with Gary, there just aren't enough hours in the day. So I try to minimise the amount of things I do on one evening. So it's either Circuit Factory or it's The 21st Century Mama, not both. 

Sleep isn't that exciting to think of, but it's one of the most important things for me to function. 

How do you discipline yourself to make sure you get enough shut eye?