Sleep: Before and After Children

Today's survival method

Today’s survival method

I had one of those nights last night. Actually, who am I kidding? This is what it’s like most nights.

In amidst the weird dreams and the random wakings of a small child I tried to remember as much of it as possible so I could write it down.

It went something like this.

9pm: Both children finally asleep.

10pm: Can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Time for bed.

10.15pm: Read for ten minutes but the words keep merging into bizarre sentences. Lights out.

12am: Husband comes to bed. Trips over something and smashes into the radiator. I’m awake now. But actually that’s okay because I was dreaming I was in the middle of the Syrian conflict. Damn you HONY for humanising it so I can imagine all the stories of the poor people trapped by war.

12.30am: Finally get back to sleep, although husband’s snoring sounds like a frenzied horse. Think about putting the ear plugs in, but my ears are sore from wearing them so much.

3am: Son gets up for a wee, leaves the bathroom light on and comes in to say he can’t sleep. Send him back to bed, but the bathroom light is shining like a searchlight onto my face.

3.15am: Find the energy to get up: son is out cold. Turn out the bathroom light, but the damage is done. I’m wide awake.

3.30am: My brain starts writing this blog post. It has a ‘blogging’ voice that takes over and all I can do is listen. I want it to shut up. Try the meditation breathing techniques I learned from this video, which I discovered through Helen Yendall’s blog post, but it’s not working.

3.45am: Husband’s snoring sounds like an asthmatic bear. It’s ruining my concentration on my own breathing. Meditation isn’t working anyway. The blogging voice won’t be quiet. I’d get up and write some notes but my body seems to be full of cement.

5am: Think I must have slept because son wakes me from a strange dream about being in a supermarket. He doesn’t ask this time, just crawls into bed. I’m too tired to send him away and, after my odd dream, a cuddle is nice.

6am: Son has been stroking my arms and hands for an hour. I feel like ants in running spikes are crawling all over my skin. I keep telling him to stop but I don’t have the energy to send him back to bed.

6.15am: Finally roll over so son can’t reach any bare skin. He finds my feet, which is the worst feeling in the world. I curl up in a ball and eventually he says, “can I have the iPad, Mummy?” Send him away to watch programmes.

6.45am: Daughter comes in to say she needs a poo.

6.50am: Wipe daughter’s bottom. Go back to bed.

7.15am: Son asks if he can go downstairs. I mutter something unintelligible and he goes away.

8am: Son yells that he’s finished. I go and wipe his bottom. Try going back to bed, but it’s too late, I’m up. The in-laws are coming for lunch and I have to tidy the house and make crumble. I feel like I’ve had twenty minutes sleep and half a bottle of vodka. The night seemed a hundred hours long.

I remember what it was like before children. It went something like this:

10pm: TV show is boring, go upstairs to read.

12am: Tear myself away from the book because I have work in the morning and need to sleep.

7am: Alarm goes off. Is it morning already?

The Wonder of Sleep: 2013 365 Challenge #166

Walking the dog

Walking the dog

Life has been good recently.

With an extra half day of childcare to get on top of the housework, and lots of lovely feedback on my next book, I’ve been feeling unusual sensations: Confidence. Enjoyment.

The sun has been shining and it felt like summer in my heart, if not always outside the front door.

Then I started to struggle with sleep. And the school debate reared its head, so the sleep got worse. Now, for three nights in a row (at least, I’ve lost count) I’ve been woken every two hours, and everything’s gone to pot.

Spot the dog!

Spot the dog!

Last night I went to bed on a large glass of wine, hoping to sleep through. All it meant was the two-hour shifts of sleep left me groggy and unable to get up. I broke. Low and behold, my life reverted to what it was before. Crying before breakfast, shouting before morning snack. Unable to concentrate, unable to smile.

My family are amazing. Hubbie and kids were full of sympathy and cuddles. When I sobbed in Tesco because my Clubcard vouchers had expired, Amber said, “It’s alright Mummy,” before I’d even managed to apologise. I think maybe seeing the difference for themselves, seeing that it isn’t just words when I say, “Sorry, Mummy’s tired,” has made them take the tears and shouting less to heart.

Enjoying the evening sun

Enjoying the evening sun

Doesn’t stop them being little monkeys of course but you can’t expect miracles from preschoolers.

So now I’m yawning and stumbling my way round the field with the dog, trying to smile at the sun but really praying for bedtime and a night where my lovely family don’t take it in turns to wake me.

On the plus side, I didn’t cry when I got back to the car this afternoon, with two tired and cranky kids, to find a scribbled note under the wiper that said, “You have a flat tyre.” I didn’t shout at hubbie when I rang him and he said, “Oh yes, that went flat when I borrowed your car last week, just pump it up, it’ll be fine.”

There’s something to be proud of on the darkest of days. Night night.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“This isn’t a trek; this is just taking the bloody thing for a walk.” Claire looked up at the creature trying to eat her hat. “Cut it out!” The llama smirked at her down its long nose, and chewed insolently.

Claire caught sight of Maggie, her expression somewhere between amusement and disapproval. She held her finger to her lips and Claire looked round guiltily, realising there were children in earshot.

She tugged on the lead and the animal trotted on behind her, like the twisted off-spring of a dog and a giraffe.

The children laughed and giggled, as they walked the llamas along the country lane. At the front, a guide chatted about the local plant and animal life, although the children paid little attention. Maggie paused to let Claire catch up.

“Not what you were expecting?”

“Well, no. I went pony trekking in the New Forest. I was on the pony, not pulling it along behind me.”

“This is for the children, not you! They’re only 8 and 9 years old. Grooming and walking a llama is just their level. Plus we don’t have to worry about the health and safety paperwork if one of them were to fall off! Anyway, the fun comes later.” She threw a cheeky glance at Claire, who felt a heavy feeling in her stomach.

“Why did I let you talk me into this?”

“Because you were bored and wanted some company, some fun? Admit it, you’re having fun?”

Claire shook her head, her lip stuck out in a pout.

“Now you look like a nine-year-old.” The women laughed. “So, where to next, Claire?”

“Ironbridge Coalport, wherever that is.”

“Ah, that’s over in Shropshire. Lovely. Visit the Blist Hill Victorian Village, it will give you something different to write about on that website of yours. You can go for a ride in the horse and cart, if you’re tired of walking!”

With a nod, Claire tugged the lead of her llama and followed the giggling children back for lunch, wishing that Maggie could come with her to her next hostel. There was something infectious about the woman, something warm, that made her happy.

*

“Come on, Miss Carleton!”

Claire looked over her shoulder at the girl behind her and resisted the urge to swear. She gripped the rubber handles tightly in sweaty hands and willed her creaking knees to try harder. I will not lose to a nine-year old. She glanced over at the blonde-haired girl to her right, who was giggling so hard she didn’t hear the instruction to go.

Pulling hard on the handles, Claire bounced the space hopper along the grass towards the marker. Behind her she could hear her other team mates yelling and urging her on. Her thighs burned. I’m going to kill you, Maggie. She couldn’t see the woman, but she knew she was grinning, just as she had been when she volunteered Claire to take her place in the races.

I’ve seen her tramp along the road quicker than I could run. Playing the old-age card, so that I have to endure sack races and space hoppers: That’s just low. She scowled, but somewhere deep inside a sensation bubbled. Claire didn’t need to analyse it, she didn’t want to. Maggie would be too smug.

The feeling bubbled up higher, until the words were in her mind.

This is fun.

***

Waiting, Dragons, Tennis and Sleep

Wimbledon 2007 – photo by Kol Tregaskes on Flickr

Pictures of Love, my WIP, is out with beta readers. I’ve never had anyone but family or agents read my work before. The former have always loved it, the latter rejected it. So I wait with more than a small amount of trepidation.

To use the time well (hopefully) I have gone back to my Young Adult book, Dragon Wraiths, which I hope to enter in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition in September. I had put the idea on hold, because the rules state: Women who have had a novel published commercially, for any age group, in any country, are not eligible.

As I hope to self-publish Pictures of Love in August, I figured that meant I couldn’t enter. But I read the rules again, more closely, and it says Self-published manuscripts are eligible, so it’s game on.

Only now I’ve read the rules again I’ve spotted that the entry is 3000 words with no synopsis.

Eek.

The dragons don’t come in until Part Two, a third of the way through the book, and the weighty stuff about global warming etc comes in Part Three, (assuming I can research enough by the September deadline; it’s a new addition to the story).

How can I get enough plot into 3000 words to hook a reader, and still have character development, voice, YA themes and all that jazz, without a synopsis? I guess I have to finish the first draft and see how much time I have left before I worry about it.

That’s if I can stay awake.

Youngest child has had an ear infection, together with a lovely temperature of 39.2 for days, so sleep has been a rare commodity all round. Husband and I have been staggering about sighing I’m so tired; so much so that it’s my eldest child’s favourite excuse every time she has the screaming heebie-jeebies (by the way, I love that Word has that in its dictionary!).

“But mummy I’m just so tired, that’s why I lashed out and threw something at you.”

I have to bite my tongue on snapping back, “You slept for ten hours last night, I’ve barely had that this whole week!”

One of the by-products of sleep deprivation is that I, too, become a tiresome three-year-old.

As a result, my return to writing today, after two weeks without penning a word, as I wrestled with Lulu printing and e-book formatting (posts to come), only lasted until lunchtime. Then I had to admit defeat, close the laptop and turn on the tennis. I saw about three shots before I fell asleep.

Now I’m walking the dog, hoping the rain and soggy trousers will wake me up enough to finish my chapter before I collect the kids.

Or I might go nap in front of Murray.

This is WriterMummy saying night night.

 

P.S. Can’t sleep. Murray is making me too nervous. Come on Murray, hold your serve!