Campbell of Sweden
We’ve experienced rolling blackouts. The weather all summer has been extreme, to a point where it’s almost felt a bit ominous. You know like when you’re in a mall around closing time, there’s an eerie feeling about it – like you’ll get locked in and left alone. But much like getting locked into a mall overnight there’s no real bad outcome for you. There may be some collateral damage but you’ll walk out the next morning feeling like you always do, a bit tired and stressed out for no apparent reason.
Stress is getting to me. I have been feeling it mounting up over time but it’s at a point where I can almost touch it now. I’m stressed about work and about the finances, I’m worried that my time is running out and that my options are slimmer now that my hands are a bit tied. I’ve declined work and it’s leaving me with a bittersweet feeling. It was the right thing to do, I made a very good choice turning down an offer that was good – at first glance – but that didn’t pass first inspection.
I’m not in a rush, but the feeling of a suburbanite desperation is coming over me and I’m realizing that I’m about to drown in it if I don’t start swimming soon.
Life is pretty good, outside of work and the fact that I lost my drivers license. 3 months was the verdict. 3 whole months of no driving. So the car sits and so do we. Everything is too far away. It’s too big of a hassle to travel with a baby that is notoriously active. So our stomping ground became very, very small all of a sudden. And while some would see this as an opportunity to learn more about their surroundings I find myself growing bitter instead. A trait I’m not particularly proud of or comfortable with. But here we are, on lockdown for three months. Not a large amount of time in the grand scheme of things but today it hits extra hard. I feel it extra much.
The days pass, even with the bitterness and resentment. Erik has made friends in kindergarten, he’s even flirting with a girl there. They keep flirting and giggling at lunch even tho they sit at different tables. His teachers keep telling me stories and I keep laughing. It’s a most wonderful feeling, knowing that he’s safe and happy even while away from me. Gives a sense of comfort and security.
Other than that I guess it’s all fantastic. My divorce was finally settled and I was awarded sole custody of Erik which made me both happy and proud. Like most things surrounding Erik, I’m so very happy and proud of him and his little shenanigans. He’s a lovely boy and I love watching him grow and develop. It’s a feeling to end all feelings. So much joy and pride and warmth. But also frustration and anger and confusion.
Being a parent, especially a full time single parent, is proving to be a trial of patience and endurance. It’s testing the ability to put yourself in last place while still maintaining a sense of self and worthiness.
On the one hand you’re nothing but a slave and on the other you get to reap huge rewards. It’s not a thankless job but it’s a job that doesn’t pay a dime and the hours are not specified. Some have children who sleep, so the hours are somewhat good but for the ones (like myself) who have children who just don’t know how to sleep you work 24/7 and stress the same hours. You also eat 24/7 and care for yourself on the other hours. You know, the make-belief ones that never come around.
But Erik is happy. I am happy. And if the cost for that is one person’s exhaustion and a slow demise then that is a small price to pay.
The holiest of subjects. There are so many preconceptions about it. And I think every person who’s ever thought about having a child has an idea or a thought on how they want it to be, or how they think it will be. And every person who’s since had a child will attest to it being a vastly different experience.
One thing most parents have in common is the overwhelming feeling of love they feel for their child. Something no one is ever prepared for, because it cannot be compare to anything one has ever experienced before. And I only have the one child but I believe that even if you have more than one, every single child you have you get that same overwhelming, never-before-experienced feeling of love.
But the hardships are many. Some are spared, and those lucky few are exceptions to the rule. Most of us have babies that have some sort of difficulty – be it sleeping or eating. Those are the two most common ones, my empirical studies show. Of course there are people who have children who are sick and they really struggle, and are the true heroes who tirelessly fight to make the best out of a situation nobody ever wants their children to be in. But us regular parents, we mostly struggle with sleep and food.
I lucked out in the food department, at least this far. Erik eats like a large, healthy horse. But his sleeping is bad, it’s very bad. He has had one night where he slept a full four hours, in nine months. He doesn’t sleep much during the day 2-3 naps circa 20 minutes each while being continuously rocked. At night he scrapes together about 1.5 hours then eats and falls back asleep only to wake up in an hour again, and so on. After 2 AM I have to keep rocking him otherwise he will be wide awake and angry. For hours and hours.
This is the situation now.
It is so much better than it was a few months ago but far from good. Some nights I don’t sleep at all since he needs to be rocked. Every time a tooth is coming he just stops sleeping all together, he is exhausted and clingy he whines and screams nonstop but he just can’t fall asleep.
So I have learned a few tricks while being at home with him. Mom hacks, if you will.
I do my nails when he’s in the shower. That way I can keep a close look at him and interact with him while also getting to look less like a hobo. I use a dip-in remover so it doesn’t stink up the place, then I file down the nails for a more clean look. After that I soak the hands in warm water and baby oil (that’s what I have on hand) and then file additionally if I see something I missed. I push back the cuticles, usually with a tool but these days it’s with my nails and then put some lotion on them to keep them moisturized.
I’ve tried the “Amazonian Saviour” from The Body Shop. And to be honest it is like a firmer version of Vaseline. I am really underwhelmed due to it drying out my hands. I later applied “Hand Repair” hand cream by Trind to actually moisturize my hands.
That process takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Usually by that point Erik is done splashing around, so it is perfectly synced. Painting the nails I can really ever do if someone is watching him. That I haven’t managed to hack yet.
However I am strongly considering getting a gel manicure set, just so that I can do a nail at a time and guarantee that it doesn’t smudge or smear. It is a bit pricy but I think it might be a good investment, because then I can do nail art without having it get ruined. Living alone with a baby that doesn’t sleep doesn’t leave any space for do-overs.
Nails and food have always been my two big hobbies. Two hobbies that eat up more time than you realize. And when you suddenly find yourself busy 24/7 you are forced to prioritize what’s important. As a parent you, and your wants, always take a back seat, so you have to learn to do what you can with what you have. New situations require new actions. So my nails are nude, for the most part. Some weeks I just can’t manage to squeeze in any upkeep, like filing, because Erik needs 150% of my time. Same goes for food.
On good days I can make simple dishes with Erik hanging onto me or climbing the stove or the dishwasher. Worry not, no area he can access is even remotely warm and I always have a splash guard so nothing splashes onto him. Dry brusselsprouts are not splash prone.
It is often said that one eats with the eye, so sometimes I try to plate my food nicely to make myself forget how simple the dish is.
This was a pepperoni sausage and wax bean casserole with some pasta and cheese.
Other days, when you’ve been up for 12 hours playing and only had two cups of coffee (how good is coffee tho) your eyes are not half as hungry as your stomach.
On those days you eat burger patties with cheese and butter fried beets with garlic. All drowned in Sriracha mayo. That was my breakfast, lunch and dinner today – all in one meal.
Erik has a fever, not a high one but a fever nevertheless so he hasn’t left my side all day and hasn’t slept for two nights straight.
And on days like these one just doesn’t prioritize eating, going to the bathroom or the fact that one has a herniated disc and sciatica. Pain is a French word for bread, which is the motto I live by. My pain is secondary, and any hobby I used to have is a thing of the past. Erik reigns supreme, in terms of getting my attention and time. And I can’t imagine a task more rewarding or fun. Because even though it’s quite painful and I’m exhausted, there are moments like these:
For a baby who is about as affectionate as his mother was when she was younger this is an unusual sight. But it is the biggest treat for the mom unit. Baby cuddles are quite amazing and I’m all but spoiled with them.
But about mom hacks, the best one so far is discovering that the grocery stores do home deliveries. In a small town like this where there is only one pizza place that does deliveries, and that costs as much as two overpriced pizzas (I shit you not!) discovering that I can get fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to my doorstep has been a lifesaver for me. Also I don’t have to carry all those bags. They have Erik’s formula and all the food he likes.
My other lifesaver – 3 AM coffee.
Campbell of Sweden
Some kids go through it without too much whining and pain whilst others go through hell. But as it’s often been said, if you’re going through hell – keep going. So we do.
Mr Pudgy the whale is having a shitty time teething, which translates to even worse days and nights for the mother unit. He’s whining nonstop and clinging onto me as if I’m somehow the cure. I’m not and he knows it but he keeps hoping that being on me while screaming might make things better. And who knows, maybe it does on some level.
I’m sure you can tell, just by looking, that the pictures above are from his nap time. It’s obvious to see that he has no interest in sleeping, be it day or night. And most people will testify to less sleep during teething but for a child with a severe sleeping disorder this is devastating. Or rather it is that to his mother. His usually incrimental sleep has become even more incrimental and some nights even nonexistent which means no sleep for the mom either. And it’s one thing to not sleep a night and then catch up on your sleep later but after a series of some three nights where the boy has slept a grand total of an hour you are not human anymore.
So a few days ago I had a total breakdown. I spent all night crying along with Erik, wondering how I would pull through. But dawn came and I could see a bit clearer. So I packed up some stuff and took Erik into Stockholm. He slept for two consecutive hours, waking a bit here and there but fell back asleep when rocked.
I obvoiusly didn’t get any sleep but I had some retail therapy. Buying myself a dress, two sweaters and a ring. I also met up with my best friend and had both dinner and fika, while at it. Because if we had stayed at home I might have just spontaneously combusted.
Life as a single parent is hard, especially when your child has a sleeping disorder and there is no money coming in. It’s extra hard when his absetnee father doesn’t sign over custody on you so you’re locked into a place where you can’t even put the child in queue for a spot in a kindergarten. It’s a stressful situation knowing you have the full responsibility but absolutely no rights. But I’m hoping things will change in that arena, soon. I reached out to the boy’s father to sign over custody, today, in bopes that he might do the right thing for once. I have no hopes whatsoever that he will do what’s best for my child but one can always try.
In the meantime I do all I can and then some to ensure that my baby boy has all he could ever want or need. Even with a tremendous lack of sleep, a constant headache and enough stress to kill a normal human being I still trot on. Why? Because I love life. I love living, and each new day brings with it something positive. Something new and worthwhile. My boy is growing, sitting himself up like a pro and getting onto his stomach from a seated position. He’s full of energy and life, and if that doesn’t get you through the day then nothing will.
It is my will to live, my love for life that has gotten me through all the bad stuff. And in the end there is but one thing that controls how you respond to whatever is going on in your life – you and your perception. Change your outlook on life and you’ll realize that you are in fact living in the best of times.
But all that shopping aside, waking up to a view like this. Or going for a drive, making Erik laugh, trying new foods, talking to a loved one. Those are the real motivators. All else is gravy.
This. This is what heaven looks like: a happy and healthy boy who has everything he needs. Content. That is absolute heaven to me. All worries just melt away, all tiredness goes out the window. He is my love, my life – my boy.
Campbell of Sweden
I started something tonight that I know will benefit Erik and I greatly, him sleeping in his crib without my assistance – in the form of rocking him. It took 4 hours of nonstop screaming and crying but he fell asleep. I sat next to him on a kitchen chair that whole time, talking to him and rubbing his tiny back. And like the star pupil he is he fell asleep. And so did I, alone in my own bed. I hadn’t had that pleasure since thr beginning of May 2016, when I was impositioned.
And Erik slept for 4 hours before waking for a bobo. I slept for an hour and a half and then I woke up missing the little guy who is safely sleeping some 2 meters away from me. I missed kissing his pudgy feet when I opened my eyes.
So here I am, almost 3 hours later, still awake. I fed him a bit of bobo and petted his feetsies ever so lightly before lying down in my bed again.
I thought the hard part was getting him down. It isn’t, it’s putting myself down for some sleep. The things one learns about themselves!
This is how he slept for 4 hours straight, my best boy. As for me, we’ll see if there’s any rest for the wary.
Campbell of Sweden
Man, this night just turned from bad to worse with Erik cascade vomiting all over the bed. At 2 AM I raced up to get him sorted. He’s been cleaned and changed, threw the covers and the bedding in the washer and put down spare ones.
It’s been a harsh couple of weeks with the sleep issues getting exponentially worse over the last week. He’s a lovely baby and I love him more than life itself but I’m down on my knees right now. The last 4 days I’ve gitten a total of 6 hours of sleep, according to the tracking. He’s slept way more but he doesn’t sleep at all if I don’t continuously rock him on my legs. So I do.
Which has led me to get incriments of sleep that add up to 6 whole hours over the last 96 hour period. In this time we’ve struggled with his cold and played, read, taken baths, been mischeivous and up and running. Along that I’ve been hand washing his bottles, preparing his food and feeding him. Preparing my food, doing laundry and the dishes. Paying bills, planning and all those everyday things.
I’m running low on energy, and in these moments it’s easy to get bitter about my son’s father abandoning him. Or about the fact that in his 7 months of living the father hasn’t so much as bought him a single diaper for his own money. Or anyone else’s.
But truth be told, I’m happy he’s not so much as asked how his youngest child is doing. After he was released from jail, while awaiting trial, for battering me in October he has only gotten in touch with one of my friends asking her to try and get my Xbox to him.
What a man, huh? So am I bitter? No. But I am tired and wish for nothing more than two consecutive hours of sleep. But when Pudgy is older I will hopefully get some sleep. According to the doctor it will get a little bit better when he turns three. So only 2,5 years more. It’s doable. Exhausting but very doable.
What a night! You really know you’re alive on nights like these. And it dawns on you just how spectacular and exhausting motherhood can be, but nothing bad without some good in it. The paracetamol kicked in and that has eased some of the headache which I’m vastly grateful for.
Life is really something grand, if you look at it with open eyes. Yes, there are hardships. Some have more, some less, but no one escapes them. Same goes for joy and love and adventure. The night sky might be dark but it is always followed by a dawn. And even when the days are exceptionally gray and rainy one should remember that blue skies are hiding behind the clouds and they will appear if you just give it some time.
But now I need to turn the dryer off and hope to god that Pudgy stays asleep when I put him down on the bed.
My boy doesn’t sleep. I mean he does but for about 15-20 minutes at a time, and then he’s up for hours. He’s been this way for as long as he’s been alive. If he’s to sleep any longer than 15-20 minutes I have to keep him on my legs, in his baby nest, and continuously rock him. If I stop rocking him he wakes up in a rage.
He’s fallen asleep on his own once, it took 2,5 hours of screaming and playing and everything one can think of, but he fell asleep without me having to rock him. It was something I celebrated. That was a short lived victory, because he kept waking up and not going down and since that night he doesn’t sleep past 2 AM.
Yesterday he was tired after having thrown up a lot and slept for two hours straight. I was so proud and I did two loads of laundry and all the dishes, I tidied up and painted my nails. I also did something I never thought I’d get to do again: I sat down at the kitchen table and had toast and coffee without having to rush or worry about Erik losing his little mind. It was magnificent, and for the first time since before his arrival I had a hot cup of coffee.
It’s hard to grasp if you’ve never been in that situation. Most parents have to deal with certain situations at times but my boy is a high needs baby (HNB). A HNB is a baby that neither can nor will entertain itself, it needs all your attention at all times or it will throw fits of rage. Erik is a demanding, strong and angry little man. He has more personality than most grown ups I’ve met but he’s damn near impossible sometimes.
The worst part is the sleep, still. I can manage having him on me at all times, not leaving his side for more than a minute at a time. I can take the rage fits, the kicking and screaming. I can live with him refusing to go in the car and the stroller, that’s all manageable- but the sleep deprivation. It’s kicking my butt up and down the street.
Some nights I only get an hour. Some nights I get less. He wakes up at least once an hour, wanting to be rocked back to sleep. Wanting a bit of bobo (bottle). And if the rocking stops – so does the sleeping. So, in order for him to get some sleep I need give up mine. That would be fine if it wasn’t going on for so long, or if I had any help. But alas we are alone. And it’s slowly, but surely breaking me down.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make? When someone says sleep when the baby sleeps I just want to strangle them slowly with the sound of Erik screaming as if he’s being tortured because that’s the soundtrack of my life currently. Whenever I try to put him down for a nap he screams bloody murder. It’s awful and I wish only to get 2 consecutive hours of sleep so I can deal with the commentary from mothers “who know how it is to have a baby”.