My father taught us to pray, and so as children, we prayed for the big, global concepts (an end to poverty and hunger, peace in Sri Lanka, more Smurf figurines for children everywhere). We were not encouraged to pray for material things for ourselves but asking for qualities (such as courage and determination) was acceptable. I have dutifully, even religiously, followed the above parameters of prayer my entire life. That is, until a few nights ago, when I started asking God for “…one hour of sleep, please. Just one, I know you’re busy…”
For the last month, the House of Duck has been a House of Plague. It started with Newborn and a chest infection that lasted 2 weeks. At night, after screaming for two hours, he would finally fall asleep for 40 minutes. During this time I would condense a day’s worth of activities (including: eating, brushing my teeth, talking to our other three children, checking homework, micro-sleeping with my eyes open whilst Prima read to me etc), before slumping in an unwashed heap, just in time for Newborn to wake up.
He and I then got on an endless merry-go-round of 30 minutes of sleep, followed by 25 minutes of crying, followed by 30 minutes of sleep, followed by 25 minutes of crying.
This would continue until the sun mercifully rose and the day started. Things always seem marginally better in daylight.
Newborn eventually recovered and for a few days, all was well in our small but highly contagious world. Then of course Secundo (aged 5) came home with another chest infection (a new, more virulent strain it seems) and it was not long before Tercero (aged 2) and Newborn got it too.
Husband and I got back on the merry-go-round for another couple of weeks, and during this time, I compiled a list of “indicators” for next time – signs that will tell me in the future when it has all gone pear-shaped.
Signs to watch out for in the middle of an endless night of sleep deprivation:
1. I started talking to myself and referred to myself as “darling”, probably in a subconscious attempt to comfort and coach myself through until dawn;
2. I memorised the television schedule from 12am until 6am and started to look forward to the 4am re-runs of Star Trek (the original series);
2.1 When Newborn woke up for the eighth time in the night, I would reach for the alarm clock saying to myself “Don’t panic darling, it must be 3:30am, Star Trek will be on soon…” Of course, if it was only 12:42am, I would “treat myself” to an episode of Battle Star Galactica (the remake) which was all set up in the DVD player, with the remote control and a box of Ferrero Rochers by my bedside;
3. When Newborn vomited on me, I no longer changed clothes, preferring to dust off the chunky bits and fall back into bed, feeling damp and smelling milky;
4. I tried to teach Newborn the moves to MC Hammer’s “U can’t touch this.” He and I both found this hysterically funny and it provided a welcome break from the crying and coughing.
5. I started googling words such as “legal limit Nurofen for Children” (apparently I reached it at midnight); “strong paediatric sedative over the counter” (apparently this is only sold in countries I would be afraid to visit); “paediatric home lung suction device” (apparently this hasn’t been invented yet) and “do it yourself catheter” (so I could wee and rock the baby at the same time);
6. I started wishing this viral infection would go bacterial so the doctor would stop telling me “there’s something going around, it will help build his immunity” and give me some antibiotics;
6.1 I told the doctor that immunity is over-rated, unless it is diplomatic immunity which looks like fun;
6.2 I started wondering how long it would take me to retrain as a GP so I could write my own prescriptions for antibiotics;
7. I lost all compassion and sympathy for my sick child, resenting the constant crying and exhaustion it was causing;
7.1 Against the advice of Gina Ford, one time I made eye contact with Newborn when he woke up. I decided I would try smiling at him – he looked back at me from the crook of my arm, and still half asleep, he gave me his biggest, gummiest smile. It was so beautiful, I started crying.
7.2. I started asking God for a little sleep.
Last night I slept for eight hours, with one 20-minute interruption in the middle of the night, when Newborn had a coughing fit and needed a feed.
Tonight might be a good night, it might be another bad night, but today I feel like a whole new person. And when I say my prayers tonight, I shall say thank you that this is only a chest infection, I shall ask for the big, global concepts (including an improvement in infant and child health) but if God doesn’t mind, I will also put in a quick word for a small but important concept: more sleep for parents everywhere.