You walk down the street and find yourself looking at people, random people, shiny happy people, and sourly wondering how much sleep they had the night before. You are certain that it was more than you. Your resentment is as bitter as it is unwarranted.
You turn to caffeine and sugar, in the hope they will help. They do, in that you actually survive the day. But the tiredness is not so much banished as smoothed over. It’s still there, gritty and burning, beneath the sweet rush of your instant coffee and chocolate hobnob. You still feel exhausted, but now hopped up and nervy too.
You fantasise over how much you could get done in your life if only you were less tired. You would do pilates every day. You would have planned and prepped every meal for the next three weeks. The house would be immaculate. The novel would be finished. You would probably be singlehandedly sorting out Brexit, if you could just get another couple of hours every night.
When you are eventually able to go to bed you will lie there, desperate to sleep, utterly unable to sleep.
It’s hard to remember a time when you weren’t tired. Surely you’ve been this tired since you were a baby yourself. Memories of sleeping for eight hours are probably just sleepy hallucinations.
Everything feels insurmountable and unbearably tragic. Scrolling idly through your phone and reading the news is disastrous. You will cry real tears over the death of a guinea pig in Gloucester.
Naps are alluring, so alluring, but to be treated with caution. They should only be resorted to in cases of extreme exhaustion. If indulged in when only very tired rather than one step away from legally dead, they merely result in extreme grogginess and a descent into greater irritability.
The internet will tell you that your baby needs around 6 hours more sleep a day than you. And yet somehow they seem to be awake constantly. Especially at 2am, when you’re ready to crawl under the cot and die.
These are confessions because in real life there’s nothing you want to talk about less than baby sleep. You don’t want anybody else’s advice. You’d rather not hear about what they did or didn’t do. Deep down, you don’t believe things will ever get better. Part of you genuinely feels that this will still be your life fifty years from now.
You cling to anything you can blame. Teething. Jabs. Summer evenings. Leaps. The phases of the moon. Anything, because the only other option is to blame yourself. (Should have taught them to self-settle. Should never have held them while they napped.) And there’s nothing as damaging to the possibility of sleep as lying awake at 3am wracked with guilt about your failings as a parent. My findings – a glass of wine works nicely to dispel such uncomfortable notions and to put you to sleep, for as long as the tiny dictator allows.