Saturday, 24 September 2016

The highs and lows

I'm reading this book at the moment called All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, which is all about the impact having children has on their parents. One of the parts that has stuck in my mind is the research findings of the happiness of parents vs. non-parents. The author writes for New York magazine, and wrote a story examining studies that showed that parents are no happier than non-parents, and in some cases are actually a lot less happy. That sounds pretty negative, but when digging deeper the research shows that parents tend to experience more highs, as well as more lows, than non-parents. Raising children, it would seem, is a very "high cost/high reward" activity. A more positive finding from the research is that parents report greater feelings of meaning and reward in their lives than non-parents, so I guess it's not all bad news for us! Last weekend I really felt like I could relate to this research, as I was reminded of how quickly moods and feelings can change when you have a child.

Friday night Andy and I stayed in, ordered pizza and watch a few episodes of Narcos on Netflix. Season 2 is pretty epic, even more so than season 1. We both in a great mood as Friday was the last day of term, so we had a whole two weeks of school holidays to look forward to. We had an early night, and woke on Saturday at 5:30am, with the joyful realisation that all three of us had slept through the night. There is nothing like waking up to realise that you have been asleep for a whole EIGHT HOURS. It is pretty much the best thing ever. It is becoming more of a regular thing for us as well, which is wonderful. We enjoyed coffees together in the early morning before Ella woke, and then did our usual yoga/swimming routine, before coming home and putting Ella down for her nap. Domestic bliss.

That afternoon we joined some friends who had organized a pub crawl in the Collingwood and Fitzroy area, which is conveniently walking distance for us. A pub crawl sounds more like something from our pre-baby lives, but it started at noon and at a pub within walking distance of our house, so we were able to both go and take Ella with us. Our good friends Chris and Ness were there with their 5 month old as well, so it was great to catch up with them and have another baby around.

The first pub we went to was The Fox Hotel in Collingwood. We had been there about an hour when Ella started to get a bit fussy. Ness and I decided to take the babies for a walk to see if they would have a little nap. Now, I actually don't mind that we went for a walk, it was nice to have time to catch up with Ness, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were near Gelato Messina, which is one of my favourite Melbourne treats, so naturally we stopped in to get a scoop of gelato. And I didn't even really think anything of it at the time. However, on reflection, it is such a cliché that it was the mums that left the pub to take the babies for a walk. I can pretty confidently say that no one would have expected Chris or Andy to do this, nor did either of them offer. Also, I'd bet good money that if they had been the ones to take the babies on a walk, at least one person would comment on how lucky we were to have such helpful husbands, or there would be some mention of "daddy daycare". I'm pretty sure no one told Andy and Chris how lucky they were to be the ones that got to stay at the pub and socialise. It's annoying, not because I mind going on a walk, but more that it was expected that I would be the one to go.

Anyway, I don't want my little rant to overshadow the fact that it was a really lovely afternoon, and besides a little bit of fussiness when she was tired, Ella was a perfect little lady, very cute and sociable with everyone.

Soon after Ness and I arrived back with the babies everyone headed off to the next pub in Fitzroy, the Marquis of Lorne. Ness headed home her little one while Ella and I stayed about another hour before I took her home. (Again, dads stayed out, mums went home with the baby. Sigh.) Ella and I got in around 6pm, did the bed/bath/bottle/book night routine and Ella fell asleep easily around 7pm. I made myself some fajitas for dinner, had a glass of wine, and settled in to watch Master of None on Netflix. I was feeling pretty content.

Helping daddy play ping pong
At about 10pm, just as I was getting ready for bed, Ella woke up. This is an unusual time for her to wake up - she does sometimes wake once in the night for a bit of water around 2-3am. I gave her some water and she went back to sleep quite easily, and I got into bed. I've got into the habit of writing three good things that happened each day before going to sleep, in order to try and focus more on the positives that happen in my life. As I reflected on my day I noted how lovely it had been and how happy I was feeling with life in general.

I heard Andy get in around 11:30pm, and again Ella woke up. Andy dealt with it this time, and I stayed in bed pretending to sleep. Pretending to sleep is one of the skills both Andy and I have perfected since having Ella. This is a vital skill for all new parents. Otherwise, you will end up being the one constantly getting up to check on the baby. 

