Ordinarily, when your children are small you expect a certain level of sleep deprivation and fatigue. When this is combined with the moderate chronic insomnia, chronic pain and chronic fatigue of Fibromyalgia, it’s tough.
In addition to good self care habits, support from your loved one will be invaluable.
For the first few weeks with Nu, Husband stayed up for the last few feeds so that I could get a jump start on sleep, those precious four or so hours really made a difference. We will do the same again with this baby.Unfortunately, the recognition of my insomnia, pain and fatigue seemed to level off after several months and life intervened – Husband is a shiftworker and I had to work.
So I had to put some habits in place to protect myself:
- I created a slow, gentle morning routine so we can transition into the day with less pain.
- I began meditating most days for 20-30 minutes, at first it was hard to carve out the time, but during pregnancy number two it became necessary to survival.
- I have made hard choices, I said no to travelling to India while Nu was 1 year and 9 months old – travelling to India would be a big deal alone, but with a small child it would be stupidity, especially if no one understands the impact of the pain, fatigue and sleeplessness. One gastro bug and I’d be wiped. I hate to think the impact of a severe gastro bug on a child so small.
- I ask for the occasional morning off, I can’t necessarily sleep in, but I can take a break from getting Nu ready before I get to sit with my heatpack and coffee.
- I’m very careful about the number of late nights we have, given that I’m exhausted by 9pm every night, that Nu gets up at 6.30am and I can’t nap, there isn’t much wiggle room. The nights we do stay out late or have people over late, I am always more sore and tired the next day and if I’m particularly sore I sleep even worse.
- I utilise my in-laws offers to have Nu some days.
Some things your loved one can do to support you include:
- Take turns getting up to small children/babies at night and early in the morning.
- Take turns cooking dinner.
- Not complain about the state of the house, notice what was done (and imagine how hard that was with a toddler and/or baby and chronic pain!)
- Remind you of your self-care necessities and give you space to enact them (a 30 minute lie down, a gentle walk, a hot bath etc.)
- Understand when you say you can’t do something.
- Be open to modifications if you ask. For example, when considering travelling, support to put some mechanisms in place to make it less difficult (otherwise you’ll be miserable and potentially worse for several months), things like ensuring a comfortable sleep environment, not sharing a room with loud toddlers, access to food that won’t upset the tummy, not too many late nights and not going to the opposite side of the world for the first time with two very small children.
- Support you with the amount of hours you can work, balancing the illness and family responsibilities. Including encouragement to take the full year off after baby (if possible).
- Notice how hard you try and thank you for all you do (it’s not easy).
Of course, it’s always good to try to focus on your relationship too. I try to tell Husband how thankful I am for him and how much I love him every day. We kiss every day. We try to have regular date times – even breakfast alone counts! I also do my best to accommodate the things he wants to do that go against my energy levels as often as possible.
The most important thing to remember is that the children aren’t very small forever. Before we know it they will be 3, then off to school and then (eek) university! Once their demands on our nighttime hours decrease things will be infinitely easier.