If I had a dollar for every person who told me, while I was pregnant, to cherish my sleep – now before the baby comes – I’d be a very rich woman. I would be so wealthy that most likely right now as we speak, I’d be mingling with the likes of Richard Branson and Madonna on the Mediterranean island I just bought while a very expensive nanny stays at home and raises my babies.
I also may have a accrued a criminal record for myself because I could have very easily knocked the smug smiles of each and every person’s face who dared utter those words to me.
What a thing to say to someone. How it is in any way helpful, I do not know.
Now, I just curl myself up into a tight ball and take swigs of my very strong coffee as I grudgingly admit that they were, of course, right.
Sleep-deprivation turns good people bad.
Sleep-deprivation makes the world horribly abrasive.
It turns you reckless.
Without boring you with details, let’s just say that I don’t really sleep anymore. Not for more than two hours at a time, anyway. And no, my sweet friends, it’s not fun. Not for me. Not for Joel. Especially not for Joel. And yes, my sweet friends, I’ve tried things. I’ve read books, I’ve taken advice. I never STOP trying things.
Maybe she’s teething. Maybe she’s an insomniac. Maybe she just dislikes me. Who can be sure, really.
Every morning Ella wakes at an hour so early I would never put in writing because I wouldn’t want to give all you lovely people heart attacks. That’s just the kind of person I am. I know you’re busy.
After she wakes and I drag her into bed with me willing her to close her far-too-open eyes, some hours pass and I then look with dread upon the sun as it rises and cracks through my window. Most mornings I curse this rising sun and wail to myself ALREADY? SERIOUSLY? DON’T YOU KNOW I’M STILL TIRED? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT THIS BABY JUST WON’T QUIT? And I feel so utterly overwhelmed that I have to ACTUALLY FUNCTION all day on this level of sleeplessness that it just makes me feel all desperate and crazy.
And, you guys, I know.
I know this is a bad frame of mind to wake up in. I know I’m not being grateful for my moments. I know it’s not positive or good or helpful. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s how it is.
Anyway, the next thing I know, I find myself hovering at the entrance of the cafe down the road, eagerly awaiting the warm and strong medicine that is inside. Joel says nothing as I thump my weary feet around the house before I leave, grabbing keys and money and making loud dying noises. Just like he says nothing when I take my vitamins while simultaneously gulping coffee, eating chocolate for breakfast and, at night, guzzling alcohol like it’s water.
He does not pass judgement. He does not make any remarks about how contradictory my behaviour is. About how much I’ve changed. He does not say a word. Which is very smart of him, of course.
They know me by name down at the coffee shop. They know to be kind to me.
This morning I hobbled in. The girl who was working, my favourite one, took one look at me and said “Rough night?”
I just nodded.
Which is what I usually do when I’m feeling fragile, because if I start talking I’m afraid I won’t stop and I don’t like to unload onto poor innocent people whose job it is to make me coffee, give me a pleasant smile and send me off on my sweet little way.
But I think she sensed that I needed to unload, this girl, which is secretly why she’s my favourite. She got me talking. She sat down beside me and nodded and gasped and smiled in all the right moments and when I finally had to drag myself home, she gave me a packet of Italian biscuits as I was leaving.
Just a little something, she said. It might help. And always, AS ALWAYS, I was so struck by another person’s kindness that I thought to myself, It’s not little. It’s so not little.
I hugged her and scurried off, because, you guys, I overuse tears as much as I overuse italics and capital letters and I just had to get out of there.
When I got home I already felt better. Plus, the caffeine had politely made its way into my bloodstream, which always, always helps. I opened up my computer and checked my emails while Joel was still at home and I could enjoy my last few moments of me-time before he made his way to work. When I logged on, I found an email waiting for me from a woman I know and from whom I had not heard from in a long time.
What a thing to read on such a day. JUST the thing.
She told me that she’d been reading my blogs. And she gave me some compliments which always does wonders for my mood. She’s a mother, and a grandmother, so she had many stories to share. She’d taken the time to write me an incredibly long, incredibly heart-felt email which I will summarize for you in two words.
Just I know.
I soaked in every line of her writing and there were two in particular which leaped off the page and landed straight inside my bones.
She wrote, “You too have been given this wondrous gift of motherhood. Grab it my darling, with both hands.”
I read it again and again and I loved it so very much because it gave me such a wonderful image. Of motherhood. Of life. Of all things, really.
Grab it my darling, with both hands.
Because, I thought, what other option do I have? What other option do any of us have really, other than to jump right into the full catastrophe that is Life and get dirty and exhausted and delirious and exhilarated and battered and fragile and amazed. Who says it’s supposed to be any other way, anyway? And, really, do we even want a life that we don’t grab tightly with both hands?
She then wrote, “I am sure many people will have told you that this is part of a bad dream, and you will only remember the love. Don’t believe it. As with everything worthwhile, it is very hard work. But the rewards are immeasurable.”
Which is a word I really, really like.
And which, of course, is the truth.
She didn’t make me feel bad for not being grateful. She didn’t trivialize my experiences of new motherhood like those who know motherhood often do. She just said I know.
When I finished reading her email, I felt a million times better. I felt like a had a fresh pair of glasses from which to peer out from. And, at the risk of sounding corny, I thought, like I always do, that Life, when you hush up enough to really notice it, is always ALWAYS at work behind the scenes. It always offers you tiny specks of sunshine which you can choose to magnify or choose to ignore. And I thought, like I always do, that wherever there is suffering, there is always beauty – just as long as someone takes a little time out of their day to offer it to the person who can’t quite see it yet.
I had two people in one day.
What a day.