Monday, February 22, 2010

My private exhaustion

I am 32 years old. I am well educated. I have a loving husband. I have a newborn child.

I will skip the part where I tell you how much I am in love with her. I will skip the bit where I describe how often I am just struck my the miracle of life. I will skip the part where I tell you that my husband and I continually look at each other with adoration and smile in disbelief. I have to write just this much though, I have to know that you know I love my child. I have to be sure you understand that my exhaustion does not mean I would change anything about her. I am a mother, we need to be certain you know these things before we dare say that we are even struggling a tiny bit.

I am exhausted, utterly exhausted, mentally and physically. Plus I am in desperate need of a shower. However I am sitting uncomfortably on a kitchen chair nursing my twelve week old with one arm as I am type with the other. My arm is aching from typing as I cannot get close enough to the desk to rest my elbow. My progress is slow, and my typing errors are many. I can no longer see the keyboard because the sun has just set and the lights are off, but I am not game to move because my daughter is asleep. She has been fussy* all afternoon so this, the scenario I just described, constitutes me taking a break.

My days are no longer my own, I knew it would be like this but I did not realise just how hard it would be. She wakes me in the early hours of the morning for a feed. Sometimes she returns to sleep, other times she stays awake. I will remain in bed with her until she has another feed and falls asleep. She will sleep for less than an hour with me out of the room so I have to have a shower quickly, eat breakfast, put a load of nappies in the washing machine and then do some housework.

My daughter will wake up around 8 o’clock. I greet her with a smile and play with her on the bed for a little while. I then spend the next hour giving her a bath and feeding her. Sometimes it takes less time, sometimes it takes more. This is followed up by the easiest part of my day, I put her in a baby carrier where she will fall asleep while I do the housework. She is generally asleep before I finish hanging out the washing. I now have a baby attached to my chest, but I can still get lots of things done, though taking her out of the carrier is sure to wake her, and she will probably, though not always, begin to stir if I remain stationary for too long. I check emails in between doing housework trying to get as much done as possible, as this is the most productive time part of my day.

Let me explain that again, the most productive part of my day involves something the size of a small dog being strapped to my chest that insists I not remain stationary for too long. This means if I am at the computer I have to rock continually, it also means in summer I have a sweaty head stuck to my chest.

After an hour or two she will be wanting her next feed. The day will continue like this until 9 o’clock at night. Some weeks she is glowing and will play happily for fifteen minutes but in other weeks, like this one, she will start to cry after only a few minutes. I spent a day on the couch with her last week. She fed and slept while I watched the Winter Olympics, other days she cries if I stop moving for any length of time.

If this blog entry is actually beginning to sound a bit perky it is because it is 9:06pm. My daughter is asleep, I can have as much time to myself as I want. That is as long as I remember that this is her big sleep for the night, every hour of time I am awake is an hour less unbroken sleep that I am getting. I want to admit to you that for the last few week she sleeps for eight hours straight at night, but I am afraid you will read that and wonder what I am complaining about. I am afraid you will think that it is not as hard as I say it is.

The exhausting part of all this is that it happens every day, and I do not have anyone that I feel comfortable enough with to actually ask for help. My family live far away, my wonderful work colleagues seem like they are in a different world and my new mother friends are just too new.

There is also a hidden fear that I am doing it all wrong. That if someone else observes the way I am doing things, they will call my child spoilt or clingy or some other label that subtly tells me that I am doing it wrong. The trouble with wrong is that I also get the feeling that there are lots of conflicting versions about what is wrong. Will they think I am feeding her too much, too little, are they bothered that I popped a boob out in front of them, do they think my sling is the problem, do they think she should sleep in a bed during the day. The grandmother that approves of me not using a dummy calls her a bit spoilt later on, was she disapproving of me sticking a boob in her mouth every twenty minutes to settle her. I hurriedly explain that she is usually asleep in the mornings, but then I wonder if she also disapproves of my letting her sleep in a sling attached to my body. The bigger question that looms is this, could they possibly be right could I be bringing this exhaustion on myself?

I need some help. I am not about to breakdown. I am not depressed. I am just exhausted and a little bit dumbfounded that us mothers are expected to do all this by ourselves.

10:16pm ~ my hour is up.

*Fussy is the term us mums use to describe the times when our babies are crying for long periods of time with no obvious reason. Fussy is too polite a word, but we do not want to use the word whiney with our new babies. Fussiness means that we have to try lots of different things, generally many times, in order to have our babies settle for even a few seconds. We check nappies, try feeding, try bathing, and generally do a lot of bouncing and walking and talking. The problem is that these fussy periods mostly happen at the end of the day, and by that time we can no longer muster the energy to settle our children. As an aside, I often wonder if fussiness is at all related to our own exhaustion.


  1. Cassie, you write so well! You certainly have a knack for expressing what so many of us feel, especially when family is far away (which is a good thing sometimes as they are rather too free with their judgements on my 'alternate' style of parenting).

    My 21 month old son is sleeping on me now as it's the only way I could be sure he would the nap he sorely needed and I would get a well-needed break. This is the same baby who could only sleep on me for the first 10 months of his life. Now it's a treat to be savoured.

    It is hard to break the isolation. I use playgroups to meet other mums then try to meet up with them at other times to build friendships that way. But of course it takes time to build new friendships, time I don't really have now I have a toddler to chase after.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I hope blogging is helping you feel less isolated. It sounds like your 12 wk old is in very good hands btw.


    PS you don't say on your blog which town/city you are in.

  2. I am from up in Quuensland

  3. That precludes us from getting together then (I'm in Canberra). Will continue to follow your blog with interest though.

    All the best.