As we enter hour two of my 11-month-old refusing to go back to sleep, I decide I ‘m done.
It’s sometime around 1am.
She’s screaming and growling and won’t close her eyes. My baby won’t sleep and I’m so over it. “EFF THIS,” I whisper-shout to the empty air. “I quit.”
Night time parenting is a whole different ball game to day time parenting. During daylight hours, things never seem quite as bad. You may well be trapped, rocking 12 kilograms of child to sleep or having your nipples used as a chew toy, but you’re not completely alone.
There’s usually a friendly face on the other side of Instagram. There’s perspective, dammit. AND coffee. Technically, you can be rocking while sipping a large long black, and that makes things infinitely more manageable.
At night? At night, there is nobody to hear you (whisper) scream. The world as you know it, is asleep (those lucky, lucky bastards).
Minutes stretch for hours when my baby won’t sleep. Your thoughts start to scramble and you enter what I fondly term ‘night time derangement’. This is when you start making deals with anyone who will listen. “If you’ll just let me put this baby down and return to my bed then I’ll XYZ.” This is also the time when you may decide to call it quits.
Walking off the job
The thing with parenting is that it’s really hard to quit. Yes, you can do the bare minimum at times but actually quitting? There’s some logistical (not to mention ethical and emotional) issues there. But that doesn’t mean you won’t WANT to quit. Hell no. You may well picture, vividly, what would happen if you simply placed the baby in their cot and walk out. Where to? You have no idea. The train station? The 24 hour Kmart five suburbs over? The Macca’s drive through for a long black (screw you rules, I’ll drink my coffee whenever I damn well please)? A tent in the garden? Wherever you go, you’re positive it will be better than where you are right now.
I have no doubt that women (and men probably) the world over have thought this EXACT thing. Heck, some may have followed through.
Because at times, parenting grinds you down, especially when baby won’t sleep. They don’t tell you that in the books. They can’t. It’s impossible to explain just how exhausting being acutely needed all the time, truly is. The knowledge that you are the ONLY one who can do what you’re doing, is terrifying. And, in true parenting form, there’s usually a hefty helping of guilt heaped on top. Because you know how lucky you are to have this baby, these children. You know that there’s a league of women who would give everything they own to be in your shoes. And here you are, wanting to run (very fast) away from it all. It’s a headf**k, that’s for sure.
The light at the end of the tunnel
I was deadly serious about wanting to quit. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve felt that way. Nights where sleep is, quite literally, a dream will do strange things to a girl. But I didn’t walk away. Call it a primal instinct, call it the residual effect of the coffee I’d sunk earlier but somehow, I found a way to keep on keeping on.
That’s what mothers do. We stumble but we drag ourselves back up to the plate. We show up, even when we’re barely conscious and in precarious grip of our sanity.
All babies will eventually sleep. Whether it’s a god awful night, a long term stint of sleeplessness or a child who has never slept through the night well into toddlerhood. One day, they will sleep. And until then? There’s coffee, all the coffee.
Suffering sleep deprivation (welcome to the club)? Check out our top tips for surviving life sans snooze time.