“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
How often has an expecting mother heard this phrase? Countless times if you ask me. I as well as many other moms-to-be I’m sure have brushed those words aside and considered them to be an old wives tale. My experience with my firstborn and pushing myself to the limit taught me the hard way that this is true, and I was sure to pass on this advice to all new mothers.
Sleep when your baby sleeps and don’t apologize for it.
When my daughter was born, I was in a frenzy of baths, diapers, crying and breastfeeding. Add to that two entire months of welcoming friends and family to my home with a colicky baby put me in a situation where I had to soothe her and leave my guests alone waiting, or be with them and leave her cry, or try to do both which was virtually impossible. I’m sure every new mother can relate to this struggle.
But before this there were the critical two weeks post delivery where I realized I had burned out which led me to exhaustion the months after. Let me walk you through it. I have never been dependent on anyone in my life and when I gave birth I wanted to be the sole caretaker for my baby. I started doing so but after exclusively breastfeeding and feeding on demand became a 24/7 task I became fatigued. There was no bottle for anyone to help me with or take shifts, there was no time for me to get any sleep, I was hands on all the time and I thought I was a superwoman. Little did I know that I was overworking myself when in fact I could have had some rest. When she napped I never napped, when she slept I stayed up, when I had someone to care for her I went out to get errands done. I felt invincible, like a woman of steel. I refused to accept that my body needed to recover from excruciating labor and difficult natural childbirth. I ignored the first clue which was the fact that after those two weeks I was supposed to go out during the day for some light shopping and as soon as I arrived I couldn’t walk and immediately sat down. That was the time frame the doctor gives any new mother as the green light to continue with her life, but because I hadn’t had any rest I was on the verge of a physical breakdown.
Fast forward a couple of months I was back to work full time plus overtime. I don’t believe I ever got over that period and afterwards I got (and still get) bouts of fatigue and of being unable to get out of bed or needing to sleep all day. The truth is, there is no pause button in a mother’s life, so if you think you will one day sleep a solid 8 or 10 hours, or be fully energetic, that’s a huge no.
My refusal to accept that my body had just created a life and that body needed rest didn’t manifest until the third week post partum. I opted to put on a strong front when all I needed was for someone to not take no for an answer and to restate that I should sleep when my baby slept. With my second baby, that is exactly what I did, I made use of every single nap of his; I silenced my phone, got under those sheets and napped for as long as I was able to, because I had learned the hard way that everything else can wait.