The past few weeks have been especially trying in our house. A wave of pestilence has swept through, leaving teary toddlers, frazzled parents, and lots and lots of boogers in its wake. It started innocently enough–Cade had a bad head cold, keeping him out of day care for the week. He recovered on Friday — hooray! Grady went down on Saturday, and hard. Off to the hospital with a very high fever. Blam! RSV and a double ear infection. Antibiotics and some good love and he was almost 100% by Monday. Monday night. Boom! Cade goes down again. Off to the doctor on Tuesday. RSV and a double ear infection. Antibiotics and some good love, and he was not much better after two days. Back to the doctor. Ruptured ear drum. New antibiotics and ear drops.
Amid the swirl of plague, there was not much sleep happening. Cade and I were awake several nights on the couch, lit only by the blue glow of Friends reruns on Nick at Night. Today, now that everyone is feeling a little better, my husband said to me, “I think we did pretty well with all of this.” I agree. It was a crazy week, but we feel like pros now, where even a year ago we were a disorganized mess.
Those first weeks home from the hospital with a newborn are very good training for all of the sleepless joys that await down the road. And seeing as we’ve only been sleeping through the night for about four months, all of that training is very fresh in our brains.
More importantly, I have perspective now that we’re out of the soup. To anyone who is just starting this tilt-a-whirl, I offer the following nuggets of wisdom. Pay attention: 97% of these were learned the hard way.
- There is no time in your life when you will be as bone-flattenly exhausted as you will be the first week home. Labor and delivery is easy peasy lemon squeezie. Expelling an eight pound human from your body is nothing compared to this. It will squash your energy, confidence, and higher thinking skills like a potato bug under a steamroller. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are. You and your spouse should enter this week with the expectation that you will get four hours of sleep–perhaps total–for the week. You will still experience love and joy and marvel and all that other good stuff, but you won’t remember it later. The stupor of exhaustion will rob you of the ability to form new long-term memories.
- Be kind to your spouse. He or she is likely getting more sleep than you are, but that doesn’t mean that they feel well-rested. There’s plenty of tired for everyone. Do NOT count how many hours of sleep you or your spouse had on any given day. It will only make you bitter.
- Find some good TV for the wee hours. Old classics are the best — odds are you’ve seen them before, so you’re not too invested in an episode if you are lucky enough to nod off.
- When given the choice between a shower and a nap, take the nap. Every third time, take the shower. Smelling like a hobo will not make you feel better.
- Before the baby comes, stock your freezer with as many frozen meals as you can cram in there. It was a year before I had the energy and brain power to cook again. Nobody should eat that much Chinese food. I’m pretty sure we put the delivery guy’s kids through college.
This last one is key: accept help. Your good friends and family will not care how messy your house is, if you serve them a beverage, or if you smell like you’ve been sleeping under a highway overpass. Let them in to cook and clean. They WANT to do it for you. Odds are, they know how tired you are. Let them hold the baby for an hour or two so you can sleep. They will seriously not view it as an imposition. And if they do, it’s time to find yourself some better friends.