If you’ve followed along at all on my various social outlets then you know we struggled greatly with extreme sleep deprivation for almost the entire first year of my daughter’s life. It’s how I tackle my problems, sharing. (Or over-sharing I suppose, depending on who you’re talking to and which yardstick I’m being measured with) So I’ve been pretty open about it from the beginning. We’ve since settled into a more rested groove – not picture-perfect but welcomed into grateful, exhausted arms nonetheless. With a brighter-eyed perspective, I’m now able to look back and take in our story as a whole. A much easier task than the daily slogging through that I just barely seemed to manage, to be sure. It’s interesting to see which parts were the most difficult in contrast and even more so, the catalysts for those intensely difficult passages.
It turns out the hardness, the impossibility of it all, wasn’t actually counted in the number of hours (or some nights, minutes) of sleep obtained. It often was a matter of my perspective. It was measured by the dog in my fight.
You see, when you’re fighting a losing battle it is inherently self-destructive to continue on. Some would argue, if you’re going to lose you might as well go out guns blazing. And I would have to agree there are scenarios in which you should grit your teeth and dig in ’till the very end. But this was a time where I had to use my last, meager stores of energy to wave my snot-stained burp rag-turned-white flag.
There were weeks where I would document every second spent awake or asleep. Even when the numbers tallied up to something laughably horrific, it made me feel – however briefly – I had a hold of things. Like I was in control. Eventually though, the exhaustion would melt my bones and I would admit defeat. And so the dance would go. Stiffen, relax. Tension, breathe.
There came a point where I had to ask myself, could I fight this? Should I fight this? Does it even matter if I fight this? When I stepped back and truly tapped into my self-awareness, I realized it was largely my own stubborn pride fanning the flames. Self-preservation and survival obviously had parts to play, yes. But really it was the need to win.
The need to win what, though? She is my daughter. Not an enemy to be conquered.
And so it was in my surrender, I found relief. In letting go I gained freedom and peace. My meditative mantra, “Right now, it’s like this.” Absolute acceptance. I went into survival mode and decided to not spend what little energy I had, trying to predict my wildly unpredictable daughter. I eliminated anything that drained my pitiful rest resources that wasn’t completely necessary. I released myself from all but the barest minimum of responsibilities. I accepted whatever help was offered and then asked for more. I gave myself permission to stop caring about the (admittedly, sometimes perceived) opinions of others; it was the heaviest weight I set down – my greatest act of self-care. “Right now, it’s like this and fuck what they think.”
And somehow, it was the tiniest bit manageable. When I wasn’t obsessing over how could I possibly make it through this, I was able to make it through.
Now, I don’t want to dismiss the undeniable need for sleep. It is a fact, we need sleep to live, as much as we need air or food or water. We can go without, but not for long. So if you’re in the trenches of this war, cursing my simplistic hippie logic, please hear me – I know. I know you are crumbling and you need a village. I know you’re angry and hurt and frustrated. I know you’re confused and lost and just. so. tired. For God’s sake, you are enduring literal torture while also keeping small humans alive and if that’s not the most tumultuous combination then I don’t know what is. You are the very essence of strength and love. I wish I could tell you I had the answers, a fast-acting solution to rescue you from this special hell.
I don’t. And I’m so sorry. Right now, it’s like this.
I am here to tell you it’s ok. It’s ok to give up. It’s ok to throw your hands in the air and say, “Fuck it. I’m not going to try and fix you. Because you’re not a problem to be fixed.” There are days we need to fight. We need to strap on our armor and steel ourselves for the sake of our babes, for us. And on those days, fight on Mama – I’m here if you need the reinforcements. But there are other days, days like this where surrender is the bravest thing you can do.
Know this – Your baby is not broken. Your baby is not bad. You did not cause this through faulty parenting. It will feel like forever, though it is only temporary. You are not alone. You will make it. Right now, it’s like this.
Right now, it’s like this.
You are not alone. And right now, it’s like this.
Feeling some sleep deprivation yourself? Want to put it down in words? Get in touch and contribute to our Voices of Parenting series here at Punky Moms!