Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Sleep Deprivation

A rare moment of sleep...
I remember what sleep used to be like.  In fact, I was quite a fan of it.  It wasn't unusual as a single girl for me to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and then lie in bed snoozing most of the day.  Occasionally, I would transfer myself from bed to the settee to veg in front of the TV and snooze some more - accompanied by the ever present and unobjecting cat of course.  All of this seems like such a fond memory now....rather utopian in fact...

Before becoming a mother, I had of course heard that sleep would be in short supply and I knew that as a newborn, I would be getting up with him multiple times a night.  Of course, in the early days, I didn't actually *have* to get up because the Neonatal Nurses did it for me, but based on my passionate commitment to offer Adam breastmilk, I got up to express anyway.  Once Adam was discharged from hospital, the reality kicked in as we were indeed up with him multiple times a night - every two hours at first.  

But here's the thing - I did actually expect there would be a point when I would be able to sleep again.  A point when the sheer exhaustion would ease because he learned how to sleep through the night.  I didn't know when this would start happening, but I sort of figured it might get better around six months or so as he started to eat solid food and so the calories would last him through the night.


First came the suggestion that because of his colic, Adam might wake up more at night.  Next was the suggestion that darkness was equal to sensory deprivation because with limited or distorted hearing, losing sight in the darkness means losing any sensory clues to indicate relative safety.  So where children with full senses can wake in the night and feel soothed by the presence of ordinary household sounds, or even a parent's voice, this would not be an easy option for Adam.  Despite our certainty that he does have some hearing, we've never been able to soothe him at night by voice alone and are still not able to do so.  After this, as it became clear that weaning and eating would not be an easy pathway for him, based on what was later named as a Behavioural Eating Disorder and still later with the suggestion of Silent Reflux added, filling up easily on calories during the day to sustain him at night did not come easily.  Then, as breathing problems and regular bronchial infections made it harder both to breathe and to lie down at night without constant coughing, his inability to sleep through the night was given another explanation.

Now, as Adam has turned two, his sleep pattern is still influenced by a combination of all of these things.  In other words, it is perfectly normal for Adam to wake up as a bare minimum twice a night - it is far, far more common for him to wake up anywhere between four to eight times a night.  Sometimes, these wakeful moments can be quickly soothed by offering him Dumbles and a soothing stroke of his head until he resettles.  Sometimes, he needs to be picked up and cuddled for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours before he can sleep again.  Sometimes, he needs medication - typically inhalers to ease his breathing - along with soothing before being able to sleep again.  

Sometimes - like this past Sunday night - Adam can't sleep at all because lying down to sleep means coughing until he vomits.  So, while both Chris and I went to bed at 10pm, we got up with him as he coughed and choked at 11:30.  We both stayed up with him until 2am at which point, I took him downstairs to lie on my lap in a sitting position but cuddling in hopes he would be able to sleep while Chris went back to bed.  The only way to soothe him was through watching his favourite films (The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child) twice each before he could even doze.  This took us to 3am when I tried to take him back up to his cot (currently once again back in our room for his own safety) but by 3:30 he was coughing again and by 4am I was back downstairs with him until 7:30am when Chris woke up and I went to bed for two hours before getting up again.  

All of this to say, that now Adam is two, my vague notions of sleeping through the night by six months seems a very distant - and almost laughable - memory.  And my hopes for being able to sleep through the night at any point in the near future seems equally unlikely.  Exhaustion is now far more familiar to me now than feeling rested.  Despite this, I have realised that I am actually far stronger than I ever used to believe because even without any pattern of regular sleep, I'm still working, studying and far more importantly, taking care of Adam.  I'm honestly not sure if something has changed in me because being a mother (and mother of a disabled child at that) awakens that coping instinct which just forces me to keep going or whether or not I was always capable of dealing with less sleep than I thought.  It certainly means I have a constant intravenous caffeine infusion running and am more than likely keeping Taylor and Harrogate in business!  All of that said that of course I wouldn't turn the clock back because regaining that blissful state of sleep would also mean not having Adam so it is worth it...well at times it feels more worth it than really, it is worth it.  


Oh how I miss eight - or ten - hours of sleep...

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