Ella woke again at 1am, and then 2am. Andy, having had a few more drinks than usual, did not have to pretend to sleep through her cries this time. Each time I got up and gave her some water and then rocked her until she fell back asleep. By this time I knew something was up, this was not a normal night of sleep for her. When she woke again at 2:30am I got up for the third time and discovered she had a fever. I gave her some Panadol and tried putting her back in bed but she wasn't having any of it. My darling husband was still fast asleep, snoring peacefully. It's hard to describe the intense rage you can feel towards your partner when they are sleeping through multiple night wakings, especially when they've just had a fun night out with friends. Now feeling both stressed and annoyed, I left Ella in her cot to tell Andy it was his turn. I'd like to think I sweetly whispered this request, but it's more likely that it came out as a hiss. All I got was a groan in response so I left to get Ella. This time I took her out into the living room. From past experience I know that at this point it's normally better for everyone to just let Ella play for a little while rather than try and force her to sleep in her room. She was clearly tired but not feeling well. To his credit Andy did get up to try and help a bit later. Once he did the rage monster inside me subsided, as now that we were both up it felt like we were on the same team, working together to try and calm Ella down. Eventually we got her to sleep in our bed at about 4am, both of us falling asleep shortly after.

I woke groggily to her cries and was dismayed to see that it was still dark outside. A quick check of my phone confirmed my fears... it was only 5am. Noooooo! We tried to resettle her in our bed but it was no use. We both got up with Ella and tried to calm her down. About half an hour later Andy looked at me (pathetically) and was like "I need to go back to bed". Welcome back, rage monster! Not wanting to upset Ella I took a deep breath and just said ok. It was definitely not ok, and I had a lot of irrational, sleep deprived fantasies of exactly how I would tell him it was not ok in the morning!

Finally, at about 6:30am, Ella fell asleep with me on the sofa. I was exhausted but still able to appreciate how lovely it was to see her finally asleep, my little angel snuggled up next to me. She stirred an hour later and I took her into her room and layed with her in the spare bed we have in there. She snuggled into me again and fell fast asleep. I was uncomfortable and unable to sleep much, but relieved that she at least was getting some rest. 

We woke at 10:30am. Andy came in to the room and sheepishly apologised. I was still a bit angry, but things never seem as bad in the morning. He then had to leave to coach soccer for the afternoon, and the rage monster briefly bubbled up again, although I was too tired to really let it take over. I cannot tell you how relieved I am that the soccer season is nearly over! Before Andy left he told me he'd look after Ella once he got home and I should book in to do something for myself that afternoon. "Like what?" I thought bitterly. But then I remembered there was a Yoga Nidra workshop at my yoga studio that afternoon at 4pm. Perfect!

The morning/afternoon was actually not too bad considering how tired I was. Ella went down for a nap at 1pm for two hours, so I had a chance to get a shower, make a cup of tea, and start this post, reflecting on how my mood and feelings had done a complete 180 in the past 12 hours. It was a perfect example of how things can change so drastically, and how not sleeping really amplifies any negative feelings you have. 

Andy got home from soccer just as Ella was waking from her nap. I unapologetically told Andy I was going to the yoga workshop. I had never done Yoga Nidra before, nor did I really have any idea of what to expect. But this workshop could not have been more perfectly timed following the night I'd just had. Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation practice. It is a lying down guided meditation, where you consciously focus on different parts of your body in order to relax them. It was a 90 minute workshop, and at the start I thought that seemed like a really long time, and that I would probably fall asleep (you are encouraged throughout to stay awake). However the time seemed to fly by. Before I knew it we were told the practice was finished. I managed to not fall asleep (yay), and I felt SO relaxed and rejuvenated. It was the perfect antidote for my negative mood and tiredness, and I walked home feeling much lighter. I've realized lately that I tend to hold a lot of tension in my jaw, and for the first time I felt like it was fully released.

When I got home Andy and Ella had been on a walk to see the animals, and the household was peaceful again. We put Ella to bed at 7pm and started cooking dinner, thinking we'd be able to finally relax together... except our darling Ella had other ideas! We had a hard time getting her to bed, and Andy ended up cuddling her on the sofa while watching soccer. Thankfully he sent me to bed, where I promptly fell into a deep sleep. Ella fell asleep around 10pm, which is ver unlike her, so she was obviously still not feeling well. I blame her teeth... a new one seems to pop up almost weekly. Luckily we didn't have to worry about getting up for work the next day.

Finishing up this post now, nearly a week later, it's hard to even remember what that sleepless night felt like. Ella has been pretty good since then - we're not sure what it was, as it is so hard to figure this stuff out with toddler whose only way of communicating that something is wrong is to cry. However I definitely remember that I felt a lot of highs, and a lot lows, as a parent last weekend... I'm sure not for the last time!

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