Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

I am living in some kind of evil parallel universe

Ex-Husband picked the girls up after lunch today and took them to his sister’s house, which is an hour or two’s drive away.  He said he would bring them back between 8 and 9 pm, pyjama-ed and ready for bed, and would let me know when he set off.

A long afternoon to myself is perfect.  It’s enough time to do some sewing and some housework and eat tea by myself, but I still get my girls back for bedtime. So I was quite happy when Ex-Husband texted to say they would be back for 9 pm, as this gave me extra time to deal with the massive quantities of laundry I have been washing today.

Except it felt weirdly familiar but strange at the same time.  My husband telling me what time he will be home with our children, after going to see his family – it felt so much like my old life and, for a moment, it felt hard again to believe that he wouldn’t be coming home to me and that we weren’t a happy family.  And I wonder when this will really feel real, when I will really believe that our marriage is over. I don’t love him any more and I am managing well on my own.  But I still feel like I have fallen into some parallel universe.  Or that I’m in a dream, and when I wake up I will ring him to tell him about the nightmare which felt so real, seeking reassurance that he wouldn’t leave me.  There’s still a vacuum in my life which doesn’t seem to be healing. My brain can’t quite adjust to the new reality.

And then my phone rang.  He was nearly back to the house but Big Girl had been sick in the car.  He was letting me know so I would be able to run a bath.  I start getting things ready, wondering how I will juggle getting Small Girl to sleep while also bathing Big Girl.  He said he would give Big Girl her bath while I get Small Girl to sleep if necessary, but there are some challenges around their routines and settling them.  He arrives home and manages to put Small Girl to bed still asleep, and then leaves.  I give Big Girl a bath and wash her hair and carry her into their bedroom, ready to tuck her into bed.

Except Ex-Husband has put Small Girl into Big Girl’s bed.  Maybe he really doesn’t live here after all.

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Dreaming of sleep

I went to the sleep clinic today and saw the child psychologist.  We talked about all the different challenges I am facing getting Small Girl to sleep (she won’t go to sleep!  She won’t stay asleep!) and my anxieties about the effects this is having on Big Girl.  I cried, of course – it doesn’t help that last night Small Girl woke up at 11 pm and 1.30 am, then Big Girl woke up around 2 am and Small Girl was up from 4 am.  I brought her into bed with me and she fed for the rest of the night, so I haven’t really slept.  Oh, and Ex-Husband and I have been arguing about access arrangements again.  The phrase ‘not unreasonable’ has been used, repeatedly, by both of us to support entirely opposing arguments.  It is exhausting and emotionally draining, particularly when we’re likely to carry on doing this for another 10-15 years.

And then we talked about different strategies: stopping breastfeeding at night; putting Big Girl to bed first; getting Small Girl used to going to sleep in her bed and then gradually withdrawing from the room; keeping a sleep diary and looking for patterns; disturbing her slightly before a regular waking time to reset her sleep pattern; putting Big Girl to sleep in my bed while settling Small Girl.

Of course, I have ignored all the advice. Firstly, I want one last go.  One last go of feeding her to sleep and putting her down gently in her bed, knowing I’ve settled her.  One last go of getting up in the night, comforting her and watching her fall back to sleep as she feeds.  I am desperate for full nights of sleep, and to no longer experience the desperate need to be lying down fighting against the requirement to stay awake and upright. But still, there is something about night feeding which is special and intimate and belongs just to me and Small Girl.  Of course, I don’t have to do stop doing these things.  It’s up to me.  But I do need more sleep for us all.

And secondly, I am too tired and brain-addled to work out a plan tonight.  I can’t work out, in my head, how to juggle two children and coax them both into their beds.  I am trying to imagine the unforeseen consequences of changes to their routine.  I am thinking through what is most likely to make my life better rather than harder and tonight I just can’t get there.

So, tonight I am going to bed, and I hope to sleep, and not be disturbed.  And if I am disturbed I hope to cherish the time with my baby rather than hissing imprecations at her or begging her to go back to sleep.  And tomorrow perhaps I will make a plan which will, eventually, lead to the dream: putting two children into bed, kissing them goodnight, and not seeing them again until morning.

I am nothing if not optimistic.

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Sleep is the best way to celebrate

Yesterday was my blogiversary – one year since I started blogging.  It’s been quite a year! I wrote it on my calendar to remind me to write a celebratory post.  And then I forgot and spent most of the night discussing feminism on Facebook.

My children celebrated by sleeping through.  Small Girl was in bed and asleep at 7.25 pm.  Big Girl was quietly in bed at 8.30 pm.  I woke up this morning to the sound of them playing together happily, in their room, followed by Big Girl putting on the baby monitor music and singing along.  When I went into them, Big Girl informed me that they had swapped beds after I went to bed.  I think this is unlikely to be true, but really, as long as I get to sleep all night and no-one gets injured, I don’t mind.

Obviously, this is because I saw a specialist health visitor about the sleep issues yesterday and have an appointment with the sleep clinic on Friday.  Small Girl wants me to turn up to see a child psychologist with a sleep diary showing that she goes to sleep around 7.30 pm and sleeps all night.  Well, I can live with looking stupid if that’s what it takes to get some sleep.

So I tried to work out what I did yesterday in order to do it again today and replicate last night’s sleeping triumph.  Yes, I know. It’s almost impossible to guess what you’ve done as a parent which has affected your child’s behaviour.  But I came up with three possibilities: lots of exercise (she and Big Girl spent most of the hour the health visitor was here climbing over me and running round and round); no nap; and a good dinner – macaroni cheese, so solid carbohydrates and dairy.

So, to try to recreate the conditions which could have led to sleep… Firstly, exercise: I made her walk to our regular coffee morning at Ikea.  Well, some of the way anyway.  And then I tried to make her walk to the bus station to get home, on reins, with Big Girl also on reins, and also pushing the pushchair. I was amazed by the looks of disgust I got from people who I apparently was inconveniencing by ‘walking on the pavement’.  It’s not like I was hard to miss.  ‘Oh, wait, I didn’t see you, your two children *and* your pushchair’.

Secondly, no nap.  Normally she sleeps in the pushchair on the way home.  I didn’t put her in the pushchair.  I didn’t put her in the sling.  I didn’t breastfeed her once we got home.  I didn’t do anything which might let her sleep.  This was not a huge success.  She was pale-faced and teary, wanting cuddles and to be held.  This meant that the thirdly, a good dinner, was a bit of a failure. She wanted to be cuddled and she didn’t want to eat.

As it was pancake day, and I am a good parent, I persisted with pancakes.  This was tricky. Big Girl wanted pancakes. Small Girl wanted cuddling. I wanted to avoid burning either child with hot fat.  (I also wanted pancakes but this comes quite far down the list of priorities).

So, the floor and I, we are covered in syrup.  Syrup and tears.  Pancake day is a two-parent job and I am just one parent.  But, I think, a pretty good one.  And both children were in bed by 8.45. I think we’re dropping a nap.

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Baby bunting

Of my list of ‘a random collection of things I quite fancy doing’, the thing I wanted to do more than anything was make bunting.  So I have:

photo-11

This is for my best friend, to brighten up her work desk.  She’s very kindly put it up in her kitchen to take a photo for me.  Her kitchen is far tidier than mine.  As, I imagine, is her work desk.

I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out.  Definitely less messy than my other achievement from the list. And prettier too. A success!

 

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Of course it’s not my fault that the washing up isn’t done.

I’m not sure what I will do, in a year or so, when I can no longer blame Small Girl for the state of my house.  At the moment it’s very easy to do.  Firstly, she is some kind of Mini-Goddess-of-Chaos.  She deliberately drops all the chalks on the floor, one by one.  As I am clearing them up she empties out a full box of tissues.  I pick the tissues up.  She shreds one of them and strews the pieces across the rug.  And of course, in the background Big Girl is quietly getting out every toy we own, playing with it for ten seconds and then moving onto the next.

But this isn’t the real problem.  This is normal 18-month-old behaviour and she will grow out of it.  The real problem is this: she wakes up around 7.  This is, of course, after waking up at 1.30 am for a feed, waking up at 4 or 5 and coming into bed with me for the rest of the night, where she might, or might not, sleep  (Sleeping with my baby in bed with me is bliss.  Lying in bed with my baby while she breastfeeds on and off for two hours induces indescribable despair.  It is the cruellest form of insomnia.  Breastfeeding produces hormones which make you want to sleep.  Feeding Small Girl mostly stops me sleeping.  Cruel, I tell you.  Just cruel).  Then we get up and have breakfast and get dressed, which takes about two hours (how can this be the case? I have no idea, but it is) and then, for the rest of the day, Small Girl wants holding or feeding.  Then we have tea, stories, bath and bed.  Bedtime lasts until around 10.30 pm and I try to get to bed for midnight.  This leaves me an hour and a half to do everything including sending emails, watching tv, getting things ready for the next day and tidying up all the toys Big Girl has carefully spread across the lounge while I was putting Small Girl to bed.  Is it any wonder that every single item of crockery and cutlery is waiting to be washed up and my kitchen floor is carpeted in weetabix? Am I the only person I know who, when visitors are due, spends a long time trying to make the house look ‘a bit untidy’ rather than ‘like a hovel of despair’?

Obviously it’s all about priorities.  Obviously, if I *really* cared that much my washing up would be done.  Because when Big Girl and Small Girl are at their dad’s house, my house is still untidy and the washing up remains in the sink.  Why would I wash up when there’s a whole world out there?

So, in the next twelve months I need to find some better excuses.  Or space for a dishwasher.

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