It’s 2 am. I’m awake. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped sleeping through the night. It’s easy to blame it on motherhood. It may have started before that but I’m sure it definitely got worse when I was pregnant. In your tummy they only seem to sleep as long as you’re up and moving. As soon as you lay down to rest or (banish the thought) sleep, it’s baby-party time. Then there’s the restless legs, the sore back. All your favourite sleeping positions are either impossible to get into or actually banned. You need three (or five) pillows to reach some form of comfort. Obviously that many can make the bed pretty warm -especially when you’re equipped with your own little internal radiator, not to mention all the extra layers of fat you’ve put on in the past few months.
Then one day they’re born and the real trouble starts. For the first few weeks babies are so noisy you feel like you’ve moved next to a tube station –rush hour. I’m not even talking about the crying here, no, just general noisy breathing and all sorts of weird grunts no-one ever told you about. The funny thing is, on the day they suddenly stop the groaning, sighing and weird moaning, you lay there wide awake, wondering if they have stopped breathing altogether. You tell yourself of course they haven’t, don’t be crazy Mama, but you have to check anyway. So when you’re not awake because you’ve just fed them and have long lost the ability to quickly go back to sleep, you are worrying about their irregular breathing, or silent breathing, or whatever else you haven’t been able to do during the day because time has suddenly accelerated. Did I mention that you are also, so, so tired that the only thing you seem to excel at anymore is second-guess yourself. I’m not trying to put off anyone, just saying it the way it really is (wait and see if your don’t believe me).
Other parents keep repeating to you, like a soothing mantra, that it gets better. You can’t see it yet because at this stage, you can only think ahead five minutes or so and everything else is really fuzzy. The truth is, it does. It really does get better. I know. My son is seven. My only son and that’s by choice –we’ll come back to that another day. I love spending time with him, even when he drives me completely insane. I’m glad the baby years are gone and I look forward to every new day.
For now though, it’s 2.15 in the morning and I’m wide awake. I don’t mind too much. Years of experience have made me confident that sleep will come back. I read on the black screen of my phone, minimum luminosity, maximum yellow light. I’ve made the cream-coloured letters as big as they can get, so I don’t need my reading glasses. It also means that only a few lines actually fit the screen: I am constantly flicking to the next page. Never mind, I can already feel the gentle cold of the night seep through the duvet. My body cools down. Sleep comes.
At 6, the cat makes it known (loudly) that his breakfast time has come. He also wants us to vacate the bed so, once fed, he can sleep in it for the rest of the day. It’s alright for some.
My morning routine is a mad rush through an impossibly long list of tasks, but by the time I’m finished everyone’s had breakfast (cat first), lunch boxes are ready, dinner is cooked and the kitchen is clean and tidy. Sometimes I throw in a batch of baking. Or fresh bread is needed. Or yoghurts. Or whatever else I’ve somehow in my demented state decided that I should never buy but make myself so as to save my little family from chemical poisoning.
At breakfast today, Titi is at his clumsiest. This is often the case just after he’s had a growth spurt -as if his brain needed to get used to the bigger limbs. After the third time he drops something and since I’ve already had to clean up a whole lot of spilled bird seeds, I am tempted to get irritated. Fortunately on this occasion I see the sharp remark coming and I remember the effect these used to have on me while I grew up. I ask him if he’s afraid of being clumsy for the rest of his life. He says he is. I am surprised and sad –and immensely guilty. I tell him I used to be very uncoordinated, and how crazy it used to drive my dad. Sometimes he would laugh, I recall. Not often. A bit like me, I tell Titi. I add that I have come to believe that the clumsiest you are as a child, the more dexterous you become later. It puts a smile on his face. Really? he says. Really, my darling boy.
I drive him to school even though there is a bus. We use those few minutes to do math drills, which is basically the only math homework he does. I know it sounds lazy but somehow it seems to be more than anyone else is doing. I know this as a fact because once a week, I volunteer to spend a couple of hours testing the kids for progress (in many cases actually teaching them so they have a chance to progress). This is on Fridays, which I also use as a house-cleaning and grocery-shopping day. I am very lucky to enjoy the luxury of a free weekday. Too many moms have to squeeze all of this in their spare time.
The see sparkles under the bright morning sun as we drive on. Boy delivered to school, I can go for a run. After 15 minutes of intense procrastination, which is way below my average, I am out the door. How come it’s so hard going when, during my short visit to France just a few weeks ago, it felt so easy and joyous? I blame the house and its strong female, over-protective energy. I blame the country and its minerals-lacking soil, over-chemically-sprayed produce. But if I am honest, I mostly blame myself for getting into some pretty bad habits over the years.
The sun is hot on my skin as I jog. It’s difficult at first but I’ve done 3 km before I hear the first defeating voices in my head. They come up to the surface of my consciousness in waves. I push through their invitation to give up, they go quiet. Until the next wave. “It’s sooooo painful,” I hear myself think. I take a toll of the actual pain and find mild discomfort at most. “I can’t breathe.” Yet I am, it’s gonna be okay. On and on goes the moaning. I do five K’s in the end, my pace isn’t too bad. I aim to do that three times a week. When I manage two it’s a good week.
The rest of the day will be work (with more procrastination beforehand). If I manage well I’ll also get to talk to other human beings. If I’m really lucky they will be of the sane category. I’ll smile my best smiles and be at my friendliest (unless I’m in a really bad mood or period of the month in which case I may bite). I’ll pretend that I know exactly what I’m doing all the time and keep on denying that there is a whole world of self doubt and craziness going on inside. Welcome to the unhinged word of a lost mama.