I vividly remember the day our daughter was born, which is saying a lot since my brain has blurred out many of the days of her first year. What I have recently been trying (and failing) to remember is the last time I woke up rested and refreshed from sleeping more than eight hours in a row. Since we’ve had little lady one of the most prevalent feelings in my life has been parental exhaustion. I’m SO. FREAKING. TIRED. Literally all the time. I don’t know how I used to ever think I was tired on the amount of sleep I got pre-baby.
Of course, it’s 100% possible to be super tired without a baby. There were plenty of times I’d stayed up half the night, or we’d been traveling, or running around and by the end of the day I was pooped. It’s definitely possible to be tired without a kid. But that isn’t the kind of tiredness I’m talking about. I’m talking about next level shit. The bone-chilling soul-sucking exhaustion that makes you feel like you could literally fall over in your next step — that only comes from not sleeping more than one to four hours in a row for weeks on end.
Parental exhaustion is no joke. Prior to having C I was a champion sleeper. I could sleep 10+ hours in a row on a weekend. Hubby said my spirit animal was most likely a bear since I was so good at hibernating. I LOVED to sleep. I was good at it. And then I got pregnant – and the tiredness set in.
I think pregnancy is nature’s way of preparing you to never sleep a full night again. The lack of sleep was gradual for me. First I just had to get up to go to the bathroom, then I started feeling nauseous. A few weeks later my skin felt too tight. Then I finally fully quit sleeping when I got too big to roll over. I distinctly remember that the night before I went into labor I only slept four hours. I know this because all I wanted to do when I was at the hospital was to take a nap. Unfortunately, contractions were getting the best of me. There went another sleepless night.
Then came NEXT LEVEL exhaustion
Once our lady arrived, I didn’t routinely sleep more than 4 hours in a row until she was about 11 months. Hubby did help out when he could, and infrequently we gave her a bottle in the middle of the night so I could try and get more rest. After about six months she really just wanted the comfort of nursing. This meant I was getting up whether or not daddy went to see her. See more on surviving our first year of breastfeeding here. From the time I went back to work at 14 weeks until she was 11 months old I was up at least once between 10 – 5 a.m., sometimes twice.
It truly felt like a miracle when she started sleeping until 4-5 a.m. at 11 months. Of course, I was still tired and I immediately blacked out all the months I was up multiple times a night. But it was still LIFE CHANGING. It is incredible how differently your brain functions on more than 4-5 hours of sleep in a row. Finally at 12 months she started stretching to 6 a.m. and she’s been stuck in the 5:50-6:00 a.m. wake up range for almost three months now. This is a very different wake up call than I was used to. I’ve adjusted and have even made it out to jog a few times at 5:30 a.m. but I still wake up exhausted.
The new normal & tips to sleep a LITTLE more
By the time we get home from work, we still have to unpack her daycare items, have dinner, bath, bedtime, and clean the house and kitchen. After that, I’m fully pooped. Hubby is a saint and usually cooks dinner while I nurse and spend time with little lady. Then he cleans the kitchen and her cups and our lunch containers while I put her to bed. By the time we’re finished it’s 8 p.m. and I feel like I’ve run a marathon.
That’s when I check work emails again, finish anything urgent, and most recently have logged in to work on my blog. I try really hard to go to sleep by 10-10:30 so that I have a shot at waking up semi-refreshed. Unfortunately, it’s been closer to 11 p.m. when I’ve finally gotten to sleep. I wake up by 6 to start it all over again. I realize at this point I haven’t given a lot of helpful hints to actually DEAL with this exhaustion. However, I’m hoping by now you can tell that I feel your pain!
On the weekends I LOVE getting to spend more time with little lady C. Between chasing her around, feeding, naps, and errands, I’m just as tired by 5 p.m. as I am during the week. However, there are a few tricks the hubby and I have been using to help us both stay sane and get some rest:
How to deal
- Take a nap. Either when the baby naps, or let your spouse take the baby out for an hour. Although it’s definitely hard to prioritize this, it makes a huge difference. If you already have another child this may be more difficult. However, if you can trade off duties with your husband for this one it will make a huge difference.
- Trade off waking up early on the weekend. Once we’re done nursing either I or hubby will take little lady for a walk or to play downstairs. The key here is OUT OF THE ROOM OF THE SLEEPING SPOUSE and get breakfast started. This gives the other person another hour or two of blissful sleep.
- Go to bed earlier. Stop binge-watching TV, working, cleaning the house, bottles, etc. and just go to sleep. I know it’s hard, but trust me, if you get your body in the rhythm of going to sleep an hour or two earlier you’ll be much happier in the morning.
I know that these tips aren’t exactly earth-shattering, and may be easier said than done. But if you start using every extra hour you have for sleeping instead of trying to catch up on everything else you’ll start to at least feel *slightly* more rested.
Lately, I feel guilty that I’m missing time with her if I sleep on the weekends since we don’t see her very much during the week, but I’m still trying to prioritize some additional ZzZs to make sure I’m recharged for the week. I can only hope that this exhaustion won’t last for the next 18 years. To all my fellow tired mammas out there, good luck – I’m wishing you lots of sleep tonight